Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Martha and Mary
Maurice Denis
You are worried and distracted by many things

Yesterday, I sat down in my office, and got myself ready to write this sermon.
I sorted out my desk and cleared all the stuff that I didn’t need.
I got the books that I would look through.
I found some quiet contemplative music.
I prepared myself to put all my thoughts, all the conversations I had this week, all the interactions, all before God.

Then I turned on my computer.

Update software.
There are four programs that require your attention.

I started this process.
Another message popped up telling me that I needed to uninstall another program before I could update another one.

Another message was telling me that I might like to change my browser.

A Facebook message appeared.
Arrangements for a meeting were being organised.

Another message told me my installation of something had failed and was directing me to a website that would fix it.

All the while, Martha, Mary, and Jesus are waiting patiently for me to get back to them.

Well Martha is busy herself, but Jesus and Mary sit there, waiting for me to remove all distractions so I can be present with them and learn about distractions and being present.

The whole story of Martha and Mary of Bethany is one about the importance of focus and being present to God in our lives.

The story has often been told in terms of Martha versus Mary,
and ‘which is the right way to be.’
Much damage has been done by such a way of looking at this story.
Many women have been hurt by this thinking.
The place of many women in our churches have been harmed, devalued, and ignored by this view.

Who here has been called a Martha or a Mary?

I have heard many times “I am more a Martha than a Mary.”
I have heard many times women being told they were Mary’s because they weren’t doing their share of work.
I have heard many times women being told they weren’t in some way ‘proper’ because they were busy working and not praying.

All this way of thinking must stop.

I don’t believe there are Marys or Marthas.
I don’t think that is point Jesus makes here.

 Mary sits at the feet of the Lord, but Martha was distracted by her many tasks.

Martha gets cranky about this, and you have to admit she has guts.
She complains to Jesus

‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 

At this point we can probably agree with her.
Lazy Mary doing nothing.
We expect Jesus to tell Mary to get of her lazy behind and go help her sister.

But no.

‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;
there is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

you are worried and distracted by many things;
there is need of only one thing.

So, Jesus makes the point that Martha is looking at it all wrong.
He doesn’t tell her she is to stop doing what she is doing,
but rather he tells her her approach to her work
and her complaining about Mary are off the mark.

It isn’t her working that is the problem.

Imagine our church without all the so called Marthas.
This space would be a mess.
There would be no morning tea.
There would be no pew sheets.
There would be no hymns organised, no prayer lists, no communion vessels cleaned, no clean linen.
And that is just the work that is done for the service this morning.

Extend that to the other work that goes on:
the organisation of the grounds, the paying of bills, the administration work.

Then think of the Op Shop.
The amount of people and the amount of hours that go into the running of the Op Shop is simply staggering.

It is not the work that is the problem.
All these things need to be done.

Jesus doesn’t say don’t work, don’t do anything.

He says there is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.

And that thing is sitting at the feet of Jesus.
It is spending time with him, learning from him, being present to him.

You see, all the work that happens is important and vital,
but we need to remember why we do it.

If all the work we do for the church becomes all that our God time is,
then we have missed the point.
We have become distracted by many things.

When our jobs,
the things we do stop us from being,
stop us from being present to God,
we haven’t chosen the better part.

It is not that jobs and tasks are distractions.
They aren’t.
It is more that they should not become distractions.

They shouldn’t become the focus.
The focus has to be Jesus.
If Jesus is at the centre, the jobs and tasks take their place.

Time in prayer, time reading the scriptures, time spent in the presence of God is the better part.
All the jobs we do in and around our churches are so we can spend that time with God, so we and others can sit at the feet of the Lord.

You are worried and distracted by many things

If we keep our minds and hearts on the Lord, the things distract us cease to be anything to worry about. Then we know we have chosen the better part.

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