“Jesus is on a journey; his face is set towards Jerusalem. As he goes he instructs his disciples; they learn as they journey. Nowhere is that more vividly depicted than on the road to Emmaus, where journeying & teaching belong together. The story of Martha & Mary is a journey story. Earlier the disciples have been sent out ahead in pairs, & now Jesus enters a house of a pair who, by their welcome, indicate they are disciples. Martha’s welcome is like that of Zaccheus, it is the fullness of welcome of one who is open to the prophet. She appears to be a woman of status; it is she who is the householder. Like Lydia Acts 16 or Joanna or Susanne Luke 8v3 she is able to provide, to offer hospitality to the disciples. It therefore seems inappropriate to interpret her many tasks too literally, Martha with red face & hands dusty with flour, begging Mary to give her a hand with the washing up! we can presume, I think, that this is a full household [ including Lazarus ] including servants. The naming of the three characters does not preclude others. The NSRV refers to Martha’s many tasks, a translation of the Greek “diakonia” accurately translated as “serving”. The same word used by Jesus at the Passover meal when a dispute about authority arises among the disciples, & Jesus reminds them that he is among them as one who serves. In Acts 6 v1-4 there is a discussion about the ministry of the table & the ministry of the Word. The same word is used. This results in the appointment of seven deacons to help with the task! So what happens if we release this story from its domestic confines? It shifts its perspective & becomes a story about ministry & the roles of the disciples. If we see it as a parallel text to the one in Acts as a story concerning an area which caused some dispute in the Lucan Church. We know from Paul’s letters that women were appointed as deacons. Is the reprimand to Martha an indication that women were indeed exercising roles of leadership within the Lucan community? it could be read either way. It may be an attempt to discredit the ministry of women as some commentators have argued. On the other hand I would argue that the text testifies to the existence of the ministry of women exercised through house churches, of which clearly this was one. Is the affirmation of Mary’s role important because of the emphasis on the Word? Perhaps the ministry of women was restricted to particular tasks; perhaps it opens out rather than closes down possibilities. Women are not confined to the ministry of the table, if that is the implication, but may also be involved in the ministry of the Word. Mary is welcomed as a disciple. To sit at the feet of the master is not an act of female submission but the appropriate position for a disciple. There is a wider ecclesiological context, so it should not be privatised as spiritual direction or moral instruction, nor trivialised as a domestic conflict.” [ Knowing Her Place; Gender & the Gospels; Anne Thurston ]
Anne taught on my Leadership & Formation Course in Ireland in 2001. The threads weave for us, the feast of St Patrick on Wednesday; the Martha & Mary gospel this weekend; the effects of the tragic death of Sarah Everard, & the unrest on Clapham Common last Saturday night..& the feast of St Benedict this coming Monday, & his emphasis on gentleness inclusivity & balance..prayer & work [ Mary & Martha ].
At both Masses last weekend I referred to Holy Week, with Palm Sunday next weekend 28 March & Easter Day 4 April. With a combined regular congregation each weekend of 50 [ 35 at OL&SB & 15 at OL&HA ] our one celebration on the key days of Holy Week mean all our available seating in covid restrictions will be taken, if you all decide to come. I need to know please in advance of Holy Week, so that I can deal sensitively & appropriately with others who may want to join us, notably our young disciples home from Univ or College for Easter. Please could I ask you to be in touch this week, & no later than next Sat evg 27 March, to tell me how many places you need for our Holy Week Services, as follows ; Maundy Thursday Mass 730pm ; Good Friday liturgy 3pm; Easter Vigil 9pm Holy Saturday night; Easter Day Mass 10am at OL&SB..4pm at OL&HA. If you are not in touch by 27 March we will assume you will be away.
On Monday we received notification from the Bishop of a notable day this coming Tuesday 23 March 2021; the National Day of Reflection for covid-19. The Bishops ask us to make this not only a Day for Reflection but also a Day of Prayer, & they give a fine explanation in their Letter [ which I enclose ] of the difference. “ we invite everyone to enter a church on this day, to reflect & pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.” I would like to suggest that, following on from 930am Mass, we have two hours of the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament up to 12noon, when there is a national minute’s silence. There is to be a doorstep vigil of light at 8pm in your own homes. The Bishop’s ask that we might invite a friend, neighbour or colleague to come to church with us as we make this visit. Social distancing, sanitising, & track & trace procedures remain in place.
St Benedict’s RC Primary School will be celebrating their patronal feastday on Monday. Restrictions mean we can’t celebrate Mass together this year in Church; however, in advance of Holy Week, when school will be on holiday, we are having smaller group assemblies this Friday to celebrate Palm Sunday, prayers on Monday for St Benedict, then collective worships next Wed Thurs & Friday to celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Holy Saturday respectively, with an Easter celebration once they return for the new term. Subject & faith learning is in good progress. Children & staff are delighted to be back into the one body again. Please pray for them as they do for us.
Our Parish continues to provide food through the Food Initiative at a cost of £200 a month. [£2,800 since the pandemic began]. I hope those in our own Village who may be struggling to provide food for their children in this ongoing & increasing crisis in health & in the economy, will be warmly encouraged to benefit from our Food Initiative, where it is possible to approach Ray & Deb in the Village Shop, & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials which will be delivered to your door. This has been working well since the lockdown began, & it could be more of us in the Village will find themselves in ever deeper need of help, & we would encourage them to ask..it isn’t charity, it is basic good bread & butter Christian discipleship which, at such times of crisis, is asked of us in our plenty. Across the Village there is deep appreciation for the good natured & generous service given by Ray & Deb throughout the crisis, who regularly go the extra mile for us. Food donations to Middlesbrough Food Bank via cash in envelope to Parish House or direct via firstname.lastname@example.org Please remember the sterling work of our own SVP group in the Parish, who are there, willing & able to help anyone in any form of difficulty, or those who would value a phone call now & again in the midst of the lockdown. Do please Contact Mary Borrett email@example.com. With my love & prayers Fr Bede