St. James' Episcopal Church
Goshen, Indiana

Our 158th Year

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Sermon for July 22, 2007

Sermon for July 22, 2007
St. James’, Goshen IN
Arthur Hadley

The Old Testament story today is Abraham receiving the three strangers, and the annunciation that Sara will have a son born in her old age. This is a pivotal story in our religious history. Abraham and Sara had been promised descendents that would out number the stars in the sky and sand in the sea, but in all of their long and adventurous life: being told by God to go west into a promised land, they left Ur and traveled northwest up the Euphrates river, then west across the mountains to the Mediterranean Sea, then south along the coast past the promised land into Egypt and then back to the promised land. But Sara had no children. How could God’s promise of descendents out numbering the stars and sand be fulfilled?

The three strangers appear, and are greeted with customary desert lavish hospitality: water to drink, and wash, fresh baked bread, and meat. The three guests bring a special gift - a hostess gift: Sara will bare a son! Sara laughed at the news; how can this be, I am an old woman. And the strangers responded, is anything impossible for God.

This famous Old Testament story is echoed in three places in the Gospel.
First, in the Annunciation: Mary is greeted by an angel announcing that she will have a son who will be the Messiah. Mary is not a old woman like Sara, but a Virgin - How can this be. Nothing is impossible with God. Mary the mother of Jesus sang the Magnificat: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….

Second in the Birth of Jesus: The three strangers are now Magi, or Kings, and they come with gifts foretelling the life of the baby Jesus: Gold for his Kingship, Frankincense for his Divinity, and Myrrh for his death and burial.

Third in the Gospel story today about Jesus visiting the home of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus in Bethany. Last week we talked about the road up from Jericho to Jerusalem. Bethany is very near the top of the climb, only a few miles east of Jerusalem. Bethany means house of figs; there is a little rain each year and fig trees grow well. Just a little higher and closer to Jerusalem at the very top of the climb from Jericho is Bethpage, house of ripe figs, where Jesus mounted a donkey to descend the Mount of Olives to enter Jerusalem.

In the gospel story today, Jesus is visiting his friends Mary and Martha. Martha is acting very much like Sara: busy, busy fixing bread and meat to eat, making sure the guest room is ready, filling the water jars, getting the best wine out of the cellar, fresh figs and olives on the table. But Mary is quietly listening to the teachings of Jesus. Martha was doing what was expected of women: work, worry and weep. Life is hard. Mary was doing the unexpected studying and learning the word of God. Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not doing what women were expected to do, and Jesus said, Mary has chosen the greater part. Women were not relegated to the role of work, worry and weeping. Jesus liberated women to worship, study and joy.

Here are three tenets of Faith given by God to women in the Bible:
To Sara: Do not doubt the power of God; nothing is impossible for God.
To Mary: Accept the challenges God presents to us.
To Martha: Do not accept the societal norms as being what God want you to do.

Thanks be to God.

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