Year C Proper 11 Luke 10
What Jesus Saw in Martha
Just as the train pulled out of the station, an orderly came in and began to count the inmates, "1-2-3-4…" when suddenly he saw this distinguished looking gentleman there wearing a business suit and a clerical collar and he said:
"Who are you?" The answer came back: "I am the Archbishop of Canterbury!" And the orderly said: "5-6-7-8."
The point of that story is this: It is so important to know who we are and who other people are. If we know what makes us tick and what makes other people tick, we get along better. If we understand where we are coming from and where other people are coming from, we relate better. There is more compassion, more empathy and more kindness. When Jesus looked at Martha that day in that emotional scene, he saw some red flags, some warning signals, some danger signs, some destructive attitudes within her which were more harmful to Martha herself than to anyone else. Jesus loved Martha. They were good friends and that day, he saw in her some hurtful attitudes that were working in her like spiritual poisons, petty attitudes, which can devastate and destroy the soul.
Let's look at these dangerous attitudes which were in Martha. We may find ourselves or someone we know somewhere between the lines. When Jesus looked at Martha that day, he saw deep down inside of her the dangerous attitude of...
Mary, Martha, and the Martha Stewart Church
In the classic Billy Crystal movie "City Slickers," three long time friends face middle age. In their middle-age crisis they find themselves losing their focus and in danger of losing their families.
To reignite the fire in their lives the guys sign up as "cowboys," helping a dude ranch move its herd of cattle from high in the hills down to the lower valley. "Curly," the grizzled old cowboy who leads them, seems to be the toughest, canniest, wisest person they have ever met. Billy Crystal asks the usually tight-lipped cowpoke what his secret is. What makes his life so strong and centered and sure. Curly smiles, raises his grubby, gloved index finger and proclaims, "It is just one thing," then he rides away.
Billy's character spends the rest of the movie frantically trying to figure out what Curly meant. What IS that "just one thing?"
Psychologists, marriage counselors, relationship gurus of all stripes, warn us not to expect one person to provide for all our emotional, intellectual, and relational needs. We need a variety of relationships, a network of spouses, friends, colleagues from work, basketball buddies, quilting club comrades, children, elders, and peers, to meet all our relational needs.
But what might be true for our human connections does not hold true for our spiritual needs. Our soul needs only "one thing." No matter what your denomination. No matter if your spiritual temperament is exuberant, reserved, flamboyant, or meditative. Whether your soul craves cathedrals, or soars under the blue dome, it is all the same as long as we have that "one thing."
That "one thing" is Jesus.
In today's gospel text Martha, the mistress of the house, rushes around trying to make sure everything is perfect. Martha is like some first century Martha Stewart. She is focused on the food, the house, the drink. Martha seems to be doing for others. At first reading Martha is just being a conscientious hostess. But a deeper reading of the story reveals Martha is really only concerned with herself.
How does HER house look?
How does HER food taste?
How are HER wines being served?
Martha is so busy "serving" she completely forgets whom she truly serves...