I am a pastor in the United Methodist tradition. It is no secret that our church is going through a very rough time. The issue of sexuality, and how we as a church express our faith is a topic that threatens to divide us. I know that we draw battle lines and seek to defend our personal thoughts and feelings regarding this and many other issues. I pray for the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with clarity and wisdom as we seek how to move forward as a truly “United” faith.
This past week I preached on the story of Mary and Martha. My hope was to go past the traditional interpretation of the text, and hopefully, gain new and fresh insights from the story. While not addressing the issue of sexuality in a very open and explicit way, I saw a key ingredient within the scripture that might lead to a possible way forward in how we are to care and love one another. This crucial understanding of love is the key element of our faith.
This time, as I read the story, I couldn’t help but pay attention as to where Mary sat. Her positioning was significant to the underlying truth in the story. Mary was in a place reserved for men. Most women in first century Palestine did not sit at the feet of the Rabbi. Such a place belonged to men. For Jesus to allow such obvious disregard for the cultural norm of the day suggests a new and unique approach to teaching and being called a disciple. Could this not be a subtle way of demonstrating that the “Kingdom at Hand” is new and different? The most marginalized of the society could now be called “disciples.” It became possible for all of us to sit at the feet of the Messiah. Could we look at this lesson as a way forward in how we treat our GLBTQ brothers and sisters?
My hope and prayer for the church are that we may not shun others from sitting at the feet of Jesus. We must embrace all of our brothers and sisters in the faith. To banish them, or send them into exile is to operate contrary to my understanding of how Jesus intended us to live. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. That includes every one of God’s children.
Yes, we can quote scripture and use the holy text to prove our point. I want to dive under the surface level and go below the water to discover riches unknown. Perhaps in a thick and rich search, we may come to love and understand that the Bible not be used as something that proves our point, but that the sacred writing may grab us in holy love and transform us into disciples. That is my story, and I am sticking to it!
Joe, this is beautifully written and I love the tie-in with Mary and Martha. I recently listened to a podcast on tolerance on The Ted Radio Hour. Here is the link – it is worth a listen http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/474820279/beyond-tolerance
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