by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The Narrative Lectionary readings for Sunday, February 16, 2013:
Optional reading: Psalm 15 or 15:1
Many of us are probably familiar with both stories that are presented in today's Narrative Lectionary: the parable of the Good Samaritan who stops to help the brutalized traveler after religious authorities have refused to help and the story of the two sisters, Mary and Martha, one of whom sits with Jesus and the other who bustles around the house doing chores and resenting the fact that no one helps.
Yes, we've read them separately many times, but how different to read them together!
I read the story of the Good Samaritan in many ways, but the one I come back to most regularly sees it as a lesson about the importance of our actions matching our mouths. Which of the characters in the story of the beaten and robbed traveler shows love to the neighbor? The one who stopped to help. At first read, it's a story that seems clearly to instruct us to show love by our actions, not by yakking about how much we love the world.
But then comes the story of Mary and Martha. It's hard not to sympathize with Martha, the sister who understands the importance of getting the daily chores done--and there's a guest, who must be fed! She hustles and bustles and grows increasingly resentful of all these people who ARE NOT HELPING.
Based on our reading of the Good Samaritan, we might expect Jesus to tell Mary to help her sister. But instead, Jesus gives us an opposite instruction: it is good to sit with Jesus.
Should we see the pairing of these stories as instruction about which work is important and which is not? Are we being instructed on the true nature of hospitality?
Most of us will never be faced with such extreme choices, but we like to think that we would behave appropriately. But as we think about our daily lives, we see how often we take the safe path.
The safe path takes us away from the bleeding stranger. The safe path has us doing our household chores instead of paying close attention to God. Jesus came to show us that we should leave the safe path.
The life of Jesus also warns us that by leaving the safe path, we may end up broken and bleeding ourselves. But Jesus shows us that redemption can come from this kind of suffering.