This is a sermon preached on July 13, 2010 for Scarritt-Bennett’s Tuesdays in the Chapel Series.
God shows Amos what, at first blush, appears to be a rewarding vision of abundance. Amos sees a basket of summer fruit. But, this is a basket of summer fruit. This signals an end. Yes, there is fruit, but it is the end of fruit. After Amos see this vision, God says to him, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. [I have passed over them time and time again. I have spared them my judgment. I have lavished them with my mercy. I have given them chance after chance. Now, that season is over. My justice is about to plumb the line.]”
This passage lets us know that, while God neither slumbers nor sleeps, God does get tired.
• God is tired of people with money and power abusing the poor and the powerless.
• God is tired of people sitting up in churches singing their rehearsed music with lush instrumentation and sound systems that would rival the Schermerhorn amped up and measured in decibels so as to drown out the sorrow songs of the poor just outside their door.
• God is tired of people with power flexing and intimidating the others without power.
• God is tired of Christian bullies victimizing and vilifying those of other flocks naming them terrorists while they themselves are doing the terrorizing.
• God is tired of heterosexist church people with their uninformed, untutored and backward readings of the Biblical text used to justify their hatred and bigotry against the other.
• God is tired of the big beating up on the other.
• God is tired of rich powerful people treating others like property, like a commodity for their own use.
• God is tired of church folk using material wealth to equate with God’s blessings as though people with less money, no money are not loved and blessed by God.
• God is tired of the injustices that are destroying the lives of God’s people.
• God is especially wearied by the injustices perpetrated by, supported by, ignored by people who go through the motions in worship, reading scripture but never allowing God’s Word to live off the page and in their hearts.
• God is tired of perfunctory worship practices that by no means intend an encounter with the Holy Other nor the resulting transformation of the heart.
• God is tired of church people who hear this passage Sunday after Sunday: How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?(1 John 3:17) and absolve themselves simply by refusing to see their brothers and sisters in need.
• God is tired of people who exercise their power to ignore, to overlook, to avoid the glance of the other.
• God is tired of people who refuse to see what they are doing to the other.
• God is tired of church folk who, like Martha in the Lukan passage, are devoted to appropriateness. Who are given to doing what it good without doing what is right.
• God is tired of people who busy themselves doing church work while eschewing the weightier matter of being the church – those who may write a check but will not condescend to touch or speak to the other.
• God holds suspect those who will do missions overseas but disdain needy people in North Nashville.
And the Bible says that the Lord Jesus entered a certain village where Martha welcomed him into her home. She was given to hospitality. She was open to the other. She cared about how she entertained this other one. But, it seems, she was fastidious in her preparations for her holy guest. She was excessively attentive to and, even lost in her works for her guest, but she was not fully attuned to – she, in fact was oblivious to the need of the holy moment in which she was situated. She had the Holy One, the Wholly Other in her midst and she was in the kitchen. She was doing what was good, but not what was right. Given time, I could tease out why she resisted intimacy with the Divine One who was right in her own home. But there are those today who work in the Presence of God without worshiping Him. They busy themselves in doing good things so they can remain oblivious to the right thing.
Martha’s sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha was working in the kitchen. Martha asked Jesus to send Mary in to help her. But the Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen that better part, which will not be taken away from her. Mary had the courage to empty herself of pride and fear, to admit her eternal need and to abandon herself willingly in service to (an)other. No shows, no pretence, no performance, just humility and utter human need laid bare before the One who at once strikes desire and awe in the human heart.
Sisters and Brothers, Martha still wants the Lord to validate her and to rebuke Mary. But there is only one needful thing: to take care of the Other. Not with mere busy, perfunctory work and worship, but by sitting in His Presence to discern His heart and to be transformed by His glory – to be transformed into people who see the Other in others.
We need one (an)other!
• We need one (an)other: Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Bahai, Sikh those who lay claim to no religious faith
• We need one (an)other: Gay and Straight
• We need one (an)other: rich and poor
• We need one (an)other: Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Blue Bird Café, Bentley’s and the Nashville Jazz Workshop
• We need one (an)other: Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical School, Belmont University and Tennessee State University, University and Community College and Technical School
• We need one (an)other: those with diplomas and degrees and those whose education has been in the world’s classroom
• We need one (an)other: Kurdish, Puerto Rican, Mexican, West Indian, Somalian, Russian
• We need one (an)other: White, Brown, Yellow, Beige, Black, Red, and even Green – for, “its not easy being green”
• We need one (an)other
In all these others, we find what we need to heal our brokenness.
In all these others, the Other has placed what we need to once and for all banish our loneliness.
• We need one (an)other.
Prayer: God, transform us in to people who see you in one (an)other. In Jesus’ name, Amen.