Reading: Luke 11.27-28
While Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’
Today’s short reading from Luke’s gospel begins with a shout of admiration and praise. It comes at the end of a sequence of readings that has included the parable of the Good Samaritan and the giving of the Lord’s Prayer. It has also included the challenge of behaving like both Martha and Mary in our spiritual lives. Then, yesterday, we reflected on our human propensity to put our own sense of understanding and control ahead of God’s. Is there any wonder that at the end of this great sweep of scripture someone shouts their support from the crowd?
It is at this point that we need to focus on a tiny detail in the text. At the anonymous woman’s acclamation Jesus’ reported response begins with the word: But … Jesus does not take a bow, either figuratively or literally. Instead Jesus offers a word of caution. Jesus does not want us to get caught up in the glamour and the excitement of the moment; Jesus does want us to understand the deeper meaning of his teaching and signs. Rather than getting ensnared in the superficial, Jesus is keen for us to understand our call to hear the word of God and obey it.
In the eighth chapter of Luke’s gospel we encountered the parable of the sower. In today’s moment from the gospel narrative we are being warned of the danger of being any type of seed other than that which fell into the good soil. When I was a teenager there was a whole spate of American evangelists who came to London to ‘convert’ the unbelieving and curious youth of the time. They prayed and preached and sang catchy songs; they engaged with their large audiences using all the stagecraft they could muster. No one who attended one of those rallies could have gone away unmoved. But … the great majority of that gospel seed failed to flourish. Very often it died in the midst of the rock hard attitudes of others who would not hear God’s word and obey it, both in and out of established Church communities.
Today’s reading is, at its heart, a call to resilience. Resilience in an uncertain world where so many appear to conspire against the flourishing of God’s word, and where so many appear to be conspiring to undermine our determination to obey that word.
Let us not stop praising God, but let us not be distracted from hearing and obeying his word either.