Scriptures: Luke 10:38-42
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
Depending on the sermons you have heard on this familiar text, you may be wondering, “What is Pastor Scott going to do with this?” Here are two sisters, apparently living together and Jesus comes to their house for one of his itinerant rabbinical visitations. The usual group gathers, much like a house church does today, and he begins to teach.
Commentator Matthew Skinner points out that “in preparing a meal, Martha fulfills her socially mandated role as hostess for the gathering. The friction happens when Mary, assuming the role of a student at the feet of a teacher, challenges the then culturally proscribed boundaries. However true this may be, she is hardly alone. She can not be the first woman of her time to become a pupil of a male religious figure.
From the Teacher’s perspective, both sisters are actually doing the best they can for Jesus, until Martha gets distracted. And that is the one fault in the entire passage. Not the roles being played out, but succumbing to distraction in the midst of one’s service to the Teacher. In that regard, I align myself with Martha 100%. It is not easy being totally focused in any one thing, even the one greatest thing – following and learning from Jesus our Lord.
Take myself, for example. I spent 17 years attempting to follow some sort of nudge to explore the role of pastor; in the mean time I was easily distracted by various roles and responsibilities of real life. I worked as a Christian educator, summer camp chaplain and assistant director, outdoor educator, program director, husband, father, substitute preacher…you get the picture. Life itself does not allow a single-minded focus on one thing, even Jesus Christ.
I remain challenged by today’s passage; particularly Mary. For some reason she has a gift of focus that I don’t know if I will ever be able to develop. There she sat, listening to everything Jesus said. Socially mandated roles drop by the wayside in light of her great devotion to her Master, her Lord…almost like she knew in some intuitive way that she only had so long on earth with Jesus before she, too, would have to discover that life is messy, busy, and distractible.
When her time comes to balance the rest of life with the teachings she heard at the feet of Jesus, perhaps she, you, me, and all the other Martha’s like me in the world will welcome her in with a knowing look. It’s not easy, is it, to focus completely on our Lord.
On the other hand, for those who have the gift of being able to remain focused on God while in the midst of the rest of life, perhaps we should sit at your feet for a while and learn from you. Why do I say that? In truth, all roles in life that we take up are to be lived as acts of devotion to our Lord. You may be or have been a mother or father, a grandmother or grandfather – a great-grandmother or great-grandfather in addition to a spouse, a colleague, a friend, an electrician, an engineer, a salesperson, a hygienist, a police officer, a judge, a teacher, a musician, a provider for your family, a listening ear for a friend, a business owner, or any myriad other roles and jobs in your life. Perhaps the key to it all, and the lesson from today’s scripture, is that all these things, whether roles from your past or current roles, are done first for the sake and in the name of Jesus Christ. For each of these roles is a kind of servant role; and what better way to emulate our Lord, the servant of servants, than to enact all we do in honor of Him.
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection
What is the meaning of service? Martha was serving Jesus by being a gracious host and providing a meal. Mary was not serving, but listening to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus commends Mary’s attentiveness to his teaching and gently rebukes Martha for her busyness in serving. He says, “there is need of only one thing.” What is that “one thing” of which Jesus speaks?