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Pastor John Gibson preached this sermon Sunday July 17 on Luke 10:38 - 42.

Kevin started 13 years ago. People had asked him to go for several years before he went. In part he finally went to check it out for his son, who went the following year. Kevin or Kev, as he likes to be called, loved it from the beginning. Kev loves the families, their joyful and appreciative attitudes. He loves the difference it makes in the lives of the young people who participate in the ministry. Kev loves the difference it makes for the parents who frequently do not realize the true quality of their teens until they see what they can do first hand. But he also loves it because of his faith.

Kev has a deep faith. He had a powerful conversion experience and wants to share the love of God that washed through him with others. Kev believes faith is active. He can’t just sit around. He wants to live his faith, because that’s who he is. He wants to make a difference. Truth be told he wants to change the entire world. Not like the Big Bang, he says, not all at once, but one person at a time. Kev leads ASP or the Appalachia Service Project for St. Paul’s, Cary, with whom we partnered this past week on a mission to the mountains of Tennessee to make homes warmer, safer and drier, which is ASP’s mission. The ministry means so much to Kev that when he tried to thank us, after we had returned, that he was unable to talk because he got so choked up.

Hannah, Sierra and I went from Grace. We each worked on different homes with different teams. My team worked all week putting up foam board, j channel and white, and vinyl siding. I am now a j channel expert. J channel provides a frame for the windows, doors and other openings on a vinyl sided home.

Our home owner Michael is a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. He is a single parent of an 8 year old girl named Emily. Michael enjoys spending time with his daughter, teaching her arts and crafts, which he enjoys himself, and explaining to her that there is more to life than money and material possessions.
Michael works in the county jail. Many of the men and women he supervises are on food stamps and Ten Care, which is Tennessee’s subsidized health insurance. Michael could make more money in another job but he is concerned about the men and women who work for him. He wants to be there for them, and he wants to make sure that the prisoners are treated right.

Michael’s mother pushed him to apply to ASP. He didn’t want to, he said, because of his pride. He finally relented because of the dilapidated condition of his home and because he wanted to provide a decent home for Emily. On our last day at the work site, Michael, who had a meeting at the jail, lingered longer than he should have with us to give us tips he had learned in the military about staying hydrated. He told us how much his daughter enjoyed getting to know the people from the different ASP teams that had worked on their home.

ASP started in 1969 when Glenn “Tex” Evans, a Methodist minister near the end of his career in Knox County, Kentucky saw the poor housing conditions in Appalachia and the energy of the young people in those turbulent times. Tex thought that if he could put them together he could make a difference. That first year, he recruited 50 young people and adult volunteers who in one week repaired four homes. ASP’s website says that “Since 1969, 377,412 volunteers from across the nation have repaired 17,373 homes.” Last year approximately 17,000 adults and young people worked in the mountains of Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky (1).

ASP though is much more than construction. It is a transformational and relational ministry. The transformation comes through friendships developed with the homeowners that break down barriers and stereotypes and through working with others in a shared Christian community of faith. ASP really is an experience of the power and love of the Holy Spirit in and through people of faith. Ultimately, ASP is the work of the Kingdom of God. ASP is a time to sit at the feet of Jesus and to learn from him

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus breaks down stereotypes and barriers. He first does this by being welcomed by Martha into her home. Rabbis at this time did not associate with women. He then allows Mary to sit at his feet, in the posture of a disciple, to listen to his teaching at a time when rabbis only taught men.

It is important to understand that Jesus honors both Martha and Mary. When Jesus responds to Martha’s plea for help, he says, “Martha, Martha,” a rhetorical device that indicates compassion for the person. Jesus hardly dismisses Martha’s activity or plea. Instead, according to biblical scholar Mikeal C. Parsons, he reminds Martha and us that our actions must flow naturally from our being, from who we are as followers of Christ (2). Martha appears to be distressed not because she is busy but because she seems to have lost sight of the one whom she serves. Mary has chosen the better part not because she has chosen the contemplative life but because she acts out of who she is as a disciple, as a follower of Jesus.

We reach out to those in need through ASP, our afterschool tutoring program and in other ways because of who we are, of who we are as followers of Jesus. The work on ASP or any other ministry can be hard and exhausting at times, but when it flows from our very being, from our relationship with Christ, it is amazingly rewarding, because we are encountering the life changing power of the risen Christ in and through Jesus and in and through one another.

Endnotes

(1) Appalachia Service Project, “About,” Appalachia Service Project, n.d., https://www.asphome.org/about/.

(2) Mikael C. Parsons, “Commentary on Luke 10:38 – 42,” Working Preacher, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2917.