|Early autumn on Keuka Lake|
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.This little story about Martha and Mary and Jesus is a familiar one. It has had many meanings for many people. For me this morning, a new message has emerged. Perhaps it is better to say that a new aspect of the story has taken on greater meaning for me this morning.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:42
We are all familiar with the traditional meaning. Mary is spending time with Jesus listening to his words of eternal life. Meanwhile, Martha is bustling about in the kitchen preparing food and generally getting ready to provide hospitality. She is doing what most of us do when we are preparing to welcome guests into our home. We clean, straighten up, do last minute maintenance that has been put off, purchase food, and prepare special little dishes. We want our guests to feel welcome and often we want them to think well of us and our home. The result is often a breathless anxiety as we bustle about trying to get everything done on time. Often we can't and we have to leave a few things undone or hidden away in closets we know our guests won't open. I think this is exactly what Martha was doing while Mary was sitting with Jesus.
Martha's anxiety finally builds to the point where she comes to Jesus and seeks his intervention to tell Mary to give her a hand. While it would not have hurt Mary to do so, that is not how it plays out. I would think better of Mary is she had invited Martha to sit with Jesus for a while while Mary took care of some of the preparation. But the reality is probably that Martha would not have been able to do that! She was choosing to be busy with preparations rather than be present with Jesus. She finds something in activity, even frenetic activity, that makes her feel valuable. Just sitting with herself and Jesus seems impossible to her.
Do I not find things to do, to keep busy rather than "the one thing necessary." Why can I not simply calm myself and realize that in the end we all die and are raised to eternal life. Why can I not live my life so that I experience some of that eternal life right here and right now?