July 29: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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About this commemoration

Friends of Jesus: Martha, Mary and Lazarus Icon, oil on wood, 198?, Sao Paulo, Brazil Claudio Pastro, Brazil Benedictine Priory of Bethany, Loppem, Belgium

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany are described in the Gospels
according to Luke and John as close and much-loved friends of Jesus.
Luke records the well-known story of their hospitality, which made
Martha a symbol of the active life and Mary of the contemplative,
though some commentators would take the words of Jesus to be a
defense of that which Mary does best, and a commendation of Martha
for what she does best—neither vocation giving grounds for despising
the other.

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead which, in John’s Gospel, is a
powerful anticipation of resurrection and sign of eternal life for those
who claim by faith the resurrection of Jesus. The story of the raising
of Lazarus also sheds additional light on Martha. Jesus delays his visit
to their home and arrives only after Lazarus is dead. Martha comes
out to meet Jesus on the road, and while somewhat terse at first, she is
still confident of his power to heal and restore. The exchange between
them evokes Martha’s deep faith and acknowledgment of Jesus as the
Messiah.

John also records the supper at Bethany at which Mary anointed Jesus’
feet with fragrant ointment and wiped them with her hair. This tender
gesture of love evoked criticism from the disciples. Jesus interpreted
the gift as a preparation for his death and burial.

The devotion and friendship of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus have been
an example of fidelity and service to the Lord. Their hospitality and
kindness, and Jesus’ enjoyment of their company, show us the beauty
of human friendship and love at its best. And the raising of Lazarus by
Jesus is a sign of hope and promise for all who are in Christ.

Collects

I Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the
friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha and Lazarus
of Bethany: Open our hearts to love thee, our ears to hear
thee, and our hands to welcome and serve thee in others,
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with thee and
the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.

II Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the
friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha and Lazarus
of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear
you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others,
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the
Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Lessons
Ruth 2:5–12
Romans 12:9–13
John 11:1–7, 17–44

Psalm 36:5–10

Preface of Epiphany

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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About Beau Surratt
For now, here's my bio from the All Saints' webpage: During my time at Elmhurst College (where I graduated in 2006 with a B.A. degree in Theology and Religion) I served as a college intern here at All Saints' where I helped out at the food pantry on Tuesday nights, preached, led worship, visited home-bound parishioners and did lots of other random things. I found All Saints' to be such a fun and life-changing community of faith that I couldn't help but come back to work in this place. I'm now, by my count, on my fourth incarnation at All Saints’, having served as College Intern, Parish Administrator, Associate for Music and Administration, and now Director of Music. In many ways, I grew up here, and this is the community I call home. All Saints' is a community where all of us can offer all of who we are as we are, rough edges and all, and know that, when we do this, what will come to be is something even more beautiful and amazing than we could have ever imagined on our own. I am always amazed and filled with gratitude that week in and week out groups of people gather together in this place to create music that (we hope and pray) helps us as a community to pray, rejoice, understand the Scriptures, lament, cry, celebrate and more. When I think about it all, it really is astounding. So many of us are so busy and we're pulled in so many directions at once....and even so, we manage to come together to make music. It is my great privilege to have a ridiculous amount of fun helping to facilitate all of this. When I'm not making music at All Saints' I'm probably doing communications and operations work at two other congregations in our Diocese, St. Matthew's in Evanston and St. Martin's in Des Plaines. I live in Evanston with my partner Steve and our cat Magellan and I enjoy all sorts of musical activities, yoga, knitting, eating out with friends, biking, reading and all things Disney, especially Winnie the Pooh.

9 Responses to July 29: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

  1. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    I like the idea of including Lazarus with his sisters, and the raising of Lazarus is obviously a major even, but it is the gospel for Lent 5 in Year A, also called Lazarus Sunday, but I hate to lose the story from Luke, which is now confined to Proper 10A. , I think the revised collect is an improvement ,

  2. I see that Dr. Mitchell disagrees, but I think that the Collect in LFF 06 is superior to this new one in HWHM.

    New Hebrew Reading: Ruth doesn’t quite fit, does it? Why not the Genesis account of Abraham and Sarah?
    New Gospel: Phew. This one is 34 verses long – the opposite of so many other new Scripture selections. I hate to say it, but is it too long for a weekday commemoration?

  3. Richard H Lewis ( says:

    It strikes me that the Gospel piece might better be the reading from John altho’ the emphasis is not on
    hospitality so much as on the friendship of the three residents of Bethany with Jesus and his companions
    The duration of the relationship is assumed in the exchanges of Mary & Martha with Jesus as they cope
    with the death of Lazarus. I did appreciate the reading from Romans as it put great emphasis on the
    undergirding of friendship with more than just “storge”. The Ruth reading, if it is intended to put an accent
    on fidelity by Ruth to her MIL, seems adequate. I think it is important to extend the observation to include
    Lazarus.

  4. Regarding Luke 10: 38-42, the formerly appointed Gospel in LFF 06 for Mary and Martha of Bethany: It is the Gospel for Proper 11C (RCL), a Sunday just past.

  5. (The Rev.) Brian McHugh says:

    I want to say how delighted I am that you are using other adjectives for GOd other than “Almighty”! I’ve been doing it for years!

  6. John LaVoe says:

    Completely right to add Lazarus! However, the addition seemes to have squeezed the bio like a size 11 foot in a size 8 shoe, disrupting the narrative’s flow and connections. Here is a “fools rush in” re-write
    shot-in-the-dark attempt at a re-arrangement (with liberties taken).

    CHANGED (JFL):
    Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany are described, in the third and fourth Gospels
    as close and much-loved friends of Jesus. Their hospitality and kindness, and Jesus’
    enjoyment of their company, show us the beauty of human friendship, and love, at its
    best. Luke’s supper account has made Martha a symbol of the active life and Mary a
    symbol of the contemplative life. Some take Jesus’ words on that occasion not as
    expressing a preference but as a defense of what Mary does best, and a commendation
    of what Martha does best, giving no grounds to either for minimizing the other.

    John’s Gospel records a supper at Bethany at which Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with
    fragrant ointment, wiping them with her hair. This evoked criticism from the
    disciples, but Jesus himself interpreted this gift as preparation for his death and burial.

    In John’s account of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus, Jesus delayed his arrival
    until after Lazarus’ death. Meeting Jesus on the road, and somewhat
    terse at first, Martha was nevertheless confident of his power to heal and
    restore her brother. The exchange between them evoked from Martha a
    deep confession of faith, acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus’
    raising of Lazarus was a powerful anticipation of Jesus’ own resurrection,
    and as such, a sign of eternal life for all who claim a share, by faith, in
    the resurrection of Jesus.

    Such devotion and friendship as we see here provides us with powerful examples
    of fidelity and service to Christ, and to others in Christ. The raising of Lazarus
    remains a prominent sign of hope, and a profound promise of life, for all
    who are one in Christ.

  7. John LaVoe says:

    For what it’s worth — I readily admit the comments on the Martha/Mary supper activities are in fact ways it has often been looked at, BUT, when Jesus says, “only one thing is needful” I doubt he means either good housework or an attentive audience. “The Holy Spirit” or “the kingdom of God” or “the gospel of salvation” or ” new life” seem more likely candidates, in my thought. It’s too bad attention has been given to the surface meaning (like Nicodemus taking Jesus’ words as being about weather, or biology) rather than God’s deeper thing going on in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Both Mary and Martha “get it” — as can be seen in their dialogue with Jesus at Lazarus’ being raised up from death. But, “Active versus Contemplative” seems a tangential and unfortunate distraction when compared with the bigger, ultimate picture.

  8. Susan Rigot says:

    The commemoration of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are an important reminder to recognize the gifts God has given you and to give without thought of reward. The true gifts given by Ruth, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are of love. It does not matter if that expression of love is one of service, contemplation, fidelity, or hospitality. It does matter that each of us does what we can to love that which is outside of ourselves.

  9. Pingback: July 29 – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus : St. Paul's Episcopal Church

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