This week, rather than tell mildly amusing anecdotes about my dog and then reaching wildly to connect Ginger Ruth to the Gospel, I’m going to do some research for my sermon, which is about Martha. Martha, Martha, Martha.
We've all heard the story. Martha invites Jesus in for a visit and no sooner is Jesus in the door than Martha gets busy. The scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what she gets busy doing, but I can imagine her running around in the kitchen getting stuff ready to eat,
putting out drinks, poufing up the chairs or more likely the cushions, maybe directing a few servants, straightening out her clothes and her hair, maybe putting away some things that had been left out; stuffing some coats and board games into the already-full closet.
And all the while, her sister Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, just basking in his presence, just listening to him. This doesn’t sit too well with Martha, so, she redirects her anger from her sister to her guest and asks Jesus whether he even cares that Mary has left her to do all the work. Then come the famous words. “Martha, Martha, Martha [actually, it’s just two “Martha”s, but in my head I always add the third, along with a slow shake of the head and an “I’m not mad at you, just disappointed” fatherly tone], you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42.)
Now, for a lot of people, this is an intensely unfair story. A lot of us identify with Martha. Slackers gonna be slackin, but why should Mary be rewarded for it? But if we listen carefully to Jesus, he’s not chiding Martha for working too hard any more than he’s praising Mary for slacking. Instead, he’s suggesting to Martha that maybe she should ease up on the distractions and the worry. She’d gotten herself so distracted and worried about taking care of Jesus that she wasn’t actually capable of being present with him. She’d invited him into her house, but she hadn’t really welcomed him.
And my thesis is that in this sense, we are a culture of Marthas. We are a culture that is addicted to distractions. And if I’m any indication, we Christians aren’t a whole lot better about this than the culture around us.
So, my question is this: why? Why do we feel an almost compulsive need to always consult our phones, plug in our ear-buds, flip on the TV, or be ‘doing’ something? Why can’t we just take some time to be? Think about it.