16th Sunday: C

The readings.

The book of Genesis is not ordinary history but a tale about the chosen people and their origin and relationship with God. The stories of Abraham in Genesis, are the oft-told tales of the origins of the covenant between God and his chosen people who saw themselves as the descendants of Abraham. In the way it is told, God had already announced to Abraham (chapter 17) that his wife Sarah would give birth to Isaac although he was 100 and she 90, and now our first reading (Genesis 18:1-10) is about the timing of the birth of this God-given child. It is an intriguing short tale not only showing us the gracious custom of welcoming strangers but giving a hint of the way people thought of God communicating with them; for although it tells us that three men came to deliver this message, they seem to represent the one God to Abraham – you have to listen carefully or read the passage again to notice this.
For the second reading (Col 1:24-28) we have a continuation of the deep doctrinal presentation which was begun last week. There is the realisation that not all is as it should be in the church, the body of Christ. He is the head but we are the body, the part which is as yet struggling and incomplete. There is much suffering for us and more to learn, understand and to bring about so as to progress towards the completion and fulfilment of our place in the glorious body of Christ with God in heaven. The overall plan is a mystery and as yet incomplete, and we, members of this creation -His Body – have our important roles to play. Paul suffered much both from other people and from imprisonment, but now, writing from prison, he is glad to be part of this development towards the perfection which God is creating with us.

Last week’s reading from Luke included the parable of the Good Samaritan. For today we have the next story Luke tells – of Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) ; if last week’s was about ‘Love your neighbour,’ then this story is about listening to God, ‘Love the Lord thy God.’ We know from John’s gospel that Martha and Mary lived in Bethany, near Jerusalem, but Luke doesn’t mention this because he has the motif of Jesus on a journey and still quite a distance from its climax in Jerusalem. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet like a student of a Rabbi, though the Rabbis would not have had female disciples, so there is quite a lesson in this alone. The story wants to make the point that hospitality, especially for a travelling missionary should not be excessive and not hinder the work of teaching and the response of listening.

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