I promise to be quick - we have Bible Study after this ;-)
I’m a Martha. Seriously and completely.
As a Martha, I have spent way too much time trying to be a Mary. To figure out how to sit still and listen. To be completely attentive and engaged in the moment. I yearn for the chance to linger in my thoughts and deeply discern things that might matter to others, God, or myself. To give myself over to spiritual practices and prayer that feels full and real. I want that. This time in preparing my sermon and being in the midst of assembly, the tension that I’m noticing in this text this time is my own gut reaction to Martha’s question, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work?”. Truthfully, what I hear is Martha whining for her giftedness to be acknowledged, and my brain says, huh?
For those of you who have been in conversation with me, you know that I have 2 spirited and slightly feral young children, I own a home and a medium sized business with my partner James, and my internship year which is about to end at the end of this month hasn’t been at one site, or even two. But three innovative ministry sites that span various distances from my home up to about 50 miles away. And I did these sites simultaneously. Teaching college courses at one, community organizing with another, and building creative liturgies at the third. And I had thyroid cancer this year right smack in the middle of it all. I am one who goes so fast that I often don’t notice what I just passed by, because I’m so focused on what’s next.
Also, not to preach from my wounds, but I’m scared to slow down. To stop networking and advocating for myself and my community and my call. What if I miss a chance to do something, be somewhere that is exactly the moment or place where God will connect me to my first call?! I know that I have gifts for the church, but I have to be present for them to accept them, right?!
This text is hard for women. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves and on one another. We crave so deeply to be validated. Women have been required to work hard for the acknowledgement of who we are and what we do. As deaconesses, yes, but as women in the world, too. Women struggled deeply for equal rights, fair pay, the vote, and so many other basic things. And while many of you have done great things for the benefit of my daughter and myself for which we are grateful, the work is not yet done. There are so many places where we are unappreciated, misunderstood, and undervalued. We know what it feels like to be Martha here because we all have been in that place of needing to know that we are worthy and justified in the choices we have made - in the calls we are following.
But even though Martha is doing what she said she would, and hosting Christ and his buddies, she isn’t present in it, is she? Her service is her gift, we see that across the gospel stories of her hospitality. But she’s not engaged or present in her hostess giftedness this time. She’s too worried about Mary and what she’s NOT doing. I see Jesus here not dismissing Martha’s service, rather calling her out on not being engaged in her own call to ministry in the moment. She’s tattling on her sister, and seeking validation for the work she knows she should be doing and even wants to do. I don’t know about you, but I totally do this. I get jealous of others whose gifts are being noticed, and try to either puff myself up to become more noticeable, or whine about it to my poor self and some chocolates later. It’s hard feeling like you aren’t being recognized!
But let me remind you of what Paul says in Romans 5:Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Hear that? We don’t need to justify ourselves, or be justified by anyone other than Christ who has already done it! Who could need more than that?!
I feel compelled to say that today, for us, this text isn’t about being more like Mary, or Mary choosing the right path in being at the feet of Jesus. Neither is it a devaluation of Martha’s call to service from Jesus himself. What I want you to hear from this text today is that when we are able to focus on what Jesus asks of us, we need less validation from others because we are being truthful to our call. Sometimes it will be to education. Sometimes it will be to stillness. Sometimes it will be to busy-ness. Sometimes it will be to chaos or service or hospitality or solitude.
The Deaconess Assembly has power, and gift, and a deep calling to be who we are. That’s why we have survived through these years. I truly believe that there is truth to knowing that we don’t need pastors, or bishops, or whomever else is in power to validate us because Christ validates us in all we do through Grace. When we can stop worrying about who knows who we are, and how they define us, and instead define ourselves as called and compelled by Christ - we will be healed and we can change the world - because that’s what we’re called to do!! Stop worrying about who knows who we are and what we do and DO IT!
But to be present to your call in the moment and confident in your justification is what nourishes you and fill you up to nourish others. Trust Sisters and friends, in the call that your creator has given you, for that is an Irrevocable gift of love. And remember, we are all in this together, in every moment, in prayer and in Spirit, as part of a greater family of God. Amen.