Are We All Martha's
My wife, Valerie, and I always welcomed the holidays. We especially enjoyed hosting our family and others for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. But I also remember how stressful it all was. Valerie was so tense. She worked hard to get the house ready with cleaning—I wasn’t too helpful. We both worked in the kitchen the day of the dinner to get everything prepared and in the oven. It was a time of great joy, but it was also hectic and overfilled with details.
This morning we read a story about a woman who welcomed Jesus into her home for a meal—perhaps a Passover meal. We also hear her near panic with all the preparations and details. Listen with me for a Word from God in the Gospel of Luke.
Luke 10:38–42 (CEB)
38 While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. 40 By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.” 41 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42 One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”
This passage is pretty clear: Martha invites Jesus—a well known, popular traveling rabbi—into her home. It’s a lot like inviting the pastor home for Sunday dinner, only more special. This is the man people are saying is the Messiah, the anointed of God, the one who will rescue Israel from the Romans and restore the Kingdom of David.
I want us to hear part of this passage in a modern English paraphrase, the Message by Eugene Peterson:
First, Mary sat before the master, hanging on every word of his conversation. But Martha was “pulled away” to the kitchen with all the meal preparation.
Martha invited the teacher. She wanted to sit with him and learn from him. She wanted the blessing of Jesus’ presence. But, no, she was pulled away by all the work that needed to be completed. Preparing for the meal literally yanked her out of the parlor into the hot kitchen.
When Martha had reached the same temperature as the food cooking on the stove, she interrupted Jesus and Mary. “Don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me.”
Martha wasn’t just tired and hot and anxious. She was feeling abandoned, left out, exiled from the place where she wanted to be most; sitting at the feet of Jesus hearing the good news of God’s Kingdom.
WE Have All Been There
WE Have All Been There
We have all been where Martha was in this story—far from where we wanted to be. We could hear the conversation but we couldn’t join in. We could hear the occasional laughter but we didn’t have the context. What were they talking about? What was so funny.
Val and I at Regional Assembly
There we were. Sitting in the closet, eating a mostly cold supper. We could hear the muffled conversations from the banquet room. We could hear occasional laughter and applause. But we were not part of the gathering as we had hoped to be.
Haven’t we all been Martha’s once in awhile?
I imagine Hell is a little like this; being so close to the banquet hall and yet not invited in; hearing the muffled conversation, the occasional laughter, the shouts of joy, the voice of God speaking—and not being in the gathering. So close and yet a world away.
But I digress. Jesus did respond to Martha, lovingly. He didn’t scold her. He was gentle with her. According to Peterson’s paraphrase Jesus says, “Martha, dear Martha, your fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing.”
I think Jesus went on to say, come join us. Leave the kitchen. Mary, your sister is already feasting. She is feasting on the “main course” which can not be taken away from her.
The Main Course
The Main Course
There are two parts to the main course, as Peterson puts it. The first part is fellowship:
with other believers,
fellowship with God in worship and communion,
and fellowship with God and the Holy Spirit Through Prayer. These three are all part of the main course for Christians.
The second part of the main course is listening for God’s Word:
In Bible Study
And in prayer
Yes, I listed prayer in both parts of the main course. Prayer is sharing with God in fellowship what we feel most deeply; sharing our greatest joys; and our darkest fears. But prayer is also about listening for God to speak to us; just sitting quietly, reverently, intentionally at the feet of God expecting to be fed by the Holy One.
The next time you feel abandoned to the “kitchen” far from the place you long to be, remember the Word of God. Sit quietly, reverently, waiting to be fed on Scripture and Prayer. Amen.