Today’s  gospel from Luke 10 follows the parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke positions  the Good Samaritan and the Mary-Martha story back to back for good reason. The  parable and the story are examples of the Great Commandment “to love the Lord  your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” The Good Samaritan  parable illustrates “love to neighbor,” whereas the Mary-Martha story  illustrates “love to God.”

Meet  the two M & M sisters – Mary and Martha. They are two peas in the same pod  and yet so different. Martha and Mary live in the same town – Bethany in Judea.  They live in the same house. They have the same brother – Lazarus. How can two  sisters, so alike, be so different?

We  are told by Luke, that Jesus comes to Bethany and to the two sisters’ home for a  visit. This is one of many happy times they spend together. Rest, conversation,  and friendship, no doubt, occupy their time. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet as a  disciple would sit at the feet of a rabbi master, listening, observing, and  learning. Martha is busy with her many tasks in the household and rather crossly  asks, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by  myself? Tell her then to help me” (v. 40). What would Jesus’ answer be? Jesus  surely loved and valued both sisters equally – Mary, the sitter and Martha, the  worker. How can two peas in the same pod function so differently?

Every  church needs a Martha. Change that. Every church needs a hundred Marthas.  Sleeves rolled up and ready. Because of Marthas – the church budgets get  balanced – church buildings get repaired and cleaned – babies get bounced on  loving knees in the nursery. You don’t appreciate Marthas until a Martha is  missing – and all the Marys of the church start scrambling to find the keys to  lock doors, turn off the lights and turn off the fans. Yes, Marthas are the  Energizer Bunnies of the church. They keep going and going and going.1

However,  Jesus rebukes Martha by saying, “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” (v. 41).

Mary,  sitting at the feet of Jesus, looks into the eyes of the Master. Mary listens to  his words, his teachings. Mary feels loved, special, affirmed, and graced by  Jesus. “Mary has chosen the thing needful …” whereas Martha hurries and  scurries about.

Three  flies get into Martha’s soup!

The  first fly is worry. Martha is worried, anxious, and stressed! We, too, in modern  life, know only so well about worry, anxiety, and stress. We are plagued with  stress overload. Our internal emotional wiring network blazes hot and shorts  out.


This  is the age of the half-read page. And the quick hash and the mad dash. The  bright night with the nerves tight. The plane hop and the brief stop. The  lamp tan in a short span. The Big Shot in a good spot. The brain strain  and the heart pain. And the cap naps ’til the spring snaps – And the fun  is done.   (Virginia Frazier, 1949)
In the  next twelve months, we will consume over 20,000 tons of aspirin in some form …  that totals 225 tablets per person per year, or 2/3 of a tablet per person per  day. It appears that most everyone in the US has a headache most of the time.2

We  are anxious and troubled about many things. Jesus speaks the word of grace: “One  thing is needful. Mary has chosen it.”

Sit  with the scriptures by a quiet lake and you know of that which Mary chose. Or  kneel at holy communion … light a candle in the dim darkness on Christmas Eve  and let the candlelight glow touch you and move you. Discover the one thing  needful.

The  second fly in Martha’s soup is distraction. “Martha you are worried and  distracted by many things.” To be distracted is to be unfocused. Our thoughts,  our plans, and our lives feel like we are out of control and pulled in every  direction. To be focused, on the other hand, is to have a plan, a purpose, a  meaning that directs and enhances one’s life.

What  are those things that keep us from sitting and drinking from the fountain of  life? What keeps us from looking and listening and loving? What are the events  that distract us from worship? What are the plethora of ideas and thoughts and  impulses that obscure the awesomeness of Christ and Christ’s mercy and love? A  thousand distractions leap into our lap and demand, “Follow me, buy me, go here,  go there, do this, do that!”

Besides  being worried and distracted, the third fly in Martha’s soup is resentment.  “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?”  To be resentful is to be indignantly aggrieved at someone. Resentment can rust a  relationship. Resentment can freeze out a friendship. Resentment can alienate  your allies and associates.

Even  though we see three flies in Martha’s soup – worry, distraction, and resentment,  the gospel does not call us to irresponsible behaviors. It’s not to say, forget  the kitchen, the garage, and the work; play and then go to five Bible studies a  week. Rather, it’s to see a balance. Work and worship teeter back and forth in  our lives. When the busyness is dominant, then Jesus says, “there is need of  only one thing….” Always in response to grace we seek ways of being  intentional about our life with God. Prayer, times of solitude and meditation,  and aligning our wills to God’s will becomes the priority. My favorite song from  the musical Godspell is, “Day By Day.” Look the lyrics up online and read them  carefully.

In  Ecclesiastes chapter 3, we hear the rhythmic cadence of the wisdom writer who  portrays time and timing. There is a time … “for everything there is a season  and a time for every matter under heaven … a time to be born and a time to die  … a time to break down and a time to build up … a time to cry and a time to  laugh … a time to keep silence and a time to speak … there’s a time for  everything.”

There  is a time for every matter under heaven. There is a time to labor and a time to  love. There is a time to work and a time to worship. There is a time to be  Martha and a time to be Mary. It is all about timeliness and balance.

Social  activists soon burn out if they do not center themselves and replenish their  souls in prayer, worship, and meditation. On the other hand, to focus on only  learning, worshiping, and omit the practical application of the gospel, can lead  to a self-absorbed life.

A  perfect example of a Mary-Martha balance is in the ministry of the Marymusicians  from Edison Lutheran Church of Bow, Washington. These Marymusicians are not  Christmas carolers though they have that look about them. They are parishioners  who pile into cars like Julie Wilkinson Rousseau’s ’66 Mustang convertible, at  sundown, Wednesday evenings in the summer, to drive through the countryside  sixty miles north of Seattle and make their way onto the porches of the ill and  grieving to sing them to sleep. With Gretchen Johanson on guitar, they sing  songs like: “Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God,” “Dona Nobis Pacem,” and “Day By  Day” from Godspell. It’s a very simple ministry, two to ten, singing to people  with special needs on their porches or outside their bedroom windows.

Marymusic  is the “sister” to Marthameals, the name coined when Rousseau was scheduling  three groups to provide dinners for a cancer patient. On one food delivery,  Rousseau says she realized, “The meal nourished the patient’s family but her  need was food for the soul.” So Rousseau gathered singers from church and told  them not to bring food but music … they sang to Dorothy Anderson after her  husband, Gus, died. And to four-year-old Thor Knutzen, who’s on the heart  transplant waiting list. A widower, Fred, who’s not a member of this 400-member  congregation still talks about the parishioners who sang for his wife, Kai, who  was then dying from cancer. She requested “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and later  said, “I just had a real sense of peace sitting there.”3

What  of the g\Good News that Jesus is the host of the Meal of  Life.

Two  sisters representing two aspects of the Christian life alert us to the task of  balance as we remember “the one thing needful.” Amen.

A Message brought to you by  Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact  Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project

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