Category Archives: Theology & Culture

Lost Sheep, Lost Coins and Lost in 2022

GOSPEL: Luke 15:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

Today we get to hear some familiar parables about the Lost – the Lost Coin and Lost Sheep. There is something deeply familiar about the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep, about the woman who tears apart her house to find her one lost coin. And if we were to continue after this, to hear the story of prodigal son. 

But just maybe this year, there is something different in the way we hear these parables. Something helps us identify different and see our selves differently in the story. 

If I am honest, I should confess my own bias in preaching these stories before. The previous four times I have preached on these parables, I have always found myself identifying with the 99 sheep, the 9 coins or more importantly the grumbling Pharisees. I have found it hard to see myself in the lost thing. Before, I tried to redefine what I meant to be lost or just preached about grumblers. In my sermon from 3 years ago, at the time a father of a 5 year old and 3 year whose whose whole life was chasing after lost people and things, I gave lost things and people a bum rap. 

But this year in 2022, as I read this story of Jesus and these two parables again, and it was almost like hearing them for first time. Since the last time this gospel lesson was read in church, our whole world and lives have been turned upside down.  We have known an experience of being lost and alone, all experiencing it at the same time, that probably many of us had never before endured. We all know today, in new ways what is means to be alone, to feel lost, to be surrounded by danger, and to long to be found and rescued in new and profound ways. And if you don’t, what were you doing during the past two years?

In the old world of 2019 where feeling lost and alone, abandoned and forgotten was a foreign, or at least private experience… this new world that we are now living in has plenty of loneliness to go around. It doesn’t take much to remember how recently the walls of our homes kept us in and others out, or that the streets and walkways were emptier than we have every seen. We have felt the danger of simply being with others, we have seen the rage of protest and frustration, we have welcomed the refugee fleeing a war that feels too close for comfort.

Just this week, we have born witness to tragedy in James Smith Scree Nation and Weldon. We got the alerts on our phones, TVs and radios. We grieve the violence and loss of life. And we are reminded of the complicated history that Canada bears with indigenous peoples and communities. 

And if that wasn’t enough to endure, the news came on Thursday that Queen Elizabeth died. After 70 years on throne, she is the only monarch that most of us have known or remember well. Her death is not only the loss of a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother whose life was dedicated to service in an role that was not of her own choosing, but she represents in many ways the end of era that spans the time from the Great Depression and World War II all the way to our 21st century pandemic world. We have known that that time late 20th century world was ending, but now it feels even more like we have transitioned fully to a new 21st century existence.

Now with all of that on our plates this week, we know understand now that feeling lost and abandoned, alone and in danger, has been a common experience for human beings through the ages. Being lost seemed like it was just a thing for those on the margins, those who fell into lives of abuse, addiction, and crime. But certainly as Jesus preaches to the Scribes and Pharisees, tax collectors and debtors, we can now understand the ancient world was full hardship and struggle. Feeling lost, hoping for salvation was common place. The people who hear Jesus preach would have known what it was to be lost, at least most of them. 

Their world was not one where there was much mercy and grace to be found. Sinners, debtors and the unclean rarely found help and care, rarely were they able to escape their circumstances. Once in debt it was nearly impossible to get out, once unclean it was a whole process to become clean again, once a sinner the whole community turned its back to you. 

So these crowds following Jesus, listening to his preaching about discipleship would have heard these parables of lost things as radical and unexpected, as stark contrasts to the image of a judgemental God that they were so often warned of. 

When the sinners and debt collectors hear the pharisees and scribes grumbling about Jesus caring for the lost, the expected response would be for Jesus to shape up and start following the rules. It simply wouldn’t track that a shepherd might risk the 99 for the sake of the 1. It is a waste of time and energy to tear apart one’s house just to find a single coin, when you still have 9.

So imagine the crowds hearing Jesus tell the story of the shepherd that leaves the 99 behind to go and find the one lost sheep. The story of the woman who takes apart her whole house in order to find a lost coin and then throws a party to celebrate. And finally the story of the prodigal son, the child who has lost to the world seemingly for good, returns home to the joy of his father and of course the jealous older brother. 

These stories of the lost things would have been radical to the ears of the crowds because they revealed a God far different than the one they had been taught to fear. They tell the story of a God who loves so deeply that God will search and find the lost and forgotten, God will go out to meet those who are alone and abandoned, God cares not just for the whole, the community, the herd, but just as much for the one, the individual, the personal. God who knows us as the family of faith called the Body of Christ, and who knows us that the beloved baptized child in whom God is well pleased. 

And this Shepherding God who goes out for the 1 sheep this finding God who searches frantically for the 1 coin, this loving God who runs out to meet the lost son on the road and goes out to me the resentful son in the field… this God is the One whom finds and gathers us up. Gathers us up from our scattered and separated lonely places, who brings us together in to one Body, one congregation, one family, who rejoices that we have been found, that we have been retuned home, that we are reunited in Christ. 

This same finding God continues to meet us in our world this week. As God weeps and mourns with the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, God promises that death is not the end and that there is New Life found in the Shepherd who search for the lost. As a commonwealth grieve’s the death of a beloved Queen and matriarch, while wrestling with the legacy of colonialism, God joins us again and again to a community, a Body and Kingdom in Christ that spans all time and space. As we contend with change that do not know how to manage, God reminds us that God has walked this journey with God’s people before, and God will show us the way now. 

This week, this year, more than ever before in our lives, we may have needed to hear these parables of the Lost as a church. We needed to be reminded of the loving finding God who doesn’t just look for those others that we consider lost, but loves and finds us, all of us. Because God knows knows that we are just as much the one lost sheep as we are the 99. God knows we are just as much the one lost coin as we are the 10 found ones. 

And the God who seeks, finds, knows and loves us is exactly who we need. 

The challenge to Discipleship in 2022 – Pastor Thoughts

This week Jesus is talking with the crowds about Discipleship. He gives a couple of cheeky examples that overturn our expectations and remind us that Discipleship requires sacrifice. You will have to hear my sermon on Sunday to find out more, but suffice to say the point is that Discipleship, or being a follower of Jesus is a journey for which we don’t know what the end destination will look like.  

And of course, Fall has often been a time when Discipleship and related programs are promoted by many churches. Discipleship is a big church word that we have a very strange relationship with in 2022. What does following Jesus actually look like and mean for our lives today? If you have the answer, I think there is a lot of money to be made as an author and guest speaker!

Discipleship evokes a sense of doing. Disciples sound like people who are out in the world doing things related to following and having faith in Jesus. Identifying where Discipleship is happening in our own lives might be a bit of a challenge. 

I suspect that for many folks, Discipleship is what a lot of people think pastors or other clergy are out doing in the world: praying, reading the Bible, helping the poor, visiting the sick, teaching the young, comforting the grieving, etc. And if we are honest about our history as Lutherans in Canada, a lot of congregations have wanted pastors to do “Discipleship” on their behalf. Not the way that a person of means might have a maid clean the house on their behalf, but more like how a student would rather the teacher finish the math problem on the blackboard than be called forward to write it out themselves.

Of course we know that there are many ways to be a disciple. The super volunteer who makes the coffee, hands out the bulletin, has served on council for 25 years, teaches Sunday school, mows the church lawn and generally is out there making the church keep running is someone who comes to mind. Or maybe the prayerful person who prays for the whole congregation every week. Or maybe the faithful student of the Bible who keeps to a regular reading plan. 

But sometimes Discipleship can also be the overwhelmed family who manages to pull things together enough to show up at church once a month or even every six weeks. Sometimes discipleship is that faithful senior who sings alto in the choir, shows up at church most weeks, puts what they can in the plate even if it is not very much and is simply there even though they are not leading the charge on council or handing out bulletins or mowing the lawn. 

Discipleship looks like different things for different people. For some it is service, for others leadership, for others study, for others caring and compassion, still for others it is presence and consistency.  

But most of all, at this moment in 2022, it is also something that we haven’t been good at for the most part as North American Lutherans for the past 75 years or so. Discipleship today is about asking good questions. Questions like:


Who are we? What is our identity?
What does it mean to be people of faith?
What does it mean to do faith in community?
What does it look like for us to serve the world today?
What is God calling us to be now?
Why is the church important for us today?
Why is it important for the world?

For a long time, it was assumed that we knew all the answers to these questions and that we all had the same answers. Church was simply a matter of providing the space for people who mostly understood collectively that Discipleship meant to follow Jesus and to be good Christians together. 

But I am pretty sure we don’t know the answers to those questions today, or if we ever did. I am pretty sure that if there is one thing above all else that has allowed folks to drift away from faith communities, it is not knowing the answers to why all this church stuff is important and often getting reprimanded for asking. 

While some might disagree with me, I think one of the most important jobs for pastors and church leaders today is to be asking these questions, to be talking about Discipleship and what it means, to be admitting that we don’t know where following Jesus will take us or how it will change us. 

Just like the crowds who will interrogate Jesus about Discipleship on Sunday, we are in between places, on the road and uncertain of where we are headed.

But Jesus knows the way. And Jesus is calling us to follow, even if it means giving up things we never imagined that we would have to leave behind. Because who God turns us into on the other side, will make all the difference. 

Dinner parties are not easy – Pastor Thoughts

This week Jesus gets invited to a dinner party. This prompts him to give some advice on where to sit and how to manage social expectations by avoiding the shame of being sent down from the positions of honour and instead looking to be moved up by the host by starting in the position of humility. 

I am sure for many of us, the idea of a dinner party evokes different feelings within us than it did in 2019. Not to say that there isn’t something nostalgic and appealing about the idea of a big family dinner at the holidays. But that is not what Jesus is talking about. Think more of a wedding banquet where you only know a handful of folks. Maybe a work convention banquet where you might get seated with a table of strangers from BC or Ontario. Or even hanging around for coffee fellowship at a congregation you are visiting while on vacation. 

Let alone the COVID awareness that this brings up, I am sure there are many different and varied feelings that we might have about attending such an event. 

For some, schmoozing and meeting new people is exciting and energizing. For others, making new acquaintances and keeping up small talk is an anxiety-inducing experience. 

For my wife, she loves to work a room. Whenever we are in a situation like that, she cannot help herself from floating from table to table, group to group, conversation to conversation, making sure that she checks in with as many folks as possible, chit-chatting up a storm. 

For me on the other hand, the idea of a dinner party isn’t necessarily my idea of a fun time, but it is also not something I would avoid at all costs. I am much more likely to stick with the first interesting conversation I find than to flit around checking in on everyone. 

And if I am honest, small talk just isn’t my gift (trust me, I try my very best!) and I think that makes me come across as an introvert at times, which can be a bit of an occupational hazard as a pastor. Believe it not, I am basically an extrovert and I am energized by spending time with people. One of the hardest parts of this pandemic for me has been the isolation from community.

Being a quiet extrovert stems from my childhood. The first 12 or so years of my life were punctuated by a lot of ear infections. Twice I had tubes in my ears during that time. When I was sick – which was often – it felt like my voice was reverberating in my skull. I learned to be quiet and economical with my words, to listen and take things in before blurting out whatever was on my mind. I tended to wait for silence, or for the lowest level of painful noise, before adding my voice to the sounds around me. My teachers often described me as shy and quiet. At the same time, I desperately wanted to be part of the group and in with the action. I always preferred being with others then being alone.

For good or for ill, this experience is baked into who I am. I know that it makes me a bit of a contradiction as a pastor. There are all kinds of pastors in the church, introverts and extroverts, though the median or average pastor seems to be someone comfortable filling the silence in conversation and carrying the dialogue. At the same time I would say that a median or average pastor is also still somewhat uncomfortable in front of a crowd and still nervous preaching, even if they are quite practiced at it. 

But for me, when I know my words have a clear purpose, they flow easily and readily. I like to hope that means that my comfort in preaching and leading worship comes across easily. I know that I can teach confirmation or an adult study relatively easily compared to many colleagues. Giving a speech or telling a campfire story or speaking to a reporter for a news interview doesn’t make me feel nervous at all. 

I can entertain a crowd if I need to, but just don’t ask me to schmooze a room. I know this makes me a bit of an oddity among clergy colleagues. Even as a 20 year old working at camp. I knew that people would wonder, “What is up with that guy?” when they would see me tell an engaging, laughter-filled campfire story in front of 150 family campers, only to then stumble my way through small talk afterwards. I have tried my best over the years to work on those schmoozing skills, and I think I have gotten much better from that stumbling 20 year old. But it still isn’t a gift of mine. 

So what do my confessions about my social ineptitudes and/or gifts have to do with Jesus’ telling the story about a dinner party?

As followers of Jesus’ hearing his advice about dinner party etiquette this week, we cannot reserve his advice just for those times when we find ourselves at a wedding or graduation banquet or work convention. Through us, God hosts a dinner party for the community around us week after week. 

And I suspect that as guests to that banquet at the Lord’s table, we all arrive with our particular comforts and discomforts. That we all have our own stories and experiences that make us who we are. And as we gather week after week, our varied gifts and talents, our ineptitudes and failings are intermixed by God into a wonderful table of grace, mercy, community and belonging. Some might be most comfortable serving the food or reading out the specials. Others might be in the back washing dishes or working behind the scenes, with still others welcoming and seating honoured guests. Some might schmooze the room, while others hang back. Some might provide the background music while others offer affirmation and encouragement. Some might be adept at making and fostering connections, while others long to connect but aren’t quite sure how.

My comfort zone is as the emcee or guest speaker. You know what yours might be. 

So does God. 

And with all the parts of ourselves and stories that we bring to the Lord’s table week after week, God turns us into the most wonderful expression of the Kingdom of God. Where there is always a place at the table and role to play no matter who we are

The parable of God tearing down barns and giving grain away

Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

We have been hitting a highlight reel of the gospel of Luke lately. We have heard very well known and familiar stories like the story of the Geresene Demoniac and Jesus exorcizing the demon called legion. We have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. We stopped in for dinner at Mary and Martha’s. We learned the Lord’s Prayer along with the disciples who wanted to know how to pray. 

But today, we step off the highlight reel to touch on a much more taboo topic. No, not sex. Not even politics. 

Today, Luke has laid upon us the issue of money and how we value it. The way we understand money and wealth in the Church has a varied history. Some have said that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. Others would say wealth that is not used to help the poor is one of the greatest sins imaginable. Either way, money and its place in our lives and world elicits strong feelings for all of us. We know that money holds power over us, and we also know that putting money in its place is something we struggle with. 

Jesus is standing in a crowd teaching his disciples when two brothers come forward and ask Jesus the teacher to settle a dispute over inheritance. Inheritance was a complicated issue in the ancient world, like it is now. The eldest son of the family received a double portion of the wealth, compared to other sons. And the assets, the land, the buildings, the servants would belong more the clan or tribe than the particular  landowner.

But what passes us by quickly, is that most people wouldn’t be landowners in Jesus’ day. Most people were day labourers, or might have been lucky enough to have the skill to make something to sell. Landowners were wealthy, and often they were the economic drivers of a community. Their land produced food, jobs, provided places to live. They were responsible for their communities. 

So when these two brothers are seeking to divide their inheritance, it is possible that they will be dividing a whole community. The estate that they look after together might not be able to adequately provide for their community once divided. But the two brothers, aren’t thinking about that. They are probably thinking about controlling their wealth themselves. 

And so Jesus will have none of it. He refuses to arbitrate their dispute as a respected teacher. 

Instead, he offers a scathing parable about greed.

Often in Biblical parables, the rich are portrayed as having acquired their wealth in unethical, even illegal ways. But the farmer in today’s parable has done nothing wrong. He does not steal, or cheat, or break the law. He simply is the owner of land that produces abundantly. 

In fact, the farmer’s wealth is not at issue in the parable. It is what the farmer says that seems to be the problem. Listen to his words: “I do, I have, my crops, I will do, I will pull down, my barns, my grain, my goods, I will say, my soul, Soul you have ample”. In the short 3 sentences that this farmer speaks, he makes reference to himself 10 times. It is easy to see that this farmer is rather self-centred, and that he sees the land and grain as belonging to him. 

Yet, the land would truly belong to his family. His wealth would then belong to his community and all of his relatives that would be working the fields along with him. But our farmer only considers storing his grain — his wealth. He does not consider other options like providing for the poor, giving his workers a bonus or sharing with relatives whose land did not produce as well. 

The farmer in this parable is a caricature. He is the extreme version of our human instinct to create security for ourselves.

We know very well the thought process that is being outlined in this parable. In times where there is even a small amount of extra, saving it for when there is not enough is important. Today’s farmers could use some harvests with extra, some years when next year’s crop wasn’t already being used to pay this year’s. 

It isn’t the actions of the farmer in this parable that are brought into question. Rather, as God demands the life of this wealthy farmer today, the issue is about the proper place of money in the world. It isn’t just that those big grain barns won’t do this farmer any good once he is dead. But more importantly, that storing all this grain, all this wealth hasn’t done anyone any good. 

Who is remembered at a funeral for the size of their grain bins? Or house? Or wardrobe? Or bank account? Or car collection?

Jesus is making a point not just about the next life, but about this one. This absurd farmer and all his wealth has missed an opportunity to build something far more valuable than money and wealth. The farmer has missed what it means to build relationships with people. 

People are more valuable than any amount money. Full grain bins mean nothing when there are people starving next door. And yet our world routinely chooses wealth ahead of people. Our world is full of overflowing grain bins and starving people. 

These past two years  we have been regularly reminded of how easily it is forget to consider our neighbour. As people have railed against pandemic restrictions, economic insecurity, as nations have gone to war to satisfy the grandiose visions of man dictators… we have seen money and power being put before people. 

When Jesus scolds these two brothers for wanting to divide their inheritance, it is because when he looks arounds his world is full of people just like our new refugee family. People whom have been left behind by the world in our struggle to have more money and wealth. People who are forgotten by those with riches. People who could benefit from some of that extra and abundant grain. 

But it isn’t just that Jesus reminds these brothers and us that those with more than enough can afford to share with those with not enough. But Jesus reminds us that ultimately, on the night when our life is demanded of us, that we too are refugees with nothing. All the wealth and money and power and security in the world means nothing in the face of death. 

And how lucky are we, when we forget the proper place of money and the value of people, that God does not. That God places people above money, wealth, power and security. That God is willing to give up all those things for our sake. How lucky are we that God is into loving the neighbour and sponsoring refugees in a big way? That God welcomes and provides for us, for us with nothing to offer, with nothing of true value to our names. God gives us the most valuable name of all – beloved child. 

And if we were to retell the parable that Jesus tells today, but with God as the main character instead of an absurdly rich landowner, it would sound very different:

Then [Jesus] told them a parable: “The land of God produced abundantly. And God thought to Godself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then God said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and instead of building larger ones, I will give my grain and my goods to those who are hungry, to those who are in need. And [then] I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods to feed all who are hungry and all who are thirsty; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But then sinful humanity said to God, `You fool! This very night you will be betrayed’ And God said, “Then take my life, take my body broken for you. Take my blood shed for you.” 

And then Jesus explaining this new parable said, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God, for God does not store up treasures for Godself, but has been poured out for you, and is rich towards all.

The Trouble with Mary and Martha

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

GOSPEL: Luke 10:38-42
38Now as [Jesus and his disciples] went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But 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.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Once again this week, we hear a familiar story from the book of Luke. Last week as we unpacked the parable of the Good Samaritan, we looked at the way in which that parable was less about loving our neighbour through good deeds, as it was a metaphor for God’s mercy and grace given for us. When we read the parable through the lens of the lawyer’s question regrading inheriting eternal life, we discovered that in fact God was the Good Samaritan and we were the one in the ditch. God is the one rescuing from sin and death when our efforts to justify ourselves fall short. 

Today, we pick up just after that story with the story of Mary and Martha, another familiar story from Luke. A story for which there are countless pieces of art, bible studies and sermons that all warn against the distracted fussing of Martha and lift up the quiet listening of Mary. Another sermon when the brain can be turned off early on, because we think know what the message is here. 

If I am honest, I can go back into my files and find sermons about the version of Mary and Martha that I just described. About two versions of hosting and “women’s work.” 

And yet a deeper dive into the text reveals a story very different than the one we so often imagine, 

Biblical Scholar, Mary Stromer Hanson and Pastor Amy Courts have done some excellent work to re-visit this text and a lot of what to come is based on their work. 

Following Jesus’ conversation with the lawyer who prompted Jesus to tell parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus and his disciples are on their way to a certain village. Presumably this village is Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha. 

Upon their arrival, Martha meets Jesus but exactly how and where is not so clear. What reads as “welcomes” Jesus may also be heard as receives Jesus, as in receives his message or teaching. And while we might imagine Jesus the disciples crowded into Martha’s home, the earliest manuscripts of Luke do not include this detail. So this interaction between Martha and Jesus might be taking place anywhere, on the road, in the town square or some other public place. 

Then the story notes that Martha has a sister Mary who sits at the feet of Jesus. This of course has led to the many paintings or other pieces of art depicting Jesus and Mary sitting in a living room of sorts as he teaching, while Martha scurries about the kitchen. However, “sitting at the feet” is well known 1st century phrase which means to be a disciple of or follower of a teacher or rabbi. 

So Mary is not quietly siting at Jesus’ feet while he id waiting supper, but rather is named as one of his disciples. But it isn’t just Mary. In many English translations the word ‘also’ is omitted. Martha had a sister named Mary who ALSO sat at the feet of Jesus. 

In other words, Mary and Martha are both disciples and followers of Jesus. Jesus who earlier in Luke declares that his disciples are the ones who hear his word and do it. 

So rather than two women taking different approaches to hosting a guest for super, we have two sisters and two disciples of Jesus.

The story goes on to say that Martha is distracted by many Diakonen, a greek word you might know from Diaconal Minister or Deacon. We have traditionally translated that Martha was distracted, but the connotation is being troubled and in an ongoing way. Martha is troubled by diakonen, not the tasks of keeping a home, but ministry. Martha is troubled, almost being split and divided in herself by all the work of ministry around her. 

Martha is not distracted by cooking dinner, but by tending to her village. Feeding the hungry, caring for the widows, visiting sick and imprisoned. Doing all the kinds of things a disciple of Jesus would do locally in her village. 

And being troubled, Martha comes to Jesus to confront him about her sister, Mary. Now, ever why wonder why Mary doesn’t speak in this story? It is likely because she isn’t even there. Again the connotation in Greek is that Mary has left her sister, Mary has gone off with the rest of Jesus’ travelling disciples to preach the good news throughout Galilee. Martha does not know where Mary is but Jesus does. And so she is relaying the message through him, that she wants her sister to come home. 

And just maybe Martha isn’t only stressed by the task of ministering to her community. Maybe she is worried about her sister who is out on the road, out doing the things that are usually reserved for men, out in the world which is not a safe place, especially for a woman (remember the bandits we just heard about in the story of the Good Samaritan). 

And so in the midst of her troubled spirit and worry about her sister, Jesus brings Martha back to herself. ‘Martha, Martha’ Jesus says her name twice. Like a good friend grounding another, Jesus helps her find her feet. 

Jesus looks around the village of Bethany, knowing all that Martha is tending to in her community, all the care she is giving. “You have much that troubles you Martha, but there is only thing.” Jesus tells Martha that despite the many jobs and responsibilities of caring for her community, that there is only one call to discipleship. The same call that both sisters are following each in their own way.

And so this story that we used to think was about a couple of sisters fighting over the domestic duties of hosting a guest in their home is something completely different. It is the story of a disciple who confronts Jesus when he arrives in her town with her narrow expectations for what the work of the Kingdom of God might look like, only to have Jesus remind her that ministry and God’s work happens in a variety of ways, and through a variety of people. 

Sound familiar? 

As churches we have had the habit of being Marthas, not in the distracted busybody way, but as communities that have often and long expected the work of the kingdom to look and be a certain way. We have preferred ministry to take place among us according to our vision and expectations. And lately — say in the past 20 years or so — keeping up with it all has been troubling us and stressing us out. Especially as we think there are folks who should be here with us doing this work. 

But Jesus meets us where we are and grounds us too. “Church, Church, you are stressed and troubled by many things, but there is only need of one thing.”

There is only one thing to keep at the forefront, one thing to press us on, one thing that guides us as followers of Christ:

There is only one call to ministry. That each who is called to serve is called by the same God with the same call.  That one call is expressed in the variety of work that God is doing in and through us and countless others. 

We have been hearing this message over and over again in the Gospel of Luke. As Jesus and the disciples have gone about Galilee proclaiming the gospel, Jesus has ben constantly challenging the displaces to expand their understanding of what God’s work in the world can look like. To be open to others and their different forms of service, who have also heard that one call to discipleship.

And so as we enter this new age of being church together, Jesus is challenging us to too:

Jesus is hearing our complaints and struggles and stress, hearing our prayers and pleas. 

Jesus is calling out our names and grounding us again in the Word of God and the sacraments. Jesus is reminding us that God us the one who calls us to serve, and we don’t get to decide what what service looks like for everyone. 

And Jesus shows us that this call, this ministry, this discipleship, this preaching of the good news is going to look and be different than we expect. 

But it is still the work of the gospel, still the work of the church, still part of the body of Christ to which we all belong. 

Today we are called to be like both Mary and Martha, disciples following God calls, using our diverse gifts to take the good news first given to us, good news of mercy and new life, out to the whole world.