We are living in anxious times are we not? Is your family life anything like ours? You know, running on that treadmill trying to balance our schedules, our jobs, our family and our checkbook and then turn on the TV or open a newspaper and you’re bombarded by even more things to worry yourselves about. This Gospel lesson (Luke 10:38-42) seems to always come along just when I need to hear it. It is this story of Mary and Martha that allows me to remember that the Gospel indeed tells us, “Don’t worry, all that needed to be taken care of has been taken care of in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that is the bare essence of what your small, fragile faith is all about!”
Today’s Gospel text serves as a reminder that Christians often sacrifice our hearing of that Word – a Word that gives us life and hope. We sacrifice that hearing of the word for busyness and doing, doing, doing. Maybe if we work hard enough at our tasks we can bring about our own salvation and hope, maybe if we add a few more programs we’ll find just the right one to get more people to come to church, maybe if we spend just a bit more time at the office we’ll find the key to success but, as Jesus reminds us today, busyness, even in conjunction with service to the Gospel and to God’s Church, is not the answer.
We have all heard the Mary and Martha story at least once but probably many times in our lives. There is even that saying, “Don’t be such a Martha!” In other words, “Don’t be such a busybody!”
See your Neighbor
It’s important for us to note that this episode takes place, in Luke, right after the story about the Good Samaritan. That parable is important because it lifts up the command for us to love our neighbor by imploring us to learn how to truly SEE who our neighbor is! I like to think that my neighbors are people like me, people I’d be more than happy to help out, but Jesus says, “no, your neighbor is the person most unlike you and my Word, Jesus says, will teach you how to SEE them for the first time and to know that God sees you in the same way, a person on the side of the road with no status or power or privilege and yet saved.”
Now Luke wasn’t concerned as much about the timeline of Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem. Luke wants to present the story of Jesus in such a way that the power of his life and ministry confronts us and kind of shakes our reality in a big way.
So then comes this story of Jesus in Martha and Mary’s house. Martha busy with the tasks of hospitality and Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him.
Martha’s hospitality is the right idea, mind you, the word that is used in Greek is “diakoneo” which is where we get the word “deacon”… It means “to do work” especially in a ministry setting. Hospitality is the ministry of welcoming that we are all called to do, aren’t we? Don’t we all want to set about the tasks of making our congregations more welcoming?
But Martha’s busyness is distracting her from hearing Jesus. She gets so bothered by Mary just sitting there that she then goes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me!” But Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Or more simply put, “no, I actually don’t care!”
The word “distracted” in this text literally means, “to be pulled in all directions”. Wow, raise your hand if you are feeling distracted lately!
You know, I think that some of the things that we do in church can actually distract us from truly being the church! All of our committees and meetings and fussing over all the little things that have to be done, (according to us!) , can truly distract us from being the church that we are called to be.
The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us the importance of being a people who see the world differently, seeing that we are all in “the ditch” in need of the outstretched hand of Jesus Christ from the cross.
Today we are being called to also be a people who hear differently as well. Instead of listening and reacting to all of the demands that the world places on our shoulders, our ears are to be attuned to the Living Word of God first and from that listening and seeing all of God’s priorities for our lives and our world truly can become our priorities as well.
Soon you will receive Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper. For all of the things in our lives that threaten to consume you, or that you feel you must consume, it will come down to the simple words that you will soon hear, “This is my body and blood given and shed… For you.” This is the Word made flesh, so that you might go forth from this place forgiven, reconciled to God and each other, and with new eyes and new ears.
And then our service today will close with the words, “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” My prayer is that we might always be a people that hears that word “peace” go in peace and that that peace, that shalom, directs our service to each other, to our neighbors, and to our whole world each and every day of our lives.