Bible Study for Monday July 15 Bobby Kates Leading


Bible Study for Monday July 15th for Worship July 21st

Luke 10:38-42

38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Primary Commentary

(Based on Reflection by Kate Huey (from Weekly Seeds, UCC for July 21, 2013)

This week’s Gospel passage can be viewed as part two of Luke’s story about Jesus’ lessons on the heart of faithfulness.  Last week’s story about the Good Samaritan teaches us about loving our neighbor.  This week’s story teaches us about loving God.

So what is the difference? 

The lawyer last week asked what he needed to “do” to “inherit eternal life.”  This week, two women who both love and respect Jesus and his teachings are told by him that all their (ours as well) efforts and deeds are to be balanced and even nourished by times of doing absolutely nothing but sitting and being with God.

How often in our daily routine to we take our thoughts to God and how do we do it?


Martha was trying to meet the expectations her society had set for her in her time.

How do we perceive those expectations then and now for women?

Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to her Lord oblivious to Martha. This was a radical act by Jesus, allowing Mary to be like any male disciple and learn from him.

Should we look upon this as a radical act of inclusion by Jesus?  Do we still consider this radical today?  (This will lead to the Secondary Commentary.)

For many, our days are packed, one after another, with many things, and our minds are full and overflowing, worried and distracted, like Martha, by many things. Henri Nouwen wrote that our lives, while full, are often unfulfilled. “Our occupations and preoccupations,” he said, “fill our external and internal lives to the brim. They prevent the Spirit of God from breathing freely in us and thus renewing our lives.”

What would life be like without all of the things that keep us busy?

Imagine time–without any distractions or to-do lists.  What would it be like to take the time to be with God for a few hours, even a few seconds, everyday.  If we actually believe that “God is Still Speaking” — then why do we not try to listen?

So how could we do this?

Second and a More Radical Commentary

(Based on both Interpretations of Luke 10:38-42 by Clara Beth Speel Van de Water, published by Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois, 1997 & Study Guide For God and Empire by John Dominic Crossan.)

The story of Mary and Martha is frequently understood as a call to discipleship, entailing study of God’s word, for women as well as men.  Historically it has been given several interpretations.

1. Mary is shown as an illustration of the contemplative life, and Martha of the active and less spiritual life. Therefore women, as well as men, are called to full discipleship of the contemplative life. This view of the scripture is often attributed to Origen, a theological writer of the early church. However by this time in the early Roman church, now embraced by the empire and made public, women who had established and successfully led many ‘home churches’ were now stripped of that authority and could only follow Christ’s discipleship as Nuns.

2. Martha is a symbol of this world whereas Mary is a symbol of the world to come.  This is attributed to St. Augustine.

3. Martha represents salvation by the law as opposed to Mary being salvation through faith.  This was used as an anti-Jewish polemic (XXXX?) interpretation.

4. During the Reformation Mary symbolized justification by faith, whereas Martha represented the Catholic view of salvation by works.

Still today this old interpretation of the contemplative-active understanding has been given a new twist —– however it still misses the point.  Many denominations still see women as Mary or Martha types. Mary is still seen as contemplative and studious and Martha as active and practical.  However God blesses both types of women and both kinds of lives equally.

What is our interpretation today?

A recent feminist interpretation uses the story to support careers over homemaking, but as Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, one of today’s foremost feminist theologian and New Testament scholars would attest – that also misses the point.  Schussler Fiorenza believes that the Mary-Martha narrative reflects the debate over leadership roles for women in the early house churches.  The ‘good portion’ chosen by Mary is the listening to but not the diakonia (Greek for service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others of those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men) — the preaching of the word.  Schussler Fiorenza says, “Luke 10:38-42 pits the apostolic women of the Jesus movement against each other and appeals to a revelatory word of the resurrected Lord in order to restrict women’s ministry and silence women leaders of the house churches, who like Martha might have protested, and at the same time to extol the silent and subordinate behavior of Mary”

Any thoughts or feelings on this?

N. T. Wright (XXXX?) sees Mary as being a disciple first in order to be a rabbi in turn.  As a student, Mary also has the potential to be a teacher, so she can lead others to be disciples of Jesus, too, just as male disciples could.  Wright calls the Mary-Martha story a symbolic moment on the way to Galatians 3:28, where Paul writes, “There is no longer…male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Mary acted on that call when she demonstrated devoted discipleship in anointing Jesus, even at the protest of Judas, the disciple who held the common purse. (John 12:3-6)  Martha showed her response to Jesus’ call when she publicly proclaimed that he was the Messiah, even before he raised her brother Lazarus. (John 11:27-44)

It was precisely such expressions of faithful discipleship on the part of women that led some of them to assume leadership roles in the early church.  They became disciples, just as men did, by listening and responding to God’s Word through Jesus with faith.  Witherington (xxxx?) states, “It is the universal priority of faith and equality in the faith that gives women a new and equal place under the new covenant.  This is the radical nature of the Gospel and why it dramatically affected women’s status especially in first century Palestine.”

Here I want to interject and recommend the reading of The Life of Saint Thekla which I intend to comment on in this coming week’s sermon.

This can be found at

On a Frescoed Wall at Ephesus (God & Empire)

What remains of primary interest to me is how Paul and Theoklia (Thekla) represent in image the same movement in text from Paul’s radical gender equality in Galatians and Romans to anti-Paul’s reactionary gender inequality in Timothy and Titus.  As you stand in front of the full three-figure image, you see a seated man named “Paul” in the center, and to your right you see a standing woman named Theoklia.  Both have their right hands raised. . .

Initially, therefore both paul and Theoklia were both authoritative apostolic preachers, with her raised right arm and divided fingers the mirror image of his.  While the male Paul’s eyes and hand are untouched, the female Theoklia’s eyes have been robbed out and her hand burned off. . . it is Thoklia’s eyes, not Paul’s that have been destroyed, and it is her authoritative teaching hand that has been semi-destroyed.  That two stage process by which a female teaching authoritatively was transformed into a female silenced and defaced is a perfect symbol for what happened to women apostles as the radical Paul was deformed into the reactionary Paul.  (pages 172 – 179)


How do you interpret the fresco of Theoklia (Thekla)?  Why do you think the church participated in the oppression of women?

Do you think I should use the following picture as a slide on Sunday the 21st during my sermon on Mary & Martha?    Comments?



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