Pentecost 6 C 2022 Mary & Martha
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When I was in Dallas a month ago, you would not believe some of the things I saw people do while driving on the freeway. I saw one man drink coffee out of one hand, read notes from a folder that he was holding in the other hand, steer the steering wheel with his elbows, while clearly talking into his Bluetooth headset.
I saw one woman expertly put on her make-up while eating a bagel. And each time she took a bite she took both hands off the steering wheel. I tell you… I saw some pretty fancy driving on the freeway in Dallas.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm today. And we live in a society where multi-tasking is the norm, where operating with a divided mind is viewed as a highly praised skill.
And yet, I wonder if we are not trying to do too much at one time. And I sometimes think that we are pulled in too many directions without some kind of center.
The phrase “Don’t text and drive” has become a rallying cry to put down the phone, keep your eyes on the road, and keep both hands on the steering wheel.
In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus entered the house of Mary and Martha and was welcomed by both women. Martha welcomed Him with the hospitality expectations of her day while Mary sat with Jesus and listened closely to what He had to say.
It is clear in the text that Mary and Martha are being held side by side to highlight their different actions with Martha and her many tasks and Mary sitting at Christ’s feet.
Now, Martha’s hospitality was very much in line with the cultural norms of the day. She had many tasks to accomplish in order to be a good host, beginning with washing Christ’s feet. And since Jesus went everywhere with His 12 disciples, Martha would have had to prepare a meal for at least 15 people.
Yes. Martha had a lot to do to show Middle Eastern hospitality to Jesus
Mary, on the other hand, is completely unhelpful in Martha’s plan for hospitality. She shows hospitality toward Jesus in a different way, by listening to his every Word.
And so, we have two different ways these two women showed hospitality towards Jesus. Mary listened to the Lord and Martha provided a welcoming home. I think both of these are valid ways to respond when guests arrive at a home.
But something in the story changes. And we find out that the story is not just about hospitality. The text states that Martha was “distracted” by her many tasks.
The word in Greek for distracted in the text (pereespato) means more than just an inability to concentrate. The word means “to be pulled or dragged away.”
Martha was pulled from her task internally because she felt she was working harder than Mary and she wanted Mary to fall in line and take care of her share of the load. Martha was distracted because she was comparing herself to her sister.
You can hear it in her voice when she informs Jesus “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.”
Martha had become so distracted that she had forgotten that things do not go well for us when we tell God what to do.
But in compassion and concern Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and pulled apart by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus did not criticize Martha for her hard work. Martha’s intentions were right, but her priorities were wrong. Feeding and taking care of Jesus was important, but Jesus feeding her with the Word of God was more important.
And the same is true for us. Even with all the activity that we have going in our lives, hearing God’s Word is the most important activity that we can partake in. But like Martha, it can be difficult to focus on.
Why??? Think about all the distractions we face on a daily basis that pull us apart. Phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Snapshot, YouTube, Zoom… we all have all sorts of gadgets that ping and pong, beep and buzz day and night.
We have responsibilities like going to work, earning a living, caring for our families, taking care of the house and yard, getting enough exercise, etc. etc. etc.
Our modern way of life is insane. It is no wonder then that we have trouble concentrating. According to some research firms, the average office worker checks their email 30 times an hour; the average teenager sends and receives 3,339 text messages monthly; and on average, businesses lose 650 billion dollars annually due to work interruptions, distractions, and lost productivity.
Our minds are everywhere except where they should be. And we forget that only one thing is essential; and that is hearing the word of God.
That is what Jesus told Martha. That is what Jesus is telling us. Of all the things that we need such as food, drink, shelter, vocation, companionship, health; the need to hear God’s Word surpasses them all. May we therefore hear God’s word in the business of our lives; and open our hearts and our souls to receive His Word.
Let us pray: Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that, as the scriptures are read and your Word proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you have to say to us today. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.