"From the Pulpit" - July 17th, 2022
Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her, then, to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, 42 but few things are needed—indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Grace to you, and peace, from God our father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.
Cross...or croissants? Say what!?
I know it's kind of a "kitschy" way to start a message, but we find ourselves in another "either/or" deal with Jesus again. This time, the players are Mary, who sits at Jesus' feet, and Martha, who's in the kitchen preparing a meal for Jesus, his disciples (not specifically named in this story, but they've been with him as he journeys in Luke), and no doubt, others in the neighborhood. Mary, we can assume, is enthralled with Jesus, his ministry, and his message of the kingdom of God having come near. She sits at his feet - a move symbolizing that she recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, maybe. And Jesus acknowledges this. Her sister, Martha, on the other hand, is busy doing what Jewish women did at the time when guests were in the house - making food for the boys to eat. Busy, distracted. Struggling to get out a decent meal for this gathering.
And you can hear in her voice as she sort of triangulates her frustration with her sister, by asking Jesus to let Mary go so that she could come and join her in the kitchen. "Lord, then tell her to help me", she implores Jesus. In other words, tell Mary to come into the kitchen where she belongs, and not out here next to you. She won't listen to me!
And it's then that we hear Jesus say to Martha - something like Mary has chosen the better part. In other words, Mary's where she should be (and maybe you should be here, too, Martha!) Focusing on me, and not the mundane chores of the household. This is another one of those times in the NT where Jesus forces someone to make a choice. Think of the rich man asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus' answer? Sell what you have and give the proceeds to the poor. Or, telling those near him that if they must tend to unfinished business at home, or bury their dead, or that if they can't leave the plow behind to follow him, they're not fit for discipleship with him. The harsh reality of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, according to the gospel writer here.
It's an "either/or" thing with Jesus. Either you choose to follow him (to your own peril), or you don't. Either you choose the hard road toward discipleship, or you don't. Either you give up everything, including your trade, your family, your business, or you don't. Cross...or croissants?
So "cross...or croissants"? What I mean by that is simply this - either we choose the way of the cross, or we choose the croissants, meaning, we choose to be in the kitchen with Martha, figuratively. When we enter the church, we head toward the cross of Christ, or we head toward fellowship hall, for the social stuff. Either we fix our gaze on Christ, or we come for the food. Either we choose to follow Jesus, or we choose the more comfortable and familiar roles and things we love.
Now, that may sound harsh, but I'm trying to make a point. And that is that as a church (the whole church), why are we here? What are we here to do - worship the Risen One, or wait for the fellowship hour with social, and lots of goodies to eat? Frankly, I love fellowship as much as anyone, and yes, that is an important component of our Sunday worship. Time when we can catch up on what's going on in our friends' lives, the community, etc. It's where we engage with others as we prepare to go back into the world once we leave.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton always asks us as leaders in the church, "Are we the church of Jesus Christ, or a social organization with sacraments?" Meaning, simply how committed are we in living out the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected? Mary has figuratively left her Jewish traditions and roots and her role as serving the men, to follow Jesus - a huge move for her. You could say that Mary has left one thing (maybe everything) behind to become a disciple of Jesus. Martha, on the other hand, remains in her traditional role, staying within her role as a woman in her Jewish community. Maybe the cost for her to do this is just too high. So she remains in her role. Maybe the cost to leave behind what she knew best was just too high. And who among us can't understand and empathize with her here? Cross...or croissants?
The good news here, I think, is in what Jesus does NOT say or do at the end of this story. And that is he doesn't condemn Martha for failing to come in to join her sister Mary at his feet. Maybe Jesus recognizes that there will always be a need for some disciples to "do" - to feed the world. To serve others. To tend to the world. Martha is not condemned for remaining in the kitchen. She, too, is loved by Jesus. But maybe her calling is to serve. And so both Mary and Martha have roles to play in the breaking in of the kingdom of God through Jesus. Cross....AND croissant! Both! Yes.
And so, my message for this Sunday will be something along these lines. Which are we as disciples? Those who enter the church and head toward the cross of Christ? Or do we turn toward the social hour. And thanks be to God there is room for us both in our discipleship with Christ. Cross...AND croissants!
"Blest Are They"
"Shall We Gather at the River"
"Be Thou My Vision"
"Bind Us Together"