ALL SAINTS CHURCH
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight, Our Lord, our King, our strength and our Redeemer!”
1. Mary & Martha
2. Hearing & Doing
3. The Better part.
How many times have you heard the story of Mary and Martha?
Well, today, [the 8th Sunday after Trinity,] according to the C.O.E Lectionary series, we hear it at least every 3 years, but of course many other times as well!
So, who do you identify with – Martha or Mary? Who in the story you find more like yourself? What do you think about when you consider this story?
Well, my brothers and sisters, there is always the temptation to hear this story in isolation of other parts of Luke's gospel. May I suggest to you that Luke did not intend for us to view our relationship with Jesus Christ as a simple straightforward decision between being a Mary or a Martha, or even for us to focus on Mary's actions as always being those that should be the model to which we aspire.
One “sees and does”, the other “listens and hears”.
If we remember the gospel last week about the good Samaritan, we recall the good Samaritan, saw his neighbour and did something to help. The good Samaritan was lifted up by Jesus as being an example of how we should follow his command to love our neighbours as ourselves, and at the end we are told to go and do likewise- end of story. ….but just a moment... This week in the gospel Luke takes us to this wonderful lesson about Mary and Martha. We need to hear and heed this lesson as well….not only for what it is saying about these two women, but also for what it is saying in juxtaposition to the parable of the good Samaritan, it follows. We need to understand these two stories in terms of “seeing and doing” AND “hearing and listening” because both are important in our relationship with God.
Martha assumes the same role as the good Samaritan in last weeks gospel. She sees her neighbour – in this case – Jesus. She senses a need- hunger, -and she proceeds to prepare food for him and all to eat.
Today's scripture reading tells us Martha said to Jesus:~ “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me”.
Martha wanted her sister to get with the standard program and help in the kitchen! And this still happens today? But what did Jesus say?
“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.”
Another big mistake we can make with this story of Mary and Martha, is to view it as a biblical definition of the role of women, as some have done. That' s not what this lesson is about. What it is about is discipleship. And in order to understand discipleship we need to listen and hear all of Jesus words, without, as Jesus tells us, without being troubled by many things.[10:41]
To have a woman sitting at a Rabbis feet and being taught was unique. One of honour, in those days, reserved only for men, and of itself shows God's heart for women, whom he created as equal help to men. Mary was placed in the position of an honoured disciple to Jesus. She s actively engaged in being taught by him. Her discipleship at that point is one of LISTENING TO and HEARING the word of God.
Martha, at this time, on this occasion, has been distracted by her own agenda. An agenda to serve.
Mary's agenda on this occasion is to sit quietly and follow Jesus' agenda of teaching, so that she might listen, hear and learn.
Martha was working to fill Jesus with physical food, when he had come into her home for the purpose of feeding her with spiritual food- the word of God!
How important, then, my brothers and sisters is the need for balance! And discernment.
Jesus in effect says that when the word is being spread then everyone should stop and learn. There is certainly time for physical things, but more importantly, the spiritual, must not be neglected. We must LISTEN AND LEARN from Jesus' words. In essence all of us must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the other things will be added!
As an aside may I mention the Bible Study held in the Ladies Chapel every Wednesday at 7.30 pm. Our small group has already studied the important book of Revelation and may be once again considering it in more depth “hermeneutics” later on. In addition, we have studied Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth,1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings 1st & 2nd Chronicles. Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, up to Psalms,…. where we stopped to consider the Lenten Program. However, we are presently making a study of the Gospel readings, so on Wednesday we hope to consider again today's Gospel. The aim- to reinforce points highlighted in the sermon [homily] as well as to bring out things that were not mentioned in the Sermon that was preached, whoever did it! So I hope that many who have never attended Bible Study will rise to the challenge and attend and encourage others to bring us their own insights into the scriptures, as one happy family.
To give you an idea of what I mean- lets look at another facet of the scripture, we could think about:-
Martha was worried about getting physical food ready for Jesus but what was uppermost in Jesus' mind? He wanted to bring spiritual food, just like rest and recuperation to his disciples, followers, and evangelists. He said, as stated in the book of John Chapter 4.
“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
Preaching the good news energized and fed Jesus and the incident with Martha and Mary reminds us that Jesus' will is for us all, men and women, to follow Him and learn all we can at His feet and then to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.
My Brothers and sisters, time is running out, the harvest s great, but the labourers are few.
When we work in the vineyard, we will be energized by Jesus, who promised the hope of Glory, everlasting life with Him!
The physical things will be taken care of if we trust God and don't put other things before His Kingdom and His Word.
So I invite you to come along to the Bible Study on Wednesday at 7.30pm when we study the Gospel and hear what others have gained from the scriptures.
There is a time and place for both the discipleship of Martha and the discipleship of Mary. We all want to follow Jesus' command to “go and do thou likewise” We all want to serve the Lord and do His will. But we need to be careful that we don't assume that we know what Jesus wants us to do at every moment.
Sometimes we need to sit back and HEAR what Jesus has to say, without accusing the other person for their action or non action.
The Better Part.
Something of great help to many is meditation or centering prayer. This really is a modern version of a centuries old Christian approach to prayer. I personally have practiced it for many years and found it most beneficial. Rather than talking to God all the time--- try listening!
My brothers and sisters, Christ Jesus calls us to be both Mary and Martha, depending upon the circumstances. AND he calls Mary to take on the role of Martha at times, just as he calls Martha to take the role of Martha at times. Let us be discerning as we listen, hear, learn and do! for in each of us, there is that busy competent Martha, all too often, overburdened, and distracted, remembering that even though the role she plays in the world is essential, she often stands in need of joy.
Within each of us also, there 's Mary, a little spacy perhaps, but staying close to the centre, Jesus, -in touch with that joy!
May these sisters live together in peace.
May Jesus bless their home with his abiding presence…..
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.