I was in a conversation not too long ago about the story of Jesus with Martha and Mary (Luke 10). Sermons about this text tend to be either:
- Pro Mary - We all need to stop being busy and be in worship and at the feet of God.
- Pro Martha - Martha's make the world work and without them the Church would be closed.
- Pro Mary/Martha Balance - We need to be both Mary and Martha and hold them in balance.
All three of these directions have their merit and are great topics of conversation and sermons. However the direction the conversation went the other day was neither of these directions. We talked about how Jesus did not participate in triangulation between Martha and Mary. Jesus does not scold Martha or Mary on their decisions but remains neutral in the dialog. It was a good conversation by the church members and one for which I was glad to help facilitate.
After worship, a person came up to me and shared that they were "disappointed", and then rephrased and said "surprised" that I did not share the meaning of that story to the congregation - that is if we all were more like Mary then we would all be better off. If we were truly like Mary and devoted to God for our needs, then we would not have to be like Martha busy doing other things.
It dawned on me that the entire conversation during the sermon was something this person did not see. The entire conversation about Jesus not taking sides, not triangulating, had not registered at all. For this person, the meaning of the story was quite clear - we need to be like Mary.
It got me thinking and wondering if it is even possible for a sermon (even a dialogical one) can help people see more to a story/parable at all? Can we see something new if we keep our current lenses on? Can we see something in the story or parable that we did not see before even if what we are seeing runs counter to our entire understanding of that story or parable?
It was recently shared with me a quote for which I cannot cite the source and cannot get the correct wording, but it was something to the effect that "we try to calm waters that God is trying to stir up."
Interpreting the Bible seems like that. We are trying to find the answers and thus create lenses by which we understand the story/parable and thus calm the water. But God is trying to stir up that water. Will we ever be able to allow God to stir up water and be okay with that?