Posted on Sun, Jul 21, 2013
July 21, 2013
Gospel Text: Luke 10:38-42 – “NO MULTI-TASKING!”
Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
We have all heard this text before, and the meaning seems fairly obvious; once in awhile we need to stop our busy-ness and take time to listen to the Lord.” But knowing Luke, don’t you think there is more to the story?
I remember the response to this text by one of my parishioners in Japan during a Bible Study. I was about to go into the usual spiel about ‘how important it is to take time out from our busy-ness and spend time with the Lord,’ but suddenly one of the ladies blurted out, “I hate this text! I really do!” My mind immediately had to really work hard to translate the almost invective form of Japanese I was hearing, but the look on her face seemed to communicate with even more intensity than the words she was saying.
Needless to say, at this point all of the language preparation I had to do for this lesson suddenly became superfluous and we had to explore her statement, as it was apparent to me that several of the women in our group concurred with her.
Our group was pretty tight and we were very honest with each other, but something in the text really struck a nerve in the whole group, and they began to “vent.”
Here is a little bit how the conversation developed…. Needless to say, as the only guy in the room, I remained silent. “Here is good old Martha working like crazy to be a good host to their special guest (it is mandatory to show proper hospitality in the Middle East when there is a guest), all the while Mary is sitting on her butt not helping out leaving all the real work for me to do! And then, Jesus tells me, the one doing all the work, it is Mary who has chosen the right thing to do! I just can’t win! We women do all the work around here! We make ALL the food, clean the towels, do all the organizing for cleaning day and the church bazaar, make sure the altar is set properly, clean the floors and windows and even take care of the flowers around the sanctuary every week! But what about the men? They do nothing but drink tea, eat our food and try and look important like they make all the decisions on the council!
They were on a roll, and I didn’t day to get in their way!
Again, I was the only male in the group of these tough Japanese ladies. And when I say tough, I mean tough. They survived the World War II, and were UNDER the B-29’s when they the bombers approached the coastline and the formations would separate right over our village and flew toward the North to bomb Tokyo, or south to bomb Nagoya. On the return flights, our village was right where thee bombers dropped any unneeded ordinance, chairs, ammunition, or whatever they needed to throw out in order to lighten their planes in order to get back to wherever they were stationed. Then there were others who grew up on Manchuria and were forced to run from the guns of the Russians as they tried to escape back to Japan… They were tough ladies!
But I think in order for us really see the meaning behind the Gospel text in Luke; we need to look at the story of Abraham in our Old Testament text in Genesis.
Yes, the text is about the importance for taking time to spend with Jesus, but I think it is more about the importance of us opening our eyes and ears to see and hear God through our service, as well as taking quiet time to listen to the voice of God, knowing when to serve and to listen allow us to be more open to receiving the blessings of God.
I love the line in our first reading, “The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He (Abraham) looked up and saw three men standing near him.”
Did Abraham know who the “three men” were? The writer of Genesis tells us clearly that the “three men” were, or represent, “The LORD,” and they have come to once again announce to Abraham, that he and Sarah will have “a son.”
As soon as the three strangers approached Abraham sitting in the shade of his tent, Abraham welcomed the strangers and then made his entire camp work their butts off to welcome, feed and refresh the strangers. Even to today in the Middle East, hospitality first to the strangers, then they would sit and share stories.
What caused Abraham to jump like a young servant to welcome and serve these “three men?” Did he have any expectations that they would prophesy to him the same promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 17:8 “And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.’”
Is there any way for Abraham to know the amazing news that these “three men” would announce to him and Sarah AFTER they served them with food and drink? There is no way to know, there is one thing we do know, if Abraham wouldn’t have gone out of his tent and not only acted like a servant, and even called himself ‘their servant,’ there is no way Abraham would have heard the promise of the LORD once again, that he would be the father of many generations and the LORD would be their God.
Unlike the lawyer who tried to find out which neighbors he wouldn't have to be responsible for ‘in order to get into heaven’ in last weeks Gospel. Abraham saw these three strangers, and without judgment or hesitation, invited them in and: 1) Bowed to them 2) Brought water for their feet 3) Gave them a cool place to rest 4) Made his family provide fresh bread, choice meat and even a form of yogurt to refresh their bodies. He even stood by them as they ate in the shade of the tree, like a proper waiter at a very nice restaurant.
In Genesis chapter 17, God promised Abraham that he would have descendants WITH his wife… and Abraham laughed. In today’s text the “three men” again, announce to Abraham that he will have a son WITH his wife, and Sarah laughed… The twist is that what God has promised to Abraham and Sarah, came true and we have been blessed by that promise even to today.
Jesus often said before he taught, “For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear!” I think that is what the text is about, opening our eyes, ears and hearts to seeing and hearing Jesus in the people you may meet or the wonder you may see or hear.
If you don’t take the time to look, you won’t see. If you don’t quiet your heart and mind, or if you don’t find a quiet place, you won’t be able to hear. If you don’t allow your spirit to search the scripters and breath air around you, you will never experience the Spirit of God, which surrounds and holds each and every day.
Luke isn’t telling us that we are not to work and prepare food and the house for special occasions and such, Luke is reminding us of who the First and Real Servant is in the Story.
Jesus makes it clear that he has come to the whole world as Thee Servant King, and in order to experience some of the Kingdom of God in our life today, we must be able to give our time, talents and treasures for humble service, doing justice and simply loving God is an opportunity for us to grow in faith as well as a great opportunity for us to “Make Christ Known” in our world today
There will always be ‘opportunities’ to work and serve, but when we allow ourselves to get anxious and troubled about all the things we feel that only we can get done, then we may loose the chance to allow the Word of God to strengthen us, comfort us, inspire us or just let us know that we are loved, even if we do make a mistake, or don’t always do what we think is necessary, ‘in order to get into heaven.’
Jesus says in response to Martha anxiously requesting Mary’s assistance, 42 “there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
“The better part” is the freedom to be the hearer. Unlike the Lawyer in the earlier text, Mary has not even asked what she must “do to inherit eternal life,” as if some task was essential for qualification. The Kingdom is a gift, received by hearing the word in faith. The question or logic of “what must I do” is simply misguided in this instance. There will be many opportunities for service, and for some of us, those opportunities will come in great abundance and challenge in due time.
It was Mary, when she sat in the presence Jesus, even though she very well knew about all the things that will need to be done in order for them to have dinner together, she new it was time to stop her work and listen to the words of Jesus.
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is closer to us than the air we breathe. There is always the voice of God speaking to us, guiding us, encouraging us, keeping us centered and able to walk the journey of joy, peace, grace and mercy. Like Mary, we are called to be a servant by first sitting humbly in front of Jesus and listening to His life giving Word. Amen
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