To tell the truth, I was looking forward to preaching about Mary and Martha last weekend. Just plain old unvarnished Mary and Martha and Jesus, five small verses that I could turn over in the palm of my hand, ruminate over, shine the light on.
I was looking forward to getting back to the gospel stories after six weeks in Galatians, even though the last week in Galatians was pretty much pre-empted by the shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas. Who is my neighbor? Whose burdens am I required to bear? Those are uncomfortable questions, but nobody said that preaching should be comfortable.
But this week seemed like the promise of the gospel came out of a different kind of discomfort. This short story of Martha and Mary and Jesus spoke to me of the importance of hospitality, and of sitting and listening: listening to God and listening to our neighbor. Coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally), our congregation is embarking on a mission initiative that involves listening to God and to our neighbors. And the discipline of this kind of listening will be a challenging and will make us uncomfortable and will also yield a blessing.
So, Listen. It seemed clear that this was what to preach this last weekend in my congregation. Listening is the beginning of mission. To listen is to put the other person in the center, not us. It is a holy activity.
And then there was violence in Nice, and an attempted coup in Turkey. Sunday morning, while we were in worship, three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge.
And I had this sermon which wasn't wrong, but somehow seemed like flecks of dust tossed into the air.
Was that all I had? Had I made the wrong decision? Had I preached the wrong thing?
All I know is that I am back at it again, reading the scriptures, asking questions, imagining the people in my congregation, and especially a young man who will be confirmed on Sunday. I am looking out at the world, and wondering what to say.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.