Amos 8:1-12: Amos sees a vision of a basket of ripe fruit – this is a symbol that because of corruption Israel is ripe for God’s judgement.
Psalm 52: Judgement comes to the one who lies, while God’s care is extended to the faithful.
Colossians 1:15-28: Jesus, the visible image of God, the Creator and reconciler of all.
Luke 10:38-42: Jesus is a guest in the home of Mary and Martha. Martha serves, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. Martha is unhappy but Jesus refuses to criticise Mary.


Mary and Martha, by He Qi


Mary and Martha, by He Qi

Martha and Mary

Martha and Mary

(More art work here)

Martha and Mary represent two groups in the debate on gender roles. Martha represents a woman in a particular society, who try to preserve culture, a confirmist to hierarchical gendered roles. Mary on the other hand revolts and charts a new course for her life. She stands for equality of men and women in salvation, as well as opportunity to hold every office and play every role that exists in church life. In the Jewish culture, a woman had no grounds to learn. Mary was expected to play the matronly role of providing hospitality to guests, not becoming a disciple. She sat at Jesus’ feet and to Martha’s dismay, Jesus endorsed Mary’s choice of discipleship, thus supporting women’s ministry. Liberating Mary from traditional role was surely a reversal of law by Jesus, which could be embarrassing and probably scandalous to contemporary rabbis, who excluded women from listening in the synagogues. It is striking that Jesus endorsed women studying the scriptures, affirming women’s personhood and equal value before God, going beyond all conventions. This acceptance set the stage for women to have instructional roles and assume leadership in the church. 
However, Martha’s hospitality cannot be ignored, as she provided an open home, a warm loving welcome to the itinerant preacher. This was important considering the long distances they needed to cover in the course of their preaching. 
This serves as a challenge to church systems that claim to be faithful to Jesus’ life and mission, yet they are fundamentally distorted by patriarchal structures and sexist attitudes and practices. Jesus’ mission wasn’t gender bias, it was gender inclusive. The revolutionised the lives of women offering them what was totally different from their usual treatment in a male centred world. 
(Source: Yele Marceline Lambiv, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, printed in EMS, Evangelical Mission in Solidarity, Human Sexuality and Gender Perspectives, 2017/18)

Have you ever noticed how in the scriptures men are always going up into the mountains to commune with the Lord?
Yet in the scriptures we hardly ever
hear of women going to the mountains,
and we know why — right?
Because the women were too busy
keeping life going;
they couldn’t abandon babies,
and a thousand responsibilities to make the climb into the mountains!
I was talking to a friend the other day,
saying that as modern woman
I feel like I’m never “free” enough
from my responsibilities,
never in a quiet enough,
or holy enough spot
to have the type of communion
I want with God.
Her response floored me,
“That is why God comes to women.
Men have to climb the mountain to meet God, but God comes to women where ever they are.”
I have been pondering on her words for weeks and have searched my scriptures
to see that what she said is true.
God does in deed come to women
where they are,
when they are doing their ordinary,
everyday work.
He meets them at the wells
where they draw water for their families,
in their homes,
in their kitchens,
in their gardens.
He comes to them
as they sit beside sickbeds,
as they give birth,
care for the elderly,
and perform necessary mourning and burial rites.
Even at the empty tomb,
Mary was the first to witness Christ’s resurrection,
She was there because she was doing the womanly chore of properly preparing Christ’s body for burial.
In these seemingly mundane
and ordinary tasks,
these women of the scriptures found themselves face to face with divinity.
So if – like me – you ever start to bemoan the fact that you don’t have as much time to spend in the mountains with God as you would like. Remember, God comes to women. He knows where we are and the burdens we carry. He sees us, and if we open our eyes and our hearts we will see Him, even in the most ordinary places and in the most ordinary things.
(Attributed to Heather Farrell)

John van de Laar, Sacredise
This week it’s all about listening – to God’s word – and to living it out in compassion, integrity and justice – which requires listening to others. This can be harder than it sounds with all the noise that bombards us each day. That’s why the discipline of worship is so important. It gives us the time and the space to learn the practice of listening well. (Click on Sacredise link for commentary).

Mary and Martha.. ‘generous intelligence’ and ‘intelligent generosity’.

by John van de Laar
If there is anything we need to learn,
it’s to listen, God;
In the midst of so many words
telling us who ‘we’ are and who ‘they’ are,
and what ‘the real problem’ is,
directing and misdirecting us,
recruiting us
and selling all manner of things to us,
we can start to believe you’ve gone silent.
But, if we can still the noise around us and within us,
take the time to sit at your feet,
and embrace the humility required to hear,
we will discover that you whisper still,
within us, and through our neighbours,
in cries of need, and the silence of grief,
and then, once we have heard your word,
we will know how to live the truth
you have so gently spoken. Amen.

Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;
there is need of only one thing. Luke 10.41-42

There will be the clutter and clatter of pans,
the rumble and jumble of traffic and trains,
the brambles of papers and lists and calls,
the beaten paths, the errands, the chores.

You don’t have to rattle and run with them.
You can do one thing at a time.

You can stop
and sit at the feet of the moment,
pay reverent attention to whatever it is,
and listen to the silence beneath the hum,
and simply be
in the the presence of the presence.

In all your doing that you surely must do,
you still can just be.
And your being
will become
what you do.

In the stillness within the action
sits the Beloved
who is not distracted with many things,
but only wants to sit awhile with you.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

Call to Worship
God has called us to this place.
What do you see?
We see people who model for us
God’s joyous embrace of all people.
God has brought us to this place.
What do you hear?
We hear God’s hope that we are able to see each person
as our sister or brother.
God has challenged us to open our lives and hearts to others.
What will you do?
We will do only one thing:
welcome everyone in God’s name!
(Thom Shuman)

Messengers by John van de Laar
(could be used as part of prayers for others)
Sometimes the world feels too silent, God;
Not without sound,
but without any sound that makes sense.
In all the noise of human sin and pain,
we miss the sound of your voice.
So, we pray for Messengers to speak again your word of Restoration,
that prepares us
to welcome again your visitation.
Messengers of listening and forgiveness
to silence the noise of conflict and hatred;
Messengers of seeing and empathy
to silence the noise of stereotyping and disengagement;
Messengers of hope and responsibility
to silence the noise of negativity and apathy;
Messengers of faith and perseverance
to silence the noise of resignation and expediency.
In every place where people need to hear your word
may your Messengers speak,
and if need be,
give us the courage to be the Messengers. Amen.

John van de Laar communion liturgy

Prayer after communion by John van de Laar
Like bread that feeds us,
wine that quenches our thirst,
Like fire that warms us,
a blanket that wraps around us,
Like the nurture of a mother,
the attention of a lover,
Your Word whispers into our souls,
We praise you, Jesus,
Word of God,
Bread of Life,
for your kindness to us;
And for the words you give us
to speak,
to live,
which fill the world with kindness,
and life. Amen.

Martha and Mary of Bethany
Later, in the garden — fifteen years later (a dialogue). Two elderly women sit down on chairs and set down their trowels. By each chair is a full wine glass. Not necessary to have first century clothing or props. 

Martha: Your flowers are beautiful, Mary.

Mary: Your vegetables are delicious, Martha.

Martha: The wine we make together is the best.

Mary: The wine we drink together, two sisters under one roof, is, indeed, the very best.
(they lift glasses and drink)

Martha: You know, Mary, that story still follows us — all these fifteen years later. I am forever the “do-er,” the worker … and the cranky one, the impatient one, the trying-to-be- pretentious-one, the bossy one.

Mary: Well …?

Martha: Never mind!

Mary: And me? I am the mousy one, the slacker, the navel-gazer, the teacher’s pet — yep, story doesn’t work so well for me either.

Martha: Do you think that is all anyone will remember about us?

Mary: Surely not. John tells the story of you going out into the road to meet Jesus when he came after Lazarus’ death and, in the midst of the threat from Jerusalem only five miles away, you called Jesus the “Christ, the Child of God, the One for whom we wait.” No one else spoke with such faith, during Jesus’ life. Your faith is born of heart-searching, not doing the dishes.

Martha: And you are not just noted for listening and weeping, but you poured perfume on his feet, just when Lazarus’ miracle had made us already notorious, already targets. That’s no meditative self-enlightenment — that’s risky, that’s troublemaking pure and simple.

Mary: (remembering) Maybe drying his feet with my hair was a little over the top, huh?

Martha: It certainly got Judas all twisted up. He had a “vision” of spilling money.

Mary: What a look on his face! And on yours Marty, … how proud you were.

Martha: Jesus did love us both so much, didn’t he, Mary?

Mary: That’s what they wrote. And, I guess it was true, though I also think he loved everyone.

Martha: … even Judas, walking out our door that Sunday night — the dinner after the palms in the road and trashing the temple. I will never forget the anger and tears in his eyes.

But I will tell you what’s even more important — to me, at least.

Mary: More important than Jesus loving us?

Martha: Yes. More important than Jesus loving us, is how much we loved him.

Mary: I do hope they remember that. Meanwhile, is it going to be forever that I will be remembered as too lazy to get up and chop basil?

Martha: (laughing) As long as I am remembered as a whiner … and a great cook.

Mary: I just hope no one remembers my cooking!

Martha: Trust me they won’t. Or my long prayers.

Mary: You mean, “Dear God, bless dinner. Amen?”

Martha: Yes, that one.

Mary: There is one story they won’t remember unless we tell them.

Martha: Which story is that?

Mary: Well, everyone down the centuries will remember the joy on your face and mine and the folks we called in to roll the stone and good friends who unbound him, when our brother Lazarus was raised from death. That’s public.

Martha: Yes, but they won’t know, unless we tell the private story, that the same look of joy was on Lazarus’ face just before he died again, the second time …

Mary: … yes, when he knew he was “coming forth” to his real home.


Martha Labored in the Kitchen
Nettleton D (“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”) or Beach Spring
Martha labored in the kitchen; there was much yet to be done!
There was cooking, cleaning, baking – too much work for anyone.
For the Lord had come to visit; Jesus sat there as her guest.
So much work! She longed to share it, so the meal would be its best.

Mary sat and humbly listened to their guest – her Friend and Lord.
She just thought of Jesus’ teaching –  not the need for bread and board.
So when Martha came complaining, seeking Mary’s help that day.
Jesus turned to her explaining, “Mary chose the better way.”

God, we see in her distraction – Martha lost sight of her goal;
In her grumbling and complaining, She forgot food for the soul.
For there’s always something pressing – something urgent we must do,
Yet for us there’s also blessing in the time we spend with you.

Were there days when Mary labored, helping others, serving well?
Were there times when Martha savored stories Jesus loved to tell?
May we worship, pray and study; may we serve you well today!
All are needed on the journey as we travel Jesus’ way.
(Words: Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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