Too busy to sit
July 17, 2022
Too Busy to Sit
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Entertaining angels or doing the dishes... This text, as soon as I read it, caused me to do some retrospective reflection. When I was in college, there was this organization called "Captive Free." You might have heard of them… They traveled the country and would put on concerts, puppet shows, and do some other things. They would spend their days in a 15 passenger van and sleep in church basements, people's homes, and sometimes even camp in a field. At the time, I was an okay guitar player but probably could have qualified to be one of the musicians. But I never applied. As much as I wanted to, I was too driven to finish college as quick as possible so that I could live out my true calling as a Lutheran pastor. I took summer and J-term classes. I worked whenever I was not in school so that i could pay for college. I made sacrifices to friendships and other really cool opportunities in order to do what I needed to do in order to accomplish my ultimate goal. And while I am very happy and love the work that I am doing (most days), I do regret on not slowing down and doing things like Captive Free.
If I could do things over again, I often wonder if I would have ever went to college. I did okay in High school—mostly B's and C's. I wasn’t an amazing student, just average. I remember realizing just how average I was. During my senior year in High School, I could take college classes at CCBC and I took an accounting class and part of the classwork included a 10 page paper. I did not do so hot on that paper. After i got that paper back, I really wondered if I had what it takes to get through college, to do these kind of things all the time. Somehow I did get through college and eventually seminary, but was I the best choice for college? Should I have done something different? Learn a trade? Drive a truck? I mean, clearly I overcame where I was lacking, but at what cost and was that cost worth it? Or should i have gone into computer science. The reason i went into ministry was because I didn’t want to work with computers the rest of my life. Clearly, that didn’t work out the way I thought.
How many times, over the last 15/20 years have I missed an opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus? That question spurred me into doing this little self reflection. How many times have I missed an opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus? To listen to him speak and tell me I am loved, pardon, and forgiven. That I am enough. The times that I do remember sitting at A Christ like figure’s feet were life changing, but how many times did I miss sitting at the feet of Jesus because of my stubbornness, my being driven to success? These are rare opportunities we sometimes only get once or twice in our lives.
Mary had the opportunity and she took it. She sat with the other men while her sister cared for hospitality of Jesus and his disciples. Mary sat with men. A woman sat with the other men. A revolutionary thing occurred in the text, but is not as simple as it reads, I'm afraid. Jesus does "promote a vision or even a foretaste of equality—he is saying that these women have as much to learn and teach as any man; but he leaves open the logistics which would, in their time, be too difficult to digest." Jesus doesn't solve the issues involving the fair-treatment of women in this text. In fact, this is still a problem that our world and society are plagued with even today. But we do see a foretaste of what the coming dominion of God will include; men and women sitting at the feet of Jesus. Yet, simultaneously, we also need to take into account that Jesus is traveling with at least 12 more people.
Have you ever cooked dinner for 13+ people? Now, imagine doing it with no running water, no modern day stove, no modern day refrigeration. "Martha has her hands full and her helper, Mary, has left her to do this work alone. Martha is anxious to ensure that her honored guests, Jesus and his disciples, feel welcomed at her home. The traditional interpretation of this pericope criticizes Martha for not acting like her sister, who listens to Jesus’ teaching. We need to understand Martha’s behavior from a first-century-woman’s perspective. Martha is exhausted by the burden of hospitality that has fallen on her shoulders. She asks Jesus whether he cares that Mary left her alone to serve the guests. She asks Jesus to tell Mary to assist her. Martha’s complaint is fair. And Jesus does gently acknowledges Martha’s exhaustion BUT HE ALSO reminds her of her distraction. He praises Mary for choosing to listen to his teaching, but does Jesus value Mary’s choice over Martha’s? I do not think so. The traditional interpretation of Luke 10:38-42 presents the narrative as a problem between Martha and Mary, but I have to wonder if this is Luke setting the scene to talk is about the a new order of ministry that he will later flesh out in the book of Acts: diakonia (service) and the word. Martha represents the ministry of diakonia, and Mary represents the ministry of the word. Jesus does not prefer the ministry of the word over diakonia. Instead, Jesus does not want the diakonia to be at the expense of the ministry of the word. Both ministries are important. The ministry of diakonia should not absorb our energy and time and drive us to neglect God’s word" and neither should the ministry of word be neglectful of service.
I have been a part of ministries where we spend a lot of time talking about service and when it comes time to pray or worship, nobody is left. I remember in college during one of our campus ministry events, we had a speaker come to one of our Tuesday night gatherings. I forget the exact topic but the topic is really irrelevant. We packed the Newman Center that night. Both the living room, dining room, hallway, stairway had people sitting and standing listening to our guest. When it came time to pray, we invited everyone who came to stay, only one person did. And the only reason she stay was because she had a question for our guest. On the other side, my first Easter as an ordained pastor, the council was making all the plans to hold a Easter Sunrise service and breakfast. I asked about how many people come to the sunrise and they told me about 5 and then someone said, "But the council and about 20 other people usually meets at the fire hall and cooks breakfast." So, I told them to scrap the idea of making this huge breakfast. To simply make some egg casseroles in crockpots, bring them to worship that morning, and come to worship instead. And that first year, we had more people ever attend Easter Sunrise and experience the resurrection in a whole way.
When is it okay to sit and when is okay to work? I know there is the reality that people gotta eat, but why rush to do the dishes? "Jesus does not ask Martha to give up the ministry of diakonia; instead, he intends to relieve Martha from her anxiety and exhaustion by inviting her to join her sister in learning from him. Then, she can resume her hospitality with her sister." Both service and the word are important, valuable, and necessary, but all to often, we put one above the other. How many times have I missed an opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus?
And I don't want this message to create more anxiety in your life. Because clearly, none of us need more things to worry about. I am not saying that you should pray more and leave dirty dishes in the sink for someone else to do them. Instead, I think we need to see the beauty and holiness that can happen both in this place and in the kitchen. Because when we eat together, Christ is with us. I think this text also illustrates for us that in worship, we encounter Christ and sit at his feet just like Mary did. We need to realize that in this place, we don't come here for entertainment. We don't come here for its beauty. We don't come here because it is a historic property. We come here because Jesus is here. We come here like Mary, to sit at his feet (end) and then we get up and get something to eat, making sure all who gather leave full both physically and spiritually.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.