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Get Outta the Kitchen – Take a Seat – Listen

July 22nd, 2013 | By andrena in Church, General, Rant, sermon | No Comments »

…But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 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 the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42

What're you cooking up?

July 21, 2013
St. Michael’s Lutheran Church

So here we are, with another one of Jesus’ difficult teachings….
doesn’t seem so much like a ‘difficult teaching’ at first glance…but it is.
You’ll see!

We have Jesus and whoever ‘they’ are entering a village…
and Martha invites them into her home.
Don’t know how many of them ‘they’ were…
but we can almost be certain that it’s Jesus and his disciples…

about a dozen in total, not counting Mary and Martha …
and you can almost visualize them sitting around talking…
you know how things are at a gathering in someone’s home…

You can almost smell the food coming out of the kitchen,
and hear the pots and pans rattling…everyone is having a good time,
or maybe they are having some serious talk, perhaps Jesus is talking about stories
he has heard from the 70 he had sent out in the beginning of this chapter…
you remember…the 70 whom he told to go out without a purse or a bag or sandals…
and not to talk to anyone on the road.

He told them to enter a house and eat what is offered, and not to move around.
He tells them to heal the sick…
he also tells them that if folks don’t want to listen to them, to say:
“even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you”….

Perhaps Jesus is sharing some of his own stories…
last week, we heard about the lawyer who
wanted to know what he needed to do to gain eternal life
….and Jesus shares the story of the Good Samaritan.

Just my supposition.
I don’t really know what Jesus was talking about.
But whatever it was, Mary is at his feet…listening intently…

And Martha comes out of the kitchen disturbed, and distracted.
Disturbed because Mary is not helping her in the kitchen.
Distracted because she probably has a feast going on in there
and is working up a sweat, cooking up a storm…

She implores Jesus to tell Mary to “help her”.
Jesus rebukes Martha and tells her that she is “upset and worried about many things.”
He tells her that only a few things are needed, or indeed only one….

I think a lot of us…again, as Lois pointed out in our gospel from last week…
Can imagine ourselves in either Martha or Mary’s place.

We may even imagine ourselves in the place of the rest
of the guests who were also in attendance…

Excuse me, as I focus on Martha….
…I wonder how that scenario would play out in our context.
I wonder what hot topic (if any) they may have been
talking about that had Mary so enthralled…to sit at the feet of Jesus?

It has been a difficult week…sigh…Amen?
And I am sure you may have an idea of where I am going.
It has been a hot week, filled with hot topics….
The ‘not guilty’ verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.
And it is not JUST the Trayvon Martin case…and all it implies….

But there are other topics, which are just as hot, stemming from that case…
The topic of our judicial system, the topic of our voting rights, the topic of stop and frisk,
The topic of self defense, the topic of our educational system, the topic of our young black men,the topic of our prison institutions…the topic of poverty….The topic of racism…..

Hot topics which have been sitting on the stove,
Pilots lit and simmering in separate pots….

These topics are nothing new.
Indeed, our leader, Barack Obama affirmed:
that there is a “history of racial disparity in our criminal laws”

Our president went on to say:
“When you think about why, in the African-American community at least,
there’s a lot of pain around what happened here.
I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is
looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”

– “There are very few African-American men in this country who have not
had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store.
That includes me.

-There are very few African-American men who have not had the experience of
walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.
That happens to me – at least before I was a senator.”

– “There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of
getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and
holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often.”

– “Some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods
around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country. ..

And the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities
can be traced to a very difficult history. …
And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration.”

A lot of people are upset with The President for expressing himself…
I myself, was grateful to hear words of “acknowledgement”
…I have been waiting for a week, for words of ‘acknowledgement”
….from SOMEBODY!

These unacknowledged things are topics for discussion…
these things that are shoved to the backs of some of our kitchen cupboards,
are topics for discussion.

I saw on twitter, a statement from someone named Carlo Fortunato:
Which stated:  “the most obvious demonstration of racism is this
Idea that black people shouldn’t be allowed to mention it”.

This most certainly is true….

For there are a lot of “Martha’s” in the kitchen,
busy cooking up “meals” most of us are tired of chewing on….

This mention of racism is certainly distracting to many….
Some may very well burst out of the kitchen demanding that someone “hush their conversation”
Some may very well end up complaining that others are doing nothing
but sitting around listening to some important information…

Well, maybe we should come out of the kitchen and join the conversation.
Sit for a spell…
Maybe we are distracted and worried about too many things:

Like:  denial, and avoidance, victimizing and pretending that all is well, justifying
Minimizing, and comparing…..
….all of these are ingredients for a failed recipe….

And maybe with all that is going on in the kitchen:  it gets too hot, with all those pots boiling over….– and some of us can’t stand The heat…

We may very well, listen to the adage:  “if it gets too hot, come out of the kitchen”

Maybe we need to come out of the kitchen and sit at the feet of Jesus…
And learn a few things about each other.

“Let me smile” (grin)…so that some of you do not think that I am “an angry black woman”…

Okay…what was I talking about?
Oh!  About Jesus…and what he could’ve been talking about…

You see, I believe Jesus could’ve been talking about some aspect
Of how to live together, how to love together, how to be that Good Samaritan …
how to help another on the way…how to not only ‘get the better part,
but to “be the better part”, as well.

I believe Jesus would’ve been talking about
reconciliation…through difficult conversations.
Jesus may have been talking about simply listening….to your sister or brother.

Jesus may have been talking about learning how to forgive…
He may have been talking about loving your neighbor as yourself…
He may have even been talking about how to get righteously angry.

But how can we begin to tackle those pots in the kitchen, which have
Begun to boil over, into the recent protests, into the recent arguments,
Have begun to boil over into a hotbed of unresolved issues?

Come out of the kitchen and take a seat at the feet of your brother or sister…

We are called into a ministry of reconciliation…of standing in the gap
For those who are unable to stand their ground, much less defend themselves…
But how do we do that?

I believe, we begin by listening…by having the willingness to listen to the stories
Of those affected by any specter of racism – or the branches that stem off it racism

The topics I mentioned before…

Friday night at Bryans Ordination…I was amazed at the scripture and the service itself…
…but it was the song he chose as the hymn of the day…
It was:  I love to tell the story.
Bryan, more than anything believes in the power of sharing stories…
And he is right!

I love to tell MY story … but more…especially on a Saturday (at our Community Meal, I love to listen to someone else’s story.

Listening to another’s story or journey – opens up a line of communication…
Opens up opportunities for understanding.

Can you understand my pain?  Can I understand yours?
How have we hurt or misunderstood one another?
How can we begin to forgive and forge new relationships??

I believe that is what God is calling us to do.

Those are recipes for healing relationships…
these are recipes which make up the ‘better part’
…and no one…can take the “better part” away from you.

I am reminded of South Africa…
And the Truth and Reconciliation Commission…which was set up by the
Government of National Unity to help deal with what happened under apartheid.
The conflict during this period resulted in violence and human rights
Abuses from all sides.  No section of society escaped these abuses…

It was a very difficult process…
It was truth telling from the side of those oppressed
And it demanded listening from the side of the oppressor.
They agreed to sit and LISTEN to one another…in the hope of resolving conflicts
From the past.

Are we in the same circumstances as they were?
Surprisingly, some may say yes, to a degree.
Others, not so much.

President Obama stated:

“…in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest,and at least you ask yourself your own questions about:
am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character?

That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with a final thought: that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better.

Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race.”

(have you all seen that “Cheerios Commercial and the youngsters talking about it?)
I urge you to see it, if you haven’t…our youngsters get it.

I tend to agree with The President…things are getting better with each generation…

But WE must continue or at least begin, by listening:
If we can just LISTEN….it would be a start.

We don’t hear about Mary talking back to Jesus…
…she sat at his feet, and just LISTENED…

Just listen….

If we listen to the pain which is underneath all this unrest…
you just may learn some things.

If we, like Mary,  listen to Jesus, we just may learn a few things…
We may learn that Jesus faced many of the same problems
We face today…
And that he listened to the oppressed of his time…
We may learn that he spoke truth to power…to the system which
Was doing the oppressing.

We may learn that Jesus stood his ground…and was crucified..
Jesus became for us a meal…
Not prepared in the confines of a kitchen…
But prepared in the presence of one another, and for one another.

trayvon

Trayvon’s death has become the catalyst for many things…
Which rattle our hearts and our psyches….
Some of us have been in the kitchen too long.
Come out of the kitchen, take a seat and listen….
There is need of only one thing.

The table will soon be ready…
The meal has already been prepared.
The better part has been saved for you….Amen.

Guard Your Heart

July 8th, 2013 | By andrena in Church, General, grace, Healing, sermon | 1 Comment »

Prayer and Anointing Service – July 7, 2013
St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Germantown Ave
Luke 10:1-15

“Peace unto this house” – Amen

A few years ago, one of my requirements was to attend
something called “first call pastor school”.
Actually, it is affectionately called “baby pastor school”.
It is a retreat for pastors in their first three years of ministry.
I always hated it, with the exception of the third year.
It was in that year that I finally understood the importance of our yearly gathering.
It was in that last year, I met Reverend Craig Satterlee – who was then, the professor of homiletics at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Chicago.
There seemed to be some rivalry among the students of LTSC and LTSP of which professor was better: Professor Satterlee … or the world renowned GORDON LATHROP!,
who some of you know was the Professor of Homiletics here at Philadelphia!

Anyway, I don’t recall the exact semantics of his sermon, but it went a little something like this:

He explained some of the context of this text…about the 70,
going out into the world to cure the sick and to spread the gospel.
He spoke about welcoming the hospitality of those the disciples would encounter…
not taking any bags, no money, no sandals and to offer their peace to the home
in which they were staying, and then to recognize where they were not welcome:
to go out into the street and say “even the dust of your town that clings to our feet,
we wipe off in protest against you….

He talked about how hard the Christian life was during those times
at times/and hard sometimes even in the present.
…and then he did the most unusual thing:

He apologized to us for the seminaries,

…for taking the time to teach us *everything* we need to know in
order to be an effective pastor and then basically ‘throwing us to the wolves’.

It was a sermon of epic proportions!
it wasn’t preached maliciously;
it wasn’t preached in a harsh tone…
but spoken so gracefully and filled with truth.
There was not a dry eye in that room,
and a few had to be ministered to afterwards.

The grace in that sermon was words I remember to this day:
“Guard Your Heart”.
When Reverend Satterlee was elected Bishop this past
May to the North/West Lower Michigan Synod,
I congratulated him on facebook and reminded him:
“Guard Your Heart”.

It was with those words that he tried to
prepare us ‘baby pastors’ for the reality of ministry:

For the times in which we would encounter the wolves in the world,
who would like nothing better than to devour us…’tender little lambs’ that we were
…going out into our respective parishes to shepherd God’s people.

He implored us to “guard our hearts”…
because as pastors we are called to care for people…
but in caring, if we are not careful…our feelings get hurt..

Guard your heart…
Give of your heart…but guard it.
Don’t personalize the things people will do or say to you.
Don’t personalize things that will happen in ministry…
Guard your heart, like a shepherd guards their lambs.

I have remembered those words many times throughout
my short time as a pastor…”to guard my heart”.
Sometimes I have had to say it as a mantra as I am entering into a situation,
guard your heart, guard your heart, guard your heart…..(pause)

And so I said all that to say…

In ministry, as you go out and proclaim the gospel, or go out and
share the good news in whichever way works for you,
You may get your feelings hurt.
You may attempt to help someone and they rebuke you…
or ignore you…or slam the door in your face!

Guard your heart! Ministry is tough stuff! It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Let me apologize to you as well,
For sometimes throwing you to the wolves (in a manner of speaking)

Beginning a food ministry and pushing to make sure it happened
The times you have gone on “walk, knock and talks” in the neighborhood,
And might’ve gotten a door slammed in your face…

Jesus tells the disciples that if folks don’t listen to them
That they should go out and shake their dust from their feet…
I wonder, though, in our day and age – and in some of our contexts
that if instead of being so quick to “shake their dust off our feet”
of we can instead, actually ‘listen to the other’ – not in hopes of
denying Christ and the kingdom coming near, but listening in hopes
of ‘understanding and respecting the other” and looking for things we have
in common, rather than things which separate us?
(unless of course you are threatened with bodily harm – then by
All means –‘shake that dust off your feet’ and get the heck outta dodge!
(leave ‘em in the dust, so to speak)! (pause)

Guard your hearts beloved!!!
It doesn’t just go for pastors…
But is a lesson for us all.
We all have hearts.

Sometimes life-itself is not for the faint hearted.

Sometimes life’s lessons can tear at our hearts.
Sometimes people can break our hearts.
Sometimes parents break their children’s hearts.
Sometimes the death of a loved one breaks our hearts.
Unmet expectations can break our hearts.
Betrayal can break our hearts.
Disappointments can break our hearts.
Broken trust can break our hearts.
…even family members can break our hearts.

Whatever your situation is, chances are,
you have sometimes felt as though you were a
lamb standing in the midst of wolves.

We need to guard our heart against attack…

Guard your heart against those who would try to use you
Guard your heart against those who would abuse your good intentions
Guard your heart against lies, against trickery,
against manipulation, against the evils of this world….

Guard your heart against the evil one….

Satan uses all kinds of weapons to attack our heart.
Guard your heart against circumstances that lead to disappointment
That lead to discouragement … or disillusionment.
All the above descriptions can lead to you wanting to give up…Amen?

Guard your heart against physical attack!

Guarding your heart in that way,
literally means to take care of yourself
So that you are not at risk for a heart attack.
Exercise, make sure you eat right and take your meds if you have to.
When is the last time you had a physical
And literally checked your heart out?

I read in Proverbs 4:23

“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”

Everything you do flows from it….
We think from our heart, we speak from the heart,
and we act from our heart..

Our walk with God is always a matter of the heart.

Love flows from your heart…if you don’t guard it, you can’t love
Ministry flows from your heart…if you don’t guard it — you can’t minister.
….You can’t care for those to whom Christ is sending us out to … amen???

Let us learn to “Guard our heart”, beloved.

On the contrary, Christ didn’t guard his heart.
There was nothing guarded about Christ.
Christ was the lamb in the midst of the wolves.
As his blood flowed from his veins on the cross,
So did his forgiveness, mercy and grace
flow abundantly over us all…

…and then he rose from the grave the wolves had appointed
Claiming victory over death…so that we too can rise,
Jesus was a lamb sent out into the midst of wolves
Jesus would be our shepherd…
Indeed, guarding us “as a shepherd guards his lambs”
Amen???

As we go out from this place to share the good news
As we set our feet to the task of spreading the gospel.
Paul says: “let us not grown weary in doing what is right,
for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up”. Amen?

Is your heart hurting from something this morning?
Is there a pain in your chest from holding something in?
Do you feel like giving up?
Give up whatever it is that is binding you! Speak it!
That is the beginning of ‘guarding your heart”
Letting go of whatever is hurting it…so that,
like the blood that flows through our veins,
So will love…so will forgiveness…
so will understanding…
so will mercy and grace…
So will life.
So will ‘your’ ministry begin to flourish…

“Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves”…

Take care and :
“Guard your heart – beloved…Guard your heart”
Amen

(blessing of the hearts follow….)

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