As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ Luke 10 v 38-42
If you have grown up in the church, you will know well, the story of Mary and Martha, the 2 sisters of Lazarus, friends of Jesus. Mary the one who sat and listened and Martha the one who was busy with all her chores and tasks. A simple story, a well known story and yet it’s message, it’s teaching is something that people of faith seem to need to go over again and again and still find hard to apply to their own lives. So although you may have heard this story umpteen times and know the point of it very well, I trust there will be something new you will get from it this week because it speaks, again and again to the heart of our walk with God, our own, individual unique journey of faith, our spiritual practice – day to day.
Recently, I was reading a blog online by Pastor Lisa Degrenia of the United Methodist Church in the United States and as I read I loved her honesty and authenticity. Her words were so relevant to me as maybe they will be for you too, she writes:
“I have a confession. Even though I am a pastor, I struggle with devotion practices. I am not one of those people whose prayer life is as natural as breathing. I am a Martha not a Mary. I’m still working on being as consistent as I need to be. When I first became as pastor, I thought my first priority was to work hard. I tried to fulfill all the responsibilities in my own strength. But now I know my first priority is to be faithful: to keep my ears tuned to God’s voice, to keep my mind renewed in God’s ways, and to keep my heart soft in God’s hands. Consistent devotion practices are key to faithfulness.”
Now you could substitute the word teacher or lawyer or administrator or cleaner or Grandfather or parent -whatever job or role in there in place of the word “pastor” – put your word in and see if you can hear it for you:
“I’m still working on being as consistent as I need to be.
When I first became a___________, I thought my first priority was to work hard. I tried to fulfill all the responsibilities in my own strength. But now I know my first priority is to be faithful: to keep my ears tuned to God’s voice, to keep my mind renewed in God’s ways, and to keep my heart soft in God’s hands. Consistent devotion practices are key to faithfulness.”
Now the thing is that those consistent devotional practices are different for different people. Pastor Lisa describes how she has tried over the years, a variety of devotion practices to stay in relationship with God and the ones that work for her are singing, singing the faith in church and with Christian music in her car and journaling – reading a bible passage, writing down observations and reflections and how it might apply to your life right now “praying with your pen” Pastor Lisa calls it. Singing and journaling, 2 ideas for spiritual practice but what works for you will of course depend on a number of things. Are you a Mary or a Martha? We have often been called in the church to think about that question when we’ve focussed on Luke chapter 10 as we do this week and have thought about the different personalities, learning styles and positions in the family with our siblings that might have some bearing on how inclined we are to stop and sit and listen or to keep going with all the tasks of the day. All very interesting and relevant but beneath that there a much deeper fundamental, theological teaching in this passage and the best way I can think of to help us understand it is to bring it back to baptism. In my own ministry, whenever I baptise a child, in church, we hear from the gospel the words “we love because God loved us first” words that remind us that God’s love does not depend on anything that we do, it is UNCONDITIONAL love. I say every time….and we see it, in a baby, who apart from being born and affecting behaviour in those around him or her, has not done anything yet, made no choices or decisions about belief or behaviour.
That’s the belief that we state and promote right at the start of life’s journey for a baby in baptism – they are a child of God, loved by God unconditionally – without DOING anything. So this week, in the hopefully slightly slower pace of the summer, rest in the knowledge that you don’t have to do anything to be loved by God – you are a child of God, loved by God. Let’s reset the balance of doing and being and spend some time simply in the presence of God.
This week’s prayer:
Joanna Weaver from her brilliantly titled book – “Having a Mary heart in a Martha World” says:
“The only requirement for a deeper friendship with God is showing up with a heart open and ready to receive.”
Pray: Here I am Lord, I am open to your word and to your way, your promise and your love, Amen.
This week’s music: