by Harry Banks, March 11, 2015:    Each Saturday at about 11 o’clock, I arrive at the phone company and go down to the basement education center and open my Bible.  The name of the group meeting there is In His Steps Community Fellowship.  It’s been a long time since I’ve hung out with friends who just wanted to open the Word and take the two-edged sword out of its scabbard.

They play the Word in Quadraphonic sound:  the words and language channel;  the history, customs and context channel;  the contemporary equivalency channel;  and… and… Ooofda… the personal honesty channel.  Glib Sunday School or glib Sabbath School know-it-all answers are not allowed.  Or if they show up, they are inspected for honest relevance to personal practice.

And so it was…  This past week we stopped by Martie’s place.  Luke 10:38-42. We thought it was sort of strange that in a time and place where women were generally considered property, a family with a man in the household would describe the house as “belonging to Martie.”  Her name could mean “lady” or “mistress”… Hmmm… Wonder what that was all about…

Then there was the context… Did I mention that was one of the channels…?  The story shows up just after… well, not just after but the stories leading up to this are… The Seventy out and about casting out demons,  Returning in a glow of victory; Jesus doing a “Yes pump” (a contemporary motion of celebration when one extends an arm, makes a fist, and pulls the arm and fist rapidly toward the chest)  “YES” – He saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven.

Which is followed by the law expert… who gets schooled on neighbor relations… Those people you can’t stand that are spiritually and morally superior in their actions.  (If Jesus stopped by and told the story today with the main character being a transvestite… would we get the emotional stab…?} The guy wouldn’t even say the hero’s name, Samaritan. And Jesus ends with instructions to “DO.”

Hmmm, and oh, remember… the Samaritans had just shut Jesus and his disciples down, and they are in a “no travel” neighborhood.  Still, He had “set his face toward Jerusalem” and was traveling from the northern Galilee area, and the shortest route was through Samaritan-held land.

So anyway… getting back to Martie’s place… it is just after showing up the law expert with the glib Sabbath School “I know the Torah” answer: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27, TNIV).   In case you were wondering, the smart guy answer was based on Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

In the end, the smart guy gets told that flapping his lips isn’t good enough… He should “Go and DO Likewise”… Ouch!… bet that stung…  (Hmmm… Not so sure current quick-quote-MacDraw-bench-warmers would take it any more kindly…(sorry – that sounded kinda harsh)).  It’s interesting to me that we debate gender issues in ordination, and abortion… but skip domestic violence, with 40 some percent of the general population affected by domestic violence.  (As an aside, I’ve had a pastor with domestic violence charges and no action from the conference.)  Then there’s this devastating stuff of gossip… “I’ve heard of conference officials who say, ‘I know all about that person,’ when they have never taken time to talk personally with that person.”  Has anybody heard of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit???  Just sayin…

Oh, yes… we were stopping by Martie’s after getting the runaround from the Samaritans and schooling Mr. Smart-Answer Quick-Draw with an example he would not even name… And… and… Martie, a woman in a male-dominated society who owns her own house.  And she is doing what she does best.  Making it all happen.  She gets a little short… when she sees what looks like inefficiency.  Chris said, “Martie, you’ve got your and-then’s mixed up… Martie was “let’s get everything ready and-then take time to talk.”  Her sister was taking time to talk “and then” take care of mundane things.

We got to talking about priorities… How we let the cares of this world…(yeah, somebody mentioned the parable of the sower)… the business of church… we let them crowd out our time for taking time.  I got to thinking how easy it is to avoid opening the Word, and taking time to listen in prayer (some talking but more listening), and commit the day to guidance from above and beyond our finite hustle.

Kinda makes you wonder how Type-A people are to have a chance? On the other hand, I had someone who had just come back from specialized training in Spiritual Direction assert that 15 minutes a day was all one should spend.  Otherwise there was too big a temptation to have an unhealthy disengagement with the reality we live in.

We also noticed that the next section was Jesus talking about prayer… Hmmm Doing for our Neighbor, Listening and Praying all packages up next to each other in the three stories… Had never quite thought of it that way before.

And then our worship leader… went around the room and pinned down each person present and asked, “How are you going to apply this story to your life this week?”  He even waited for an answer….

While I was writing this I got to thinking – if I don’t take time for the Spirit… How would I ever have the fruits of the Spirit?  It would be kind of hard to have that kind of fruits when I don’t spend any time inviting the presence of the Spirit into my life.  And no wonder those fruits seem to be so scarce at the spiritual marketplace.

My work day puts me in a classroom with 18- to 30-year-olds.  The smart techy types.  They don’t have much room in their world for quick-draw answers.  Sometimes it makes me wonder if we are alienating the younger generation with our hustle of political and administrative housekeeping, and skipping the roots of spiritual vitality.  I encourage what I call a “proper level of insubordination” in my classroom.  That way I know what they are thinking.  Guess what! They can spot when I am being phony really, really, really fast!!!

My young friend who recently started pastoring commented honestly how challenging it was to actually do the devotional time.  There are so many good projects and things to do.

Questions we raised but left unanswered were… Should Mary have been hanging with the guys in the first place?  In addition to not helping out? Maybe there were several things about this situation that were upsetting to her sister.

One of the challenges we talked about was how we come to a story like Mary and Martha…. (OK, so I called her Martie to try and get us to get the story out of the “quick-draw” I-know-this-story-I’m-not-really-listening-any-more realm.)  Did you ever notice that we almost always start with Mary’s name first?  It’s hardly ever Martha and Mary, even though Martha owned the place…. Hmmm… odd…

Anyway, like I was saying… how do we come to this story?… with freshness and honesty?… Fred Craddock talks about “overhearing the gospel.”  Hearing it so much we quit listening.

OK… So I actually got at least one day started right this week so far… I opened scripture, listened, asked for help to open up my life to guidance for the day, held up my friends who are in crisis or poor health in prayer.

The day was not without stress but it didn’t feel like I was going it alone.  The conundrums of the day were met with a confidence of ultimate resolution, even though it was not clear how that resolution would come about or when it would be resolved.

OK, your turn… How will you apply the story? Come on, let’s get real here… No flip answer… Tell me about how you walk the walk… not about talking the talk…

Sorry if I’m skeptical… but I figure you’re going to get online.  Find an irresistible flame war… and go for it… Do you really think about the fruits of the Spirit when you write your comments??? Really???  OK, so back to the question… How are you actually going to let your Christ time affect your words and actions?  Sorry to be so in your face…

Trick question… What would the Master have to say about what he sees on your screen…? Would he be saying to quit your busyness or that you’ve picked the better part?  Just thought I’d ask…

But we’re not done yet…  Our worship at the phone company ends with a benediction.  So that’s how I’ll end this visit to In His Steps…

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).