Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martha and Mary

So on Sundays, I go off to do some supply preaching.  As a chaplain, I spend my regular life in the hospital, but because I'm married to a grad student who needs to be kept in the style in which he's accustomed, I do supply.   Besides, it's an occupational hazard that I define my life by the rhythms of church liturgy.

Today is Martha and Mary day- it's a great story.  On the surface, it seems that we have busy Martha doing her housework.  Her lazy sister is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Jesus, being a typical man, is doing nothing to lend a hand, but he chastises Martha for working and tells us that housework sucks and that Mary has chosen the better life.  As a kid, I was right there.  Absolutely, the person who chose NOT to do the housework has absolutely chosen the better life.

Believe me, when my arm was in the cast and I had a maid service coming for a few months, I loved not doing my housework.

But that's not what the story is really about.  Friends who studied Greek (I took Hebrew) figured out that the word for the sort of work that Martha is doing is a word that does not typically refer to housework.  Martha might not be cooking in the kitchen for Jesus.  She might be serving a deacon in her community- one of the elders who had responsibility for making sure widows, children, and the poor were cared for.

And Mary wasn't simply being a lazy contemplative.  Sitting at the feet of Jesus, she has boldly taken the place of a disciple- taking a place typically reserved for a man.

In other words, both Martha and Mary have boldly seized roles that have previously been reserved for men in their society.  Because of their friend Jesus, they were empowered to step outside the traditional constraints and become new people.

Meaning that, if they had been being typical women, we wouldn't even have a story.  They are essential to the telling of the Good News.

And, personally, being a radical myself, I believe that the emerging church has nothing to do with using techniques to get people to return to the pews.  People didn't leave because they weren't hungry: they left because church wasn't feeding them.  In many ways, the church is a traditional 4 star French restaurant, losing diners because we are operating in an era when people want to eat local, seasonal, simple food. We can't just re-draw the menu and keep serving the same food.  We need to radically re-vision the menu we are serving.  We need to be willing to change the food.  The palate of our culture has changed.

 What Jesus tells Martha is that Mary has chosen the essential thing: Mary has chosen to take some time to be filled, and he wants Martha to be filled to.  Mary and Martha are both radical women who have taken on a new role in society, a demanding role.  They are treading a new path and in order to walk this way, they must be fed in their souls.  Jesus isn't chastising his underlings.  He's asking his friends to rest with him, and be filled.

It's a radical thing.

Happy Sunday!  For the Record, it's incredibly humid out there.  I went to bed with a stuffy nose, woke up at 3AM to find my insomniac husband puttering around the house, and went back to sleep in the A/C because the humidity is just disgusting! I've likened it to a walk-in neti pot.  It also means that there may be no outside training today.  I tried on Friday, and almost got sick with heat exhaustion- I overheated and couldn't get a break.  So it may well be a pool day today.

Keep the donations coming!  Just a few more, and I'll have to post wetsuit pictures!


Anonymous said...

thanks B. I feel as though I now know the theme to Martha and mary.
training out in this "soup" we call connecticut summer; or running 5 K's...gruelling isnt even close to proper kudos.
my pledge is yet to come.....keep up the good work my friend....

The Vagabond Priest said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I agree with the soup. I'm pretty much resigned to reserving my training to early mornings and later evenings. I tried Friday around 330PM and overheated in 4 miles- I was getting queasy so I came home and Martin forcefed me icy Gatorade. It was back to early mornings for me!