Peace be with you!
In the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, there have been protests and blogs posts defending both sides of the argument. Social media sites have been hosts to the debates too. Although, I don’t plan to settle the debate in this space, what I would like to do is to ask two questions: 1) How are we being sincere neighbors to each other? and 2) How are we being good hosts and guests in this debate? These questions are unnerving for me to answer, especially when it is a debate that opens old wounds of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement as well as personal experiences of race tensions. For me, the Zimmerman verdict debate underlines how far we have to go to come to healthy relationships between races in the United States.
Last week Jesus expanded our neighborhoods to include anyone we meet in our lifetimes. The Samaritan was the caring neighbor to the dying man; the priest and the Levite were afraid of being made unclean by coming into contact with a dead man (fearing being separated from the Lord). We all have fears stopping us from being good neighbors to the person next to us. We do not know what fears Mr. Zimmerman had that night he ran into Trayvon Martin. Unfortunately, killing of an unarmed teenager happened in the Deep South where Jim Crow laws and slavery beliefs are still hung onto. Why did Zimmerman feel threatened by Martin? What happened in Zimmerman’s past that led him to assume Martin was up to no good? Was he attacked by an African American in the past? Have we given Zimmerman a chance to tell whole side of his story? For those of you who agree with the not guilty verdict, are you a parent? Do you feel Martin’s parents’ pain for having to bury their teenage son? How safe do you feel tonight sending your child outside? Are we truly listening to each other? Are we being neighborly to one another?
Today’s gospel reading shows us what happens when we get distracted. Jesus visits Mary and Martha in their home on his way to Jerusalem. Martha is stressing out in the kitchen preparing the meal, while Mary is sits with Jesus, listening to what he has to say (Luke 10:39-40). Martha becomes frustrated with being left to prepare the whole meal by herself when Mary could and should be helping her. She asks Jesus to send Mary into the kitchen to help her (Luke 10:40).
Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NRSV). I wish we knew Jesus’ tone – relaxed and comforting as if to say, “I will finish making dinner. Come relax with us, Martha,” or stern and short as if to say, “I am here to visit both of you; chill out and come relax.” No matter what the tone, Jesus’ point comes through: come visit with me and join the conversation.
We have all been in Martha’s place at one part in our lives. It could have been a family gathering, a fundraiser, a school event, a wedding, or [whatever “it” is] where you are responsible to show people a good time or teach them something. With all the distractions,responsibilities, and pressures of the event, we miss what is happening. Martha is missing the most important part of the visit: being able to have a conversation with Jesus.
No one can discredit Martha from being hospitable. Martha enjoyed being in the kitchen and cooking meals and baking goodies. Just last week during the weekly Tuesday nights Church and Social Media Tweetchat (#chsocm), we were discussing what social media platforms different Biblical characters would have used. I image Martha would have used Pinterest to pin recipes daily to share with her followers. Cooking is what Martha enjoyed doing, but with Jesus she was probably going overboard and needed an extra set of hands.
Jesus tries to get the point across that there is more to hospitality than preparing meals and having a clean home. Part of hospitality is spending time with your guests and being in conversation with one another. There is always something we can learn from the other person.
Whether or not Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, the Florida law let him be found “not guilty” based on the “stand your ground” laws. These laws do not require individuals to wait for the police to arrive and defend them if they feel threatened. For those of us who disagree with the verdict, it is hard to understand and accept the jury’s decision. Many of those belonging to the African American community feel frightened by the implications of the verdict. We should not discount their feelings; however, the true issue is how we go forward to make safe communities for all individuals, especially for minorities and younger generations.
This case opens up conversations about the “stand your ground” laws and racial profiling done by civilians. These conversations are important for us to have so that all Americans feel protected. We should view the Zimmerman verdict of “not guilty” as an invitation to have these conversations. It means both sides need to show hospitality to the other, so all arguments will be heard. Listening to one another is the more important aspect of being in community with each other.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for Mary and Martha showing us how to be hospitable to others. Help us to invite individuals into our communities and to create safe communities. Guide us as we have difficult conversations within our communities. Slow our reaction times as you guide us to listen to one another. Remind us we are all invited through Jesus Christ to enter the Kingdom of God. Thank you for inviting us into your Kingdom. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How do you show hospitality to others on a daily basis?
2. How will you join the conversation in your community?