Have you ever read (or heard) a passage of scripture for the hundredth time and suddenly heard it a completely different way? I recently had that very experience. Sit with me a minute and see what you think.
The passage is very familiar. It is the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha. Mary sits listening to Jesus while Martha is very busy. We have all been Mary and Martha. We’ve been Mary as we listen to hear and learn. We’ve been Martha as we do, and do, and do. I have always felt for both Mary and Martha. Churches, work and families are often made of a Mary and a Martha. The world needs Mary and Martha. Have you been each or both?
I always thought that. Then I read the passage again and thought about church and life. The passage is from the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 verses 38 to 42:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (ESV)
Martha is demonstrating hospitality. She invites Jesus into her home and gets busy. Mary sits and listens to Jesus. I always ask my congregation where they are in a Biblical story? I’ll ask you the same. Where are you? Would you invite Jesus into your home? Once in, would you sit and listen to him, or would you get busy?
All this side steps the issue, the insight that I hadn’t really noticed. In addition to being busy, what does Martha do? She complains to Jesus about Mary. We call it triangulation when someone goes to another to complain about a third party. We see triangulation at work, at church and at home. We hear it on the radio, and we watch it on television. Triangulation is practically a national pastime.
Martha is focused on being busy and complains. She misses out on Jesus. Is complaining what Jesus calls us to do? Will the world know you are a believer by your complaints, judging and self-righteousness? No. Jesus calls us to love God, love our neighbor and even love our enemies. In these polarized times, imagine a world in which people love and show that love through care. I see that love at the Food Bank, Rescue Mission, Helping Alaska, the Door, Fyndout Free and beyond. We’re called to love, not to complain, not to fight.
Focus on listening and following Jesus.
The Rev. Stephen Reed
Rev. Stephen Reed is a pastor at St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall and chaplain for Police and Fire. Insight is sponsored by TVCC.
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on September 3, 2022
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Married 27 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting