Summary: We live in a world where everything is frantic, controlled by schedules - we need to take time to listen
"Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "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." (Luke 10:38-42)
Today’s gospel is probably one of the shortest stories in the Bible. . . but even though it is short, it still has a LOT to say.
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for what he knew would be a difficult week. We know now that he would be tried, crucified and later be resurrected. As he travelled, he stopped to visit with his friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
Martha opened her home to offer hospitality to this traveling rabbi and his entourage. She did it as a public sign of her religious commitment. In welcoming Jesus and his followers, she was following the time-honored Middle-Eastern ritual of hospitality.
While she was busy in the kitchen, Mary, her sister, chose to remain with Jesus in the living room, listening to his words of wisdom. Martha wanted everything in the kitchen to turn out just right. She wondered whether her sister appreciated the pressure she was under in the kitchen. In fact, she thought that if her sister had the sense to come and help, much of the burden could be eased. But, her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, hanging on his every word. Not helping with a thing!
So, let’s talk about Martha; I think Martha gets a little bit of a bum rap.
But I am prejudiced; you see,
I AM A ‘MARTHA’!
I see myself in Martha, intent on getting everything right and pleasing those around me. I grew up being taught that I should be a ‘good girl’ and only do things that would please anyone in authority. It made me a very good Martha.
And even today, I look at my calendar and see thirty-eight monthly meetings. . . how could it be that many?? I serve on committees and commissions that concentrate on social justice and advocacy. I tell myself that I need to do this because a lot of other people don’t or won’t . . . it is my diaconal ministry. I work for justice for immigrants, for LGBTQ+ people, for prisoners, for those in need of food and shelter, and a myriad of other people and causes.
Surely, this hyperliving world needs all of that ‘Martha’ activity. How can I have time to sit still and really listen well enough to be able to make real changes?
And . . . when can I take time to listen?
Martha was preparing for Jesus to come to her house; she, too, didn’t have time to listen.
The way the story goes is that Martha is bad, and Mary is good. We are told again and again,
“Be like Mary, don’t be like Martha. The world is too full of Marthas; there are not enough
As I was researching for this sermon, I ran across a new word: ‘hyperliving’. It was new to me and I found out that, not only are most of us hyperliving, but the University of Houston actually offers a master’s degree in Studies of the Future, centering around the phenomena of ‘hyperliving’. Who would have thought?
So what is ‘hyperliving’?
• We want to do more and more things in less and less time.
• Some of us carry around planners with lots of scraps of paper attached and rubber bands holding it all together.
• We buy time-saving gadgets and don’t have the time to read the instructions to figure out how to use them.
• We do the ‘multi-tasking’ thing, especially in the car. We drive, eat, drink coffee, listen to the radio, talk on the cell phone, and make gestures – all at the same time!
• Before we come to a stop light, if there are two lanes and each contains one car, we find ourselves trying to guess which one will pull away first so we can get in that lane.
• At a grocery store, if we have a choice between two checkout lines, we find ourselves counting how many people are in each line, multiplying this number by the number of items per cart. After we get in line, we keep track of the other person who would have been us in the other line. If we finish checking out and the person who would have been us is still waiting you feel like we’ve won! But if the person who would have been us is walking out of the store and we’re still in line, we feel depressed.