Or, “Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?”
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 concerning 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 anxious and troubled concerning many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
For more context on this story, please see Sunday’s sermon here http://youtu.be/HT31Uk2d69Y?t=1s.
Notice that Martha blames first Mary (implicitly) and then Jesus. For what does she blame them? Her distress. Martha thinks she’s blaming them for not helping her. Not Luke. Not Jesus. Luke describes Martha as “distracted” (= dragged away), and Jesus invites her to see that she is “anxious” and “troubled.”
This is one of those pivotal truths of the spiritual life we get to learn again and again:
Anytime we are in distress
the remedy lays primarily within our self not our circumstances
Do you resist/love this as much as I do?
I resist it because I want my distress to be about someone else’s bad behavior. As in, “I don’t need to change; you do!”
But that’s powerless and pathetic.
What I love is that I can claim the power to choose how I feel and think about this moment and every moment. This, I think, is Jesus’ “one thing,” the “better part.” I can choose to abide in the presence of the Presence residing within me.
Here’s what I mean: Luke describes Mary as peacefully resting at Jesus’ feet listening to his word. Luke knows his readers cannot sit at Jesus’ feet. Jesus is gone. So what’s the point of the Martha and Mary story? Great question.
Luke’s entire story of Jesus provides Jesus’ words and example and connects them with the larger story of Jesus’ people, Israel. Within that story is the promise of Jesus’ Presence dwelling within us, and we have received that Presence. So though we cannot sit at Jesus’ feet listening as Mary did, we can sit at Jesus’ feet by reflecting on his words and example and resting in his Presence within.
Thus, the exchange between Jesus and Martha provides a fabulous example:
Especially when it’s expressed in blaming others. Yes, celebrate it! It’s a great gift. It’s the Holy Spirit’s way of reaching out to us to bring us back. “Wake up!” the Spirit is urging, “You have let yourself be pulled away. Simply return!” It’s nothing but a reminder.
Please engage Luke 10:38-42 (= tell God your response and listen for God’s response to you). [If you are new to our blog, a description of our method of “engaging,” which is a method for reading and praying with the Bible, other literature, and life itself, can be found here.].
And there’s another question underlying this one: “Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?” We’ll explore that question in the next post.
Grace and Peace,
P.S. My wife thinks Jesus should simply have gotten up and helped Martha …
More to come …