(Read Luke 10: 38-42)
The Bible is filled with stories that can be difficult to understand. Who here doesn’t take pause as Abraham leads his son Isaac out into the wilderness to be sacrificed, to be killed? And who doesn’t struggle with the notion that God tested Job by taking away everything from him, his crops, his health, his family, his faith? But the story we heard this morning, the story of Mary and Martha, that’s an easy one for us to relate to. It says, “Martha was distracted by her many tasks” (Luke 10: 40). Distracted by many tasks…Isn’t that something we can all relate to?
Martha has some very important visitors over to her house. Jesus and his followers. They are hungry, thirsty, tired. She welcomes them with doors wide open and provides for their every need. It isn’t easy entertaining a group of guests, but she’s happy to do it. Martha gets her guests food and drinks, and finally everyone is sitting down to relax, enjoying themselves. That is, everyone except Martha. She still has stuff to do. More food, more drinks, wash the dishes.
But to be quite honest, Martha doesn’t really want to keep doing her many tasks. She wants to hang out with Jesus too. You can just hear her over there in the other room, in the kitchen, banging pots, clanging pans, audible signs that she’s bitter and distracted.
Even more than that, Martha is really annoyed by her sister, her lazy sister, who is just hanging out with the guys, listening to their thoughts and the stories of their travels, leaving all the work to Martha. Jesus is in her house, HERS! MARTHAS! And she can’t even sit down and talk to him because she has too much to do while her sister sits at Jesus’ feet.
This is not a difficult scene to imagine, except maybe that Jesus is actually there. But the busyness and the irritation that Martha experiences, this is one of the prominent struggles we all have in 21st century America.
Just listen to people when they talk. We all have so much to do. There are children to tend to, parents to tend to, doctors to see, bills to pay, chores, work, work, some form of work, always to do. The list is endless. Even picnics and parties, weekends and vacations can amount to stress and just another “thing to do.” Of course, we feel distracted.
What I don’t like about all this talk, is that life seems so difficult, like a burden, and everyone is exhausted. Being tired is not the mark of a worthwhile existence, and yet it’s like a badge of honor these days. As long as we’re working our fingers to the bone and don’t have enough time in the day, we feel justified. Certainly, no one can accuse us of being lazy as long as we have a list of things we did today and another that we will do tomorrow. But, my friends, is this the life that God intends for us?
Is working our tails off and running around in circles, the point?
Must we swim upstream, go against the grain, pull a cart with square wheels, even if its making us unhappy?
There is always going to be a list of things for us to do in life, the inbox will always be full as the saying goes, but why couldn’t Martha have just sat down? Why wasn’t spending time with Jesus the most important thing she had to do and the thing she made time to do? And why can’t we just sit down? Are we making time for what’s most important in our lives?
Listen to this “lesson” from the book, the 4 Agreements:
There was a man who wanted to transcend his suffering so he went to a Buddhist temple to find a Master to help him. He went to the Master and asked, “Master, if I meditate four hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?”
The Master looked at him and said, “If you meditate four hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in ten years.”
Thinking he could do better, the man then said, “Master, what if I meditated eight hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?”
The Master looked at him and said, “if you meditate eight hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in twenty years.”
“But why will it take me longer if I meditate more?” the man asked.
The Master replied, “You are not here to sacrifice your joy or your life. You are here to live, to be happy, and to love. If you can do your best in two hours of meditation, but you spend eight hours instead, you will only grow tired, miss the point, and you won’t enjoy your life. Do your best, and perhaps you will learn that no matter how long you meditate, you can live, love and be happy.”
Perhaps its not how hard we work in life, but the quality of our work and energy that matters most. Perhaps we should spend more time doing the things we deem of vital importance and less time with the “shoulds” and minutia of daily life.
There is a saying, you are what you eat. Well, it’s also true that you are what you do. You are what you do. If you serve God and neighbor, then you are a servant. If you love adults and children of all creeds and colors, then you are a lover. If you give of your time, talents and gifts, then you are a giver. But if you waste your time on that which doesn’t matter much, than you’re…a waste… someone who doesn’t matter much...That’s a sad thought.
“Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.” That’s what Captain von Trapp said to Frauline Maria anyway. It’s quite a thought provoking statement really. “Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.” The pivotal word being “suggests,” as in: to create an illusion. Activity creates the illusion of a life filled with purpose.
I think for many of us it does, and then we wonder why we aren’t happy; why we aren’t satisfied. We run around from sun up past sun down, fall exhausted into bed, before waking up sometime in the middle of the night with thoughts racing through our heads, and we wonder why we have no peace. Activity keeps us moving, and when we finally get a chance to rest, the bottomless pit in our souls growl and our hearts beat restlessly.
Mary refuses to waste her time, the precious time she has with Jesus. She decides that the most important thing for her to be doing is sitting at his feet, absorbing his peaceful presence, and seeing in him what she desires to be herself. We can call Mary a student of the Rabbi Jesus because she sits down and listens to his teachings. We can call Mary a follower of the Jesus because she goes where he goes. We can call Mary a disciple of the Jesus because she does what he instructs.
What would you like to be called? A student? A follower? A disciple? A friend? A humanitarian? A musician? A business man/woman? What’s important to you?
You must do those things.
I have a friend who wrote one book, and then never wrote again in the four years I knew him. He called himself a writer, but I said, “you aren’t a writer. Writers write. When you write again, then you will be a writer.” And actually, that idea got through to him. He started writing a blog every day.
We must do something to be that thing. We must observe in order to be called observant. We must forgive in order to be called forgiving. We must take on adventure if we want to be called adventurous.
One of the things we might all like to be called is “Christ-like.” I know I would like to be. Jesus said to Martha, “There is need of only one thing.” That one thing is for each of us to sit at Jesus feet and see in him what we desire to be in ourselves.
If you don’t know how you would like to be described or what you would like to be called, maybe you can think of an aspect of Christ that you admire. Sitting at his feet, what do you see in him that you wish you could be for the world?
When I look at Christ I see his peacefulness that surpasses all understanding. I want to know that peace; therefore, I must be peace. I must do peace. But there are so many aspects to choose from. We hear of him listening and helping the needy. We hear of him questioning rules that don’t make sense anymore. We hear of him weeping in compassion for those who suffer. We hear of him instructing, leading, praying, taking time out for himself and God, traveling from town to town, spreading a message, meeting new people and seeing the world.
My friends, Martha should have stopped doing dishes and sat down for a few minutes to be with Jesus, to look at him, and to know him. So should we. May you take the time to know who you truly want to be, what is truly important for your life, and in doing so, become “Christ-like.”