38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing.* Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
The scene between Mary and Martha and Jesus has been used so many times to describe one person’s ministry against another that I find I regularly dismiss the teaching, not identifying with either of the women. Are you a Mary or a Martha? Such a territorial question, like what camp are you in? As if discipleship and ministry can be distilled down to either listening or serving? Both and.
Well. Maybe so. The gospel reading was just the right one for me on a day when I launch into a new season of discipleship – of following Jesus. I am making my way to a new territory, a place where I will pastorally serve – to do the work I have listened to, studied, written about and felt called to do for so long.
If I had to choose, then, it would be Mary with whom I identified. I have sat at Jesus’ feet and listened for a lifetime. Quietly listened, observed, serving Him rather privately while around me are a million Martha’s buzzing – doing.
Time to do. Not to fret. Not to worry or whine as Martha does here. But to get up as Mary would have from Jesus’ feet and feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, clothe the poor.
Embodied in this story is another testament to the whole-ness of the gospel, to its ‘holi-ness.’ No stoned left unturned in the teaching of our Lord on sanctification – on being worked on and made holy as we live in Him and He in us.
Discipleship is not black and white. The gospel is not black and white. Not law or grace. Both And. Listening, learning, maturing. Doing. Being. Works. Mary. Martha. Both And. Gray area.
Both. And. Amen.
Lectionary readings: AM Psalm 102; PM Psalm 107:1-32 Ezek. 34:17-31; Heb. 8:1-13; Luke 10:38-42