By Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield United Methodist
There is a story about Jesus and his friends that is often not appreciated, particularly by those of us whose lives are full to overflowing with activities and responsibilities. Mary and Martha are friends of Jesus who often host Jesus and his disciples in their homes. On this day, Jesus is in Martha’s home and, as is usual, she is preparing a meal. Mary, however, is sitting at the feet of Jesus in the place a disciple would sit. She has not offered to help Martha in the kitchen and this has irritated Martha.
“Jesus,” Martha says, “tell Mary to help me, I have too much to do for one person.” People often request Jesus’ help in the Christian scriptures and often Jesus’ response is not what they expect. This is no exception. As a matter of fact, Jesus seems a little harsh with Martha.
“Martha,” Jesus replies, “You are bothered and distracted by so many things. But Mary has chosen the better way.”
We don’t know what Martha’s reaction was to Jesus’ scolding and as a person who is involved in many things with many interests and many responsibilities, it is often easy to feel a bit annoyed with Jesus. But this passage stayed with me this summer and both convicted and comforted me; reminding me that there is always a better way that I have the option of choosing. As we enter into a season of increased obligations, activities and responsibilities, this is a reminder we could all benefit from.
How often do we say to each other: “I’m so busy!” I have so much to do!” While this may be very true, we are often saying these words as a lament, sounding very much like Martha. So, I wonder, would Jesus scold us, too?
I think Martha was, as Jesus said, bothered and distracted by her work in the kitchen. Rather than seeing it as an action of devotion or love or care, she saw it as a burden. And then, because of that, she wasn’t able to hear Jesus’ words or appreciate Jesus’ presence in her home. Houses in the time of New Testament were small enough that even if Martha was in the kitchen, she could have listened to what Jesus was saying. Even while she was stirring the stew and baking the bread. She could have been thankful that she was honored to feed her guests.
With this passage in mind, I have been evaluating my own sense of busyness. When I am feeling overwhelmed with things that need to be done, or things I want to do, are they bothering and distracting me? Are they keeping me from seeing God’s presence in my own life and the life of my neighbor and community? Are they keeping me from hearing God’s voice in my life telling me how beloved I am? How precious I am? Am I so frazzled that I don’t even remember that I am a beloved child of God?
Jesus words to Martha, while sounding harsh, are actually words of love. Reminding all of us that if our daily tasks keep us from experiencing joy and hearing God’s voice of love, then we need to choose a better way. Which might NOT mean eliminating responsibilities or activities; people need to eat, get to appointments, jobs need doing. But it will mean making sure that in the midst of everything you are still hearing God’s voice telling you that you are God’s beloved one. That you are worthy of God’s love. That you are precious in God’s sight.
Keeping our ears and heart open to the message of God’s love is, I believe, choosing the better way. And like all of God’s gifts, it is available to us no matter what we are doing.