Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42 

Our parents always told us that “actions speak louder than words”. Ever hear that? “Actions speak louder than words.” Hold that thought. 

St. Paul in our reading from Colossians wrote —

[Jesus] is the head of the body, the church… In him all things hold together … through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things… 

Jesus is the head of the church, and the organizing principle, the organizing spirit, pulling all together and giving life to the body so that it acts, so that it moves, in love, so that it strives to be a force for goodness and mercy everywhere. 

In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, he made the image of the Body of Christ very clear. This reading is from Eugene Peterson’s, The Message, in contemporary language. 

Each of us is now a part of his resurrected body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain-his Spirit-where we all come to drink… I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different -but similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body, would that make it so? If Ear said, I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head, would you want to remove it from the body? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. 

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. No matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, get lost; I don’t need you? Or, Head telling Foot, you’re fired; your job has been phased out? As a matter of fact, in practice, it works the other way-the lower the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher ones. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair? 

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church; every part is dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t…. 

You are Christ’s body, that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your part mean anything. 

I know that was a long read, but now I think we are ready to review the well­ known story of Mary and Martha as shared in the Gospel according to St. Luke. Remember that St. Luke was writing for “most excellent Theophilus”, thought to be a high Roman official. While Martha was running around the house doing tasks of hospitality for Jesus and his disciples, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening. When Martha asked for Mary’s help, Jesus answered with this– 

Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part… 

I am going out on a limb here, I know, but given St. Paul’s commentary on the value of every part of the body, I think Martha got “a bum rap”. Mary might have been a better body part if she had gotten up and helped her sister. “Actions speak louder than words”, rather than sitting and listening. Sometimes, even in our current day, the church depends too much on words. “Talk is cheap”, especially these days. While Jesus was described as sitting down and teaching his disciples and crowds of people, the majority of this teaching involves people who act, like the Good Samaritan, and encouraging people to act, like the rich young ruler. 

Yes, we gather for worship, to listen to each other pray, and to sing together; we gather to be bound together with bread, the Body of Christ, and with wine, the Cup of Salvation, and then we are dismissed. We are sent back to our families, our homes, our communities. We are sent back into our world to act. 

Amos cried out for the people to change their ways. 

…you trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land… [you] make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat. 

Likewise, the psalmist took aim at evil actors 

…who boast of wickedness against the Godly all day long… 

The church, gathered together, is where we listen, and where we are reminded of God’s purpose, we are reminded of God’s will for us, and for God’s creation. And I need, and perhaps you do too, to be reminded repeatedly of God’s direction, as the head of the body. And then I need to act in concert with the head, and with you and others as part of the resurrected body in action. 

I think, following St. Paul’s model for the church, we need to act more fully as the body of the Risen Jesus here and now. 

There are times to sit and listen, pray and reflect, and support and encourage each other. Yet, the primary function of the Body of Christ is to act. A faithful church is an active church, active in serving the world in Christ’s name. 

“Actions speak louder than words.”


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