Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Annoyance

The lectionary reading for last week was Luke 10:38-42 -- the story of Mary and Martha.

What is your reaction to this story? Something about it has always bothered me, and I've tried to ignore that annoyance in the light of different interpretations of the scripture.

Here's one -- Jesus was in the house. Mary is listening to him while Martha is busy -- too busy to hear what he has to say. We are too busy in life to really listen to God, to put down what we are doing and sit at his feet. We should find this time to "be" with God.

I don't disagree with that. I know I should find more time to spend with God. It's a good way to look at the story and a good lesson to learn. But it doesn't answer my annoyance.

Here's another one -- We all have our gifts, and we should use them as we are called to use them. Martha was using her gifts and graces in the kitchen to supply hospitality. Mary was using hers. Why should Martha have been bothered by that? Do the work you have been given with joy.

While I don't think this is the main lesson of the story, I can see that it is a lesson in life we should learn. Why be envious of a person who can sing? It's not a gift God has given to me. I have my own gifts and should use them with joy. That interpretation, however, still doesn't answer what bothers me about this passage.

One more -- Martha was fulfilling the traditional woman's role in the society of the time (and ours?). Mary was being boldly non-traditional by even being in the room with the men. We should follow Mary's example and not allow the dictates of society to stand between us and what God wants us to do and who he wants us to be.

Amen. I totally agree with that, but it still doesn't answer my question about this passage.

And then I read a blog by Songbird this morning. She is a UCC pastor, and it was her post A Softer Edge that I read this morning.

Jesus says, among other things, "Mary has chosen the better part." Songbird suggests this could have been his response:

Martha, Martha, haven't we been over this before? I don't care about the food, I'm just glad to be here with your family. I didn't come to insist you adhere to our rules of hospitality or to abandon them, but to give you a new way of living them altogether. Take the pot off the boil and come, sit down. We love your cooking, but we love you more.
Where is the invitation in Jesus' response? Could it have been that Martha's real issue was not that she was doing all of the chores, but that she was feeling excluded? If Mary has chosen the better part, could Martha's hurt have been soothed by Jesus inviting her to sit with Mary?

We're missing what might have gone on in the household prior to this visit. Perhaps Jesus has been through this conversation with Martha before. Maybe he has invited her, several times, to come close and listen.

I hope so. I hope she has been made to feel welcome and affirmed and loved. I wish she would have taken him up on the invitation.

Image: From Hermanoleon, a great source for biblical clipart.

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