It is great to be with you this morning as our two churches share worship. It’s a hot morning and you can feel the Spirit (or is it the humidity) alive in this place. Rest and Refreshment (R & R) is something we all need. Summer is always a great opportunity for us to take some R&R for ourselves and our families. To enjoy our lives. It is also a great opportunity for our two communities to join together. Even Jesus took R&R. He went up the mountain alone to pray and be rejuvenated and then returned to his ministry. He entered into people’s homes and enjoyed their hospitality.
O Loving God, whose son Jesus enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of Mary and Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, and strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
Today we hear about Martha & Mary welcoming Jesus into their home. So often when we hear this passage we think it’s a battle between sisters… Martha vs. Mary And because we are Americans, we want to know who wins, and the winner is… “Mary.” As Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” So we all should be like Mary. Thank you for coming out this morning…
But, wait. Is that all that we hear in this passage from Luke? Jesus and his disciples, the 12 or maybe the 70 (from earlier in the 10th chapter), either way, a lot of people just came to Martha & Mary’s home and they are welcomed. Now such hospitality in those days included a meal, water for light bathing (feet), conversation, even lodging. That’s a lot of people!
It is no wonder Martha is frantically running around and distracted by those important tasks. Because we know such hospitality was important in those days of Jesus. The problem isn’t the tasks per se. They needed to be done, but Martha was distracted. Mary heard Jesus talking and part of the role of host is to be part of the conversation. So she sat down along with the other disciples to take in the Word. Martha did not see what Mary was doing as helpful or right, women did not sit at the feet and listen like the other disciples. She missed what Mary was doing. Not loafing but listening, taking in the words of Jesus.
Jesus does not say that what Martha was doing was wrong, so in fact, it’s not Martha vs. Mary at all but simply a story of Martha & Mary. Martha’s duty of hospitality was not misplaced, only that she was “worried and distracted by many things.” Martha who was doing right by her acts of hospitality but so was Mary in sitting down and listening to Jesus. The problem is the worries and distractions that can overwhelm us as they did Martha. Mary saw through it all, to see the important thing, Jesus. Martha missed the importance of the guest in the busyness of it all. She got overwhelmed, she could not see the most important person right in front of her, Jesus.
Pastor Eloy Cruz of Cuba said he tries to live by a simple rule: "You only have to have two loves in your life: for God, and for the person in front of you at any particular time." (Jimmy Carter – Living Faith)Its hard to be distracted and worried when we focus on the person right there before us. Tom Friedman, a columnist for the NY Times, wrote an article called the Taxi driver in which he talks about how in a one hour cab ride, he and the cab driver had done 6 things:
“the driver drove, talked on his cell phone, watched a video, where as Tom had ridden in the cab, worked on his laptop and listened to his ipod. The one thing we never did: talk to each other.”We live in an age where we can be so distracted, so over scheduled and over programmed, with all of our gizmos and gadgets, that our inattention to each other makes us miss the importance of relationship, of our common humanity.
We all are just like Martha. As one pastor has seen it in his community,
“Indeed, we are so distracted that …worship becomes a "scheduling problem," one that interferes with "the one day when we can sleep in and spend time with family." But while the rest and recreation we seek are utterly in keeping with a scriptural understanding of Sabbath, those of us who miss worship lose the opportunity to rest in God’s word, to recline at the Lord’s feasting table for the sake of spiritual refreshment.”Our host is Jesus. Who in the midst of our busy lives asks us to sit down and hear his word. To put aside all that distracts & worries us and listen to the Word and take in that good part that will not be taken away. This morning, let’s take a moment to sit and listen, to silence ourselves and let the host of our worship, speak to each of us, the Martha’s and the Mary’s among us and let go of all the worries and distractions so we can truly engage and get that needed R & R for our souls and our lives. Amen.