Hospitality: Abraham, Martha, & Mary

This time after Pentecost is an extended time of green to symbolize (1) growing into discipleship and (2) the healing of the nations, or diverse persons.

I note this because our scriptures from last Sunday, today, and next Sunday are connected in their themes and, therefore, the intended message/lesson. This lesson is significant with the repeated efforts to re-enforce it. It also demonstrates that although it may seem ‘simple’, it is not easy because for the whole of human history we have and continue to fail to embody it.

So, quick recap:

Last Sunday was the parable about the Good Samaritan, a lesson about a “bad” Samaritan providing loving care to a man despite personal risk or offending the cultural expectations and norms. He was a neighbor to the vulnerable.

It was the undesired response to the lawyer, who (like us) seeks to justify our lack of care, of hospitality, and of love to those who may look, sound, act, think, believe, and/or love differently than ourselves.

So we continue to learn about being a neighbor and extending hospitality as an act of discipleship.

Hospitality was of up-most importance in the Ancient Near East.
It did not matter if you were Greek, Roman, or Israelite.
It did not matter if you were Pagan, Jewish or a follower of Jesus.

We know from their shared stories and traditions among differing cultures, which we will explore more deeply next week.

But, the elderly Abraham (approx. 100 years old) is recovering in the heat of the day from his circumcision, the physical symbol of his covenant with God, when three travelers walk pass. Abraham is the perfect host. He rushes to greet them. He washes their feet. He provides them the opportunity to rest. He has a feast of the finest foods, including milk, curds, and beef, prepared.

Abraham and Sarah, in accordance with the traditions, will be blessed for their hospitality.

Now, fast-forwarding, Jesus in the Gospel of Luke goes from one dinner party to the next, often eating with sinners. However, this provides examples of hospitality and inhospitality, further emphasizing its significance.

Martha rushes to greet Jesus.
Martha provides safe shelter for Jesus and his disciples to rest.
Martha prepares the food.

Martha is being the perfect host and fulfilling the cultural expectation and norm, especially as a woman.

Her sister, Mary, however has abandoned the cultural expectations and norms.
She is not being a proper host in the traditional sense.
She is sitting and listening at Jesus’ feet, showing hospitality by dwelling in the moment and is not distracted by the details.

We know the story.
We know the dichotomy it often creates.

However, I urge us to not create such a dichotomy.
It, like our world, is not black-and-white, although we wish it were for our own comfort.
It, like our world, encompasses a messy, beautiful infinite spectrum of the gray-scale.

These women, within this story, embody two intertwined components of discipleship.

Jesus’ ministry and his command is for us to “go” and “do”, or serve as Martha is serving. We, like Martha, are called to use our time, energy, talents, and treasures for enacting the kingdom of God in the here and now, in this time and place.

But, we and all people are called together in Christ. We, like Mary, are called to pause, to dwell within the divine presence, and to listen for God.

Highlander (my dog) offers insight for this lesson.

He loves to go for a walk, to explore, to sniff, to bark at the large Indiana dogs – opps, I mean cows – and perhaps chase after a bird, squirrel, or bunny. As a dog, these are his God-given gifts and vocation.

However, Highlander becomes distracted in the sniffing, barking, and chasing then he turns off his ears and will not listen to his mama. THAT is a problem.

Martha, like Highlander and us, become distracted in the tasks of our vocations and our serving. Then, we turn off our ears.

The desired discipleship is for one to be the host, to use their resources of time, energy, talents, and treasures for the care, love, and service of neighbor without becoming distracted by its tasks that leads to turning off our ears being unable to hear, let alone listen to, our divine parent.

May we have the heart of Mary,
dwelling in the divine presence and hanging on every word.

May we also have the hands and feet of Martha,
providing hospitality, love, and service to all.

May we serve without being distracted by its tasks and turning our ears off.


Scriptures were Genesis 18: 1-10a and Luke 10: 38-42.
Originally preached on 21 July 2019.

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