Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Being a Martha

It happened again - I sat through another sermon on the importance of being less like Martha and more like Mary. I cannot remember how many of them I have heard in my life, but I know my reaction the minute I hear the lesson for the day being read. I brace myself. I glance around to see who is thinking, 'hmm, there she is, that ‘Martha’, I hope SHE is listening’. Okay, most of the time it was my own father, the man who named me (and joked about giving me the middle name Martha as well, to better match the way Jesus addressed the Martha of the Bible).
Now, I know that they are not talking about me specifically, but addressing a general attitude that is prevalent in our society. I get it. But think about this - how many other sermons are there where the pastor is up in the pulpit talking down about a person with a name that could be someone sitting next to you? Herod? Haven’t heard that one in a while. Pontius Pilate, nope. Jezebel? Not lately. Okay, there may be a few, but clearly this one speaks to me.
Martha was Jesus’ friend, right? So why the criticism of her? Was Mary really that much better? I mean, wouldn’t Mary and Jesus have gone hungry had it not been for Martha? And would Jesus have really wanted to visit them again if she did not take such good care of her home? I know a few Mary’s and yes, it is good to be a Mary every once in a while. I think my next chance to be a Mary will come when Evie goes off to college. T minus 16 or 17 years.
Was Mary herself even always a Mary? I wonder if her sister would have been living with her if that was how she was every day?
The problem for me is that I am incapable of saying ‘no’. I’m guessing that was her problem too. “Hey, Martha, go fix some dinner for us, will you? Jesus is coming to visit!” “Sure, no problem Mary!” “Hey, Martha can you help me with this?” “Of course!” Didn’t Jesus himself act like a Martha most of the time? Sure there were times when he said, "okay now we are going to take a break and pray" but most of the time he was walking hither and yon and helping everyone he could.
So let’s hear it for the Marthas out there who get it done and get it done right, the Marthas who work without stopping and never turn down a plea for help.

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