Summary: Jesus commends a rhythm for life - worship, then work.
“Renewable Energy: The Rest of the Story”
So with whom do you identify – Martha or Mary? Which one do you like better? I think I agree with the man who replied, “I like Martha best during dinner and I like Mary best after dinner.” It’s almost impossible to hear this story without taking sides – we are dealing with two people who are polar opposites. We are dealing with people who are very familiar to us, people with whom we can identify, people who are sitting here this morning. Did you ever wonder with which one Jesus identified or liked best? Actually, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Or is it? To
find out let’s get to the rest of the story.
It centers on THE CONFLICT. There’s MARTHA. She’s a Type ‘A’ personality. She works hard only to discover there’s always more to do. She’s realistic; she calls it a spade a spade. If there’s work worth doing it’s worth doing well. Martha is a doer – if there’s a job to be done, she’ll do it. She’s goal oriented, a high achiever, born and bred with the good old Protestant work ethic. You know Martha’s type by looking at her Blackberry filled with work and events scheduled weeks – even months – in advance, the long lists on the refrigerator door, the immaculately clean house, and the manicured weed-free yard. As one pastor suggested, if her son came home from a tour of duty in the war, she’d make him take off his shoes at the door and wash his hands before she hugged him. She loves him but, after all, cleanliness is right up there next to godliness. We all know there is a right way and a wrong way to do things – and she will do things the right way, no matter what. Make no mistake, Martha will be in control. And what’s not to like – if not for the Martha’s of the world, little would get done. God cannot get along without her. And Martha most often enjoys this productive life and the attention it draws to her.
Quite frankly, as a pastor, I love having Marthas in the congregation. Without them few classes would be taught, few dinners prepared, few missions undertaken, few calls made, and few mistakes corrected. In fact, I could often be mistaken for Martha. There’s always one more sermon to write, two more services to plan, six more notes to send, 10 more phone calls to make, two more agendas to prepare, and a dozen more people to visit. And if any of it is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Then if and when these are all done, there’s the ‘to do’ list of 75 items to peck away at. Make no mistake – a busy pastor is a productive pastor. God just can’t get along without me.
And then there’s MARY, the Type ‘B’ personality. She’s relaxed, laid back, relationship oriented. Even a bad party is better than a good day of work anytime. You have to be at the party when it happens but the work will always be there later. It’s okay to have a weed or two in the lawn, some dust specks in the living room, and some waste baskets full. There might even be some dirty dishes in the sink. And it’s okay as long as relationships are being built and love is being shared.
Quite frankly, I love having Marys in the congregation. Without them, people would fall through the cracks, birthdays would be missed, people would be sick without anyone knowing about it, and there wouldn’t be much fun and laughter. In fact, I envy Mary. She seems to enjoy life at a much more relaxed pace. And she always seems to have that extra insight and wisdom just when it’s needed.
See the conflict? As Joanna Weaver wrote, in Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Martha is thunder and Mary is sunlight; Martha is the locomotive and Mary the caboose; Martha picks and arranges the roses while Mary smells them. How do Martha and Mary get along, co-exist in the same church? Which is right and which is wrong? Who draws Jesus’ favor?
You know the struggle; it’s A STRUGGLE OF WORK VERSUS WORSHIP, of the urgent versus the important. You participate in it. You work long hard hours to make a living, practice fiscal responsibility, coach the kid’s teams, try to spend time with your spouse, and once in a while even volunteer to do something at church. You’d like to do more, but duty calls. You’re tired, but, hey, who isn’t? Or perhaps your time is spent doing the good religious things – attending Bible study, teaching the class, singing on the worship team, serving as Elder or Deacon, volunteering in the church office a day a week, and working as a youth leader. You have two more years on the WE CARE board and one more on the Hospice Board. You’re tired, and should spend more time at home, but, hey, when Jesus calls, how can you say “No?”