|Pen and Ink Reflections||
So, it’s straightforward is it? Ask, seek, knock – and you will get some kind of response – not necessarily the response you were hoping for; but at least a response. And if we ask for the gift of the spirit, Jesus is saying God will always give us that gift. It sounds like a transaction – right words in, right results out, a bit like a vending machine! Yet prayer, and Jesus’s teaching about prayer, is not as straightforward as it might appear, or perhaps as we might hope. On the one hand in this passage Jesus sounds very reassuring – God will treat us better than we treat our own children; we can be assured of God’s care for us and God’s responsiveness to our needs. Keep it simple – ask for what you want and you will receive it, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. But on the other hand, it really is not quite like that, is it? We all know of others if not ourselves, who have prayed for help, for healing, for relief from suffering in all kinds of terrible circumstances, and it seems as though their prayer has fallen on deaf ears. So, what then? – was their prayer not ‘good enough’; their faith not ‘strong enough’; their moral calibre not high enough? Surely this is not how it works? Yet I have known folk despair of God’s love for them and reject themselves as unworthy and unfit, simply because God has not appeared to answer their legitimate, heartfelt prayers. This is not the kind of God I want to know or associate with – and it is not good enough to say; ‘it’s all a mystery and one day we will understand!”...
These few verses in the gospel of Luke have caused a lot of bother over the centuries. And even today, when they are so familiar, they can give us pause for thought. Whether we are sympathising with Martha and feeling that she is a bit hard done by, or cheering Mary on for breaking the gender stereotype, it is hard to remain neutral, when these two sisters are set up by the text itself in opposition to each other. The scholar Carol Noren reminds us of the “need for us to imagine ourselves back into the customs and mores of first-century Judaism. In the context in which the event occurred, the episode was shocking, not for reproving Martha, but for praising Mary. As far as Jesus' own culture was concerned, Martha was in the right. She knew how to serve itinerant rabbis, how to treat guests with honour. She knew that her place was back in the kitchen. The apostles probably expected Jesus to rebuke Mary, because she was breaking the rules...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,