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July 18, 2004

Mary and Martha; Hessel Park Church, Champaign

I was in Urbana-Champaign over the weekend for the Worldwide Foursquare International Conference, or, more accurately, the 2004 Uni High Reunion for the classes of '76 to '87. I'll post more on that later, but it being Sunday, I'll try to post on a religious theme before I go to bed. We went to the Hessel Park Church (Christian Reformed), since it had a nice website and the Christian Reformed Church is fairly sound, despite its unfortunate concession to feminism a few years of allowing women to be elders. Either Pastor Bossenbroek or somebody else there has administrative talent, I deduce from numerous details such as photos on the wall, an elaborate website, the idea of people bringing up food offerings, page numbers for bible readings, a lady bringing pictures books for my girls to look at during the service, dual offering plates for church and deacon's, unusually beautiful but inexpensive art features, etcetera, all unusual in a small church with a congregation of only about 60.

The sermon was pretty good. It was on the Martha and Mary story in Luke 10:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

This is a profound story, as worth writing a book about as the Abraham Sacrificing Isaac story that is behind Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. I hadn't made the connection with the two episodes immediately preceding it in Luke 10, which are the Certain Lawyer and the Good Samaritan:

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

These are all closely connected to the fundamental issue of Faith versus Works. The first command is to love God, but the second command is to love thy neighbor, and they are both commands. Moreover, "If you listen and don't act on what is said, then you didn't really hear it," something very akin to the idea of Jonathan Edwards that communication requires not just that the Sender transmit some information, but that the Receiver care enough to receive what is sent. How can anyone tell whether the Receiver has done that? -- By how the Receiver behaves after the information is sent.

I thought about two personal applications. One is the giving of an economics seminar. Suppose I am presenting a paper at Anonymous University, and they treat me royally, picking me up at the airport, feeding me caviar, and housing me in a five-star hotel-- but although they clap after my seminar, nobody asks a single question or argues over a single point in my paper. I will feel deflated, not elated. They weren't listening. But if at Unknown University they take me to McDonald's for the seminar dinner, house me at the Motel Eight, and cut off the discussion at exactly 5 p.m. even though I'm not finished, but they argue every point and ask all the right questions, then I will feel my trip was worthwhile.

The second was to worrying about noisy kids during the service. Since this church was too small to have a Sunday School (just a nursery for the very little ones such as my Benjamin and Lily), Amelia and Elizabeth stayed with me and Helen during the entire service-- as opposed to leaving just before the sermon, their normal practice. Martha would worry about keeping control of them lest they bother everyone else. Mary would--perhaps-- let them distract, and focus on God. So perhaps I should let them bother people more.

Since they stayed for Communion, I tried explaining it to them (despite I Corinthians 14: 34-35, " Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.") I was gratified that Amelia drew the attached picture. It depicts some people who are happy because Jesus let his body be killed for them.

Posted by erasmuse at July 18, 2004 11:15 PM

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