Martha, Martha, 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.’ (Lk 10: 41, 42)
It’s a well-known story. Jesus came to stay and while Martha busied herself with hospitality, her sister simply sat and listened. Frustrated, and frazzled, Martha asks for help. Forget ‘a woman’s work is never done’. Forget even that women do the housework while the men do the talking. We’ve all been there. When someone, or something special comes up; well then we want to do our best, but best for who?
We live in an age of busyness. Fewer and fewer people trying to do more and more things; at home, in church, at work. Busyness, is endemic. The story of Mary and Martha is timely because it asks not, do we need more help, share the burden more equitably, but do we need less doing? Years ago I picked up a friend from the station. ‘Are you coming to church this evening?’ I asked. “No” she replied, “I haven’t time to go home and change”. ‘Martha, you are distracted – only one thing is needed’. My friend changed her mind and we went together.
As most of you will realise, even in my youth, I was, and still am, probably the last person to head to church in jeans and t-shirt; given a choice. But I’m equally sure God would rather I visit in my travelling or gardening clothes when needed than not visit at all.
Had she known Jesus was coming I’m sure Martha would have made the bed, done the dusting, prepared dinner; perhaps even cut some flowers for the table; and Mary would have helped. But he arrived, unannounced, and now Martha is playing catch up – but is this really necessary? How many of Martha’s busy distractions were helping Jesus feel welcomed? – how many were for her benefit? Was Martha just cooking supper, or was she so busy listening to her own traditions or demands that she didn’t have time for Jesus? Was this what drove her frustration?
There was a wartime poster that asked “Is your journey really necessary?” In our busy age, perhaps from time to time we should ask ‘Is this busyness really necessary.’ Am I too busy working for God, my family, my neighbour to listen to what they really want?
Rev’d Philip Payne Notice Sheet for 19 Jun 2022 can be found here