Improvisational Gospel

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 16:16-34

Theologian David Ford uses the term “improvisation” in his book Self and Salvation to describe our worship and our singing. God gives us God’s good gifts and the church takes those gifts and transposes them, giving them back to God in offering. We take the tune God gives and we improvise with it, playing it in our context, with our particular gifts and our particular voices to bring further glory to God. Or the principalities and powers give us violence, despair, and hopelessness and we take that and improvise, transpose, and turn it into something for God’s glory. This is the meaning of worship and witness. Read more

Listening to the Word

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 10: 38-42

Jesus is getting close to Jerusalem and confrontation. Luke says that Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha, which we know from John is also the home of Lazarus, which is located in the village of Bethany, just over the hill from the outskirts of Jerusalem. Luke says they welcome him into their home and Martha gets busy doing the many things a good hostess does: preparing food, setting the table, straightening the room, picking up the newspapers that have piled up, and on and on. Meanwhile, sister Mary sits in front of Jesus listening to what he has to say. Martha, understandably frustrated says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister just sits there while I do all the work? Tell her to get up and help!” Jesus replies, “Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things: there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…”

It is important to note that Jesus says to Martha, “you are worried and distracted.” He doesn’t criticize her for working and doing. Remember this comes just two verses after Jesus has given us the parable of the Good Samaritan with the concluding words, “Go and do …” The issue here is not simply that Martha is doing while Mary contemplates. The issue is Martha is distracted. The word translated “distracted” is a Greek word which means to be jerked around like a horse is jerked by a rider pulling on the reins. The image is that Martha is being jerked around by her frenetic busy-ness. It’s as if her desires are out of order so she is out of control in her busy-ness. The result is that she is unable to attend to the one thing most needful – sitting and listening to Jesus. Read more