Historical Markers: Radical Welcome

There’s some apocryphal stories from my childhood about family vacations that took forever because I needed to stop at every historical marker along the way. Every. Single. One.

I think one trip to Galveston took eight hours one time?

My boys know this about me, so they humor me on trips. If you followed my trip on Instagram or Facebook this week you know that the boys and I stopped at every single state welcome center, and got a map and a picture with the sign.

Louisiana. Mississippi. Alabama. South Carolina.

Every state, a picture.

It only added about an hour to the trip, so nothing like that Galveston vacation.

In our Gospel today, Jesus and his friends are on a journey toward Jerusalem, their final destination. “As they went on their way…” the story says. And they stopped at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

These three were among Jesus’ closest friends.

Jesus visited their house often. Jesus wept when Lazarus died. These are close friends.

Now we all know the story.

Martha is busy in the kitchen, and Mary is just sitting around enjoying time with Jesus.

Martha gets mad, and goes and begs Jesus to tell her sister to help her out.

Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better thing.

We need to see just how radical this story would have been to readers in the first century.

Women didn’t just sit and listen to a rabbi teach. So the fact that Mary, as a main character in this story, is sitting at Jesus’ feet, would have been scandalous. She can’t do that, can she?

To have a woman act as a disciple is every bit as revolutionary as having a Samaritan be a neighbor.

And, not to mention, the fact that Martha maybe owned this large home and functioned as the head of one of the earliest house churches can’t be ignored.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues to turn the world on its head. Jesus came and taught and died for everyone.

Jew and Samaritan.

Male and female.

You and me.

As I was heading home from South Carolina, I was driving by myself. I left after dinner and drove until about midnight, and stopped in Alabama. The next morning, I left bright and early and had about nine hours of driving left. I was ready to get home.

As I was driving home, I was on the phone with a friend and was telling them about my weird need to stop at every historical marker on road trips. When I said I was trying to beat the Google ETA home, my friend encouraged me to take my time and stop if I wanted to.

I’m glad I did.

As I was driving through Jackson, Mississippi, I drove about 30 minutes out of my way to pull up to a small teal house in a rundown neighborhood.

This is the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument.

Medgar and Myrlie Evers were husband and wife, and partners in the civil rights struggle. The assassination of Medgar Evers in the carport of their home on June 12, 1963, was the first murder of a nationally significant leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, and it became a catalyst for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Medgar Evers was murdered…no, he was martyred…for trying to turn the world on it’s head. For fighting for justice and equality for everyone.

That sounds a bit like Jesus in today’s Gospel, doesn’t it?

Welcoming everyone to sit at his feet and learn.

Welcoming everyone to share in his eternal kingdom.

Welcoming everyone.

We’re starting a sermon series this week. See what happens when the associate rector leaves? I turn into the kind of preacher that has sermon series…

We’re calling this series Historical Markers.

I mean that in two senses.

First, Every week, from now until I run out of places…we’re going to look at the Gospel through the lens of weird and quirky and often unseen historical markers.

And we’re also going to look at the historical markers of our faith. What practice, or belief, or nugget of truth can we pull out each week that shows us who Jesus is and what we’re supposed to be about.

So today’s historical marker…based on Jesus welcoming Mary and Medgar Evers giving his life for the struggle…is Radical Welcome.

The Church has long been a place of radical welcome.

It’s how the early church grew, because slave and free, Jew and Greek, rich and poor…everyone was welcome.

And this church, St. Martin’s…has been, is, and will always be a place of radical welcome.

The world tries to throw up walls, and give us all labels, and tell us who is in and who is out.

We don’t do that here.

Because we practice radical welcome.

We practice the radical welcome of Jesus who crosses boundaries.

We practice the radical welcome of Jesus who breaks down walls.

We practice the radical welcome of Jesus who proclaims there are no insiders or outsiders.

We practice the radical welcome of Jesus who turns the world upside down.

Everyone is welcome in God’s kingdom.

And everyone is welcome at St. Martin’s.

As Jesus continues on his journey to Jerusalem, he leaves behind him individuals, households, villages, and a whole world that will never be the same. Because they have glimpsed a new vision of God’s radical welcome.

I pray the same will be true for us.