Sunday Sermon by Revd Sizwe Ngcobo 29 August 2020

Service via Zoom, 9.00

As communicated over the past few weeks we have a short service via Zoom today, starting at 9.00am, and you are invited to join with using the following link information to join: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/3465653658?pwd=cjlLOGxKVFpzVjJuSjVkT1c4aWZJdz 09

Meeting ID: 346 565 3658 Passcode: P8a

Order of Service

The order of service is the following:

A welcome by the rector

Hymn played as instrumentals by Melvin Peters: “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Gospel reading by Bulelwa Magudu Luke 10:38-42

Sermon by Revd Sizwe Ngcobo

Prayers by Eela Royappen

Blessing and dismissal by rector

Notices by Yolisa Mapasa, Church warden

Final hymm: “Lead my heavenly Father, Lead me.”

Sabelo Mthimkhulu to introduce the parts of the service.

Sermon on YouTube

If you do not join in the short service you can access the sermon on YouTube by by Revd Sizwe Ngcobo, based at St Agnes, Kloof, and who has a wider ministry in the area of Gender in the Diocese. His wife Revd Seipati Ngcobo preached at our first Sunday in August.

Please find the text of the sermon below.

An audio version is available too.

A PLACE IN THE KINGDOM

Revd Sizwe Ngcobo – St Paul’s Durban – 30 August 2020 Luke 10:38-42

Family and friends of St Paul’s, I greet you all in the wonderful name of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. It is an honour to be invited into this space as we come to an end of this month of compassion, a month where we celebrate women. The Gospel according to Luke is the only one, of the synoptic Gospels that provides a better model for response to acts of discrimination and abuse in our world today.

Many women still suffer the injustice, humiliation, and pain of sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual abuse – and all other forms of sinful conduct. Central to the Luke narrative is the opening of the kingdom of God, to the poor, the marginalised, the outcasts, the most powerless, they have a place in the Kingdom. For Luke, salvation, the good news, and a place in the Kingdom, is for people of all races and not just for a chosen few. The Evangelist widens the boundaries beyond Israel, extending to the Samaritans, simply because for Luke, Gentiles have a place in the Kingdom.

More than the other Synoptic writers, Luke includes the perspectives of the very old and the very young, of men and predominantly women: Elisabeth (Chapter 1), Anna (2:36-38), the widow of Zarephath (4:25,26), the widow of Nain (7:11-17), the nameless woman (7:36-50), the ministering women, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna (8:2,3), the woman in the crowd who blesses Mary’s womb (11:27,28), the woman bowed down with infirmity (13:10-17), the parable of the woman who loses a coin (15:8-10), Lot’s wife (17:32), the parable of the widow who continually pleaded with the unjust judge (18:1-8), the daughters of Jerusalem (23:28).

The role of women, in this Gospel, is heightened, simply because women have a place in the Kingdom of God. The Gospel reading for today focuses the story of two sisters in Chapter 10, both of whom had great regard for Jesus. Jesus goes to Martha’s house, and as he arrives in her house, Martha rejoiced to see Him, and busied herself, her love for Jesus was expressed by her hospitality. In fact, she should have been praised for showing hospitality. She is not Tweeting or on Whatsapp or Facebook, but she is bustling for her honoured guest.

Mary, also, rejoiced to see Jesus, but her first thought was to sit at His feet and hear His word. Grace reigned in both hearts, but each showed the effects of grace in different ways. We can all be in the same house, in the same church, and still be different in character and personalities. Both were faithful disciples. Both had believed. Both had been converted. Both had honored Christ when very few gave Him honor. Both loved Jesus, and Jesus loved both of them. Yet they were evidently women of very different turn of mind. Martha is active, stirring, impulsive, feeling strongly, and speaking out all she felt. Mary is quiet, still, contemplative, feeling deeply, but saying less than she felt.

Imagine Martha rolling up her sleeves, cleaning the house, deciding on the menu, chopping some veggies in preparation for dinner, marinating the lamb shank, changing her mind about table decorations. She wants everything to be perfect for Jesus and there is just so much to do. She’s hoping her sister would come and help her, but Mary shows no interest in helping. All that Martha wants is just a little help. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” She is not happy, she is frustrated and angry, and she is trying to make Mary, Jesus’ problem. We do this ‘triangling’ all the time, going around one another instead facing them direct. “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” Jesus could have said, “You are absolutely right! Let us all come and help. Many hands make light work!” But he does not, instead he scolds her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.” Not because what she did was unimportant or unnecessary.

The Greek word is τυρβάζω (turbazō) which means to be troubled in mind. She is not just busy, she is unsettled. She is not just multitasking, she is restless. She is not just overwhelmed, she is distressed. She is not showing love to Jesus, neither to Mary, nor to herself. She is distracted by too much and sometimes it is so hard to remember your place in the Kingdom, to stop and be still in the presence of the Lord. We see Mary loving God without distraction, without worry, being present and listening. “Mary has chosen this one thing, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus is inviting Martha back into community, a community of love, back into her place in the Kingdom.

Jesus is saying in choosing me, you will also gain back your sister. In choosing me, you may see your way clear to loving yourself, as well as your neighbor. Put down the lamb shank, Stop doing and doing and doing. There is nothing that you can do to earn God’s love, you cannot impress God. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less. You don’t have work so hard for God to do something, you have a place in the Kingdom. In Jesus, we are placed where in a place where we can persist, where we can stay no matter what difficulties may come, because once we know our place in the Kingdom, we hold on to His message, and our faith is exercised in the truth of the gospel. We become unmovable.

We are not here in this place just so you can prepare to meet Jesus someday. We are not here in this place just so you can love God and neighbor some other time. Jesus needs our undivided attention. He died for our place, so that we may be able to love God completely and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus meets us here, in a community of people meant to be here with you, for you, and you for them, so that together we can all choose Jesus. It is going to take some faith to give up all the pleasures distracting us to claim our place in the Kingdom. “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus is not forcing us to cease from all our activities, just sit down long enough to learn of Him. The choice is yours to make. The benefits of knowing Jesus are eternal.

What is distracting you today? Do not let the distractions bring you out of your joy. Do not let the distractions destroy your peace. Do not let distractions keep you from claiming your place in the Kingdom. Do not let distractions of the unscrupulous leaders that fashion weapons of destruction against sustainable livelihoods corruption, nepotism and tenderprenuership, keep us from going where God has called us to go as a country. Distractions create the lost, the excluded, the outcast and the unwanted. Claim your place in the Kingdom, a place of justice and joy, a place of compassion and peace, a place of grace and hope. A place where the weak is made strong, where the lost is found.

A place where we live without fear, and simply become who God would have us to become, a place where we work, we speak out, we witness, and we worship. When we choose Jesus, we choose a portion of grace, we choose what is good for us in sickness and in health, good in youth and in old age, good in adversity and in prosperity, good in life and in death, good in time and in eternity.

The Jesus we encounter in Luke’s Gospel is one who seeks to include not only those who had previously been excluded because of who they are – whose race or religion, gender or age had kept them on the outside – but those who were excluded because of what they had done. Jesus has reconciled back to God by the cross, there is a place in the Kingdom for the repentant perpetrators of gender-based violence. And for the forgiven sinners, there is a place in the Kingdom.

Amen

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426