I believe we can learn a great deal from remembering that Luke’s story about Jesus and these two women took place in the first century. A Jewish woman named Martha invites a well-known Jewish Rabbi into her home. His name was Jesus. Apparently, Martha and her sister Mary were both single women living together—living in a time and place where single women have little or no societal worth. The mere fact that Jesus would even accept such an invitation would raise more than an eyebrow or two in this day and age.
Immediately, Mary, has the courage, or you might say the audacity, to sit down at the feet of this rabbi named Jesus to listen to what he had to say. Now, remember, this is not storytelling hour at your local library where little children and parents sit down on the floor to hear a fairytale or two. In this time period, only disciples were permitted to sit at the feet of a Jewish Rabbi. And disciples were always, always male.
So not only does Jesus elevate the status of women by accepting the invitation to enter the home of these two single women, he affirms their equality with men by allowing Mary to sit at his feet and listen to his teachings, making her one of his disciples.
This is one of the reasons I am honored to serve with this church. For in this church, there is absolutely no distinction between male and female, but all are one in Christ Jesus. Here, women teach, pray, serve communion, read scripture, lead ministry teams, are ordained to ministry, and preach from this pulpit.
And in our church, the worth of the woman has absolutely nothing to do with any man that they may or may not be married to. Here we believe all people are worthy because God created them, God loves them and God in Christ challenged and defied first century societal norms when he encountered them.
Luke also tells us that while Mary was listening to Jesus, Martha was busy, assumedly preparing dinner in the kitchen for their house guest. Luke says: “Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But [but, such a powerful word, but] Martha was distracted by her many tasks.”
Of course she was distracted by many things. Remember this was the first century, and there was a lot to distract a woman, especially in an ancient kitchen without all of the modern conveniences that make our lives so much easier, so much simpler so much less distractible. Because here and now, twenty centuries later, modern technology enables us to live free from all of those distractions…hold on. My phone is buzzing. I need to respond to this text. Sorry about that. Oh, just got an email.
Like I was saying, thank God life today is void of first century distractions. Would you look a there, it is going to be 74 tomorrow with thunderstorms and 22 degrees Tuesday night! Oh, and would you look at that. My new profile pic with Betty Lacoste has well over 50 likes now.
Luke says: “Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted.”
Can you relate?
Life is full of distractions, perhaps more today than ever. Today we have on our very person all kinds of distractions as we carry not only our phones around with us, but our mail, our cameras and photo albums, our news and weather, our newspapers and magazines, and even our television and entertainment.
This past week, I had a wonderful opportunity to go to Christmount, a Disciples of Christ retreat and conference center up in Black Mountain. It was especially wonderful for me as it gave me the opportunity to get away, to sit down and to listen with very few distractions.
It was good, for just a few days, to get away from all of the busyness of life, even the busyness of this our church, to sit down and just listen.
But that’s the one thing I love about this church: our busyness. Do you remember last year someone telling me that we had so much going on here, had so much on our church sign one time, that they had to pull over to read it. I said: “We have far too much going on here for twenty miles an hour!”
And I am proud of that. I am proud of you because like Jesus going into the house of two single women, this church has people talking. Everywhere I go in this town, I hear people talk about our extravagant hospitality and gracious welcome. And I hear people talk about how incredibly busy we are.
They say, “Jarrett, every time I ride by the Christian Church there are cars everywhere! I drive by sometimes at six in the morning and the parking lot is full of cars!” What in the world is going on over there?”
I say, “It is something going on all the time! We sometimes have people drive from Wilson and Greenville to run with our running group early on Sunday mornings. There are people working on our basement, our windows and our bricks. Before it got cold, you probably saw people working or picking vegetables in our community garden. We had a great Consecration Sunday which led to increasing our budget for 2015 over 25 percent. We had around 250 people attend Homecoming, and maybe twice that many to attend our Halloween festivities. New people are volunteering to serve meals on wheels, work in the soup kitchen and serve with Farmville Benevolent Ministries. The Quilters have been busy making quilts for people in the community who need our prayers. We have groups going to the Nursing home to sing and to lead devotions. Several of us just got back from West Virginia repairing the homes of folks living in extreme poverty. We just had a huge yard sale and dinner auction where we raised over 15,000 dollars so we can do more missions. We have started planning our Advent and Christmas activities, getting ready to once more host the Breakfast with Santa before the Christmas parade. We are collecting she box Christmas gifts for Samaritans’ Purse and coupon receipts to feed families during the holidays. And just this morning, at the Christian Men’s Fellowship breakfast, we talked about building a handicap ramp for someone in need in Farmville.”
“Jarrett, don’t you think you all are doing too much?” they say.
“Nooooooo,” I say, we believe Jesus is always telling us to go and to do. After he preached his first sermon on the mount, he said, “Blessed are those who hear these words of mine and does them, for they are like wise ones who build their house on the rock.”
“After Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan, who stopped and extravagantly helped the man he found wounded lying in a ditch, Jesus said, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
After Jesus broke the bread, representing his broken body, after he shared the cup, representing his life outpoured, Jesus said, do this in remembrance of me. And when Jesus said ‘do this,’ we don’t believe he was only talking about observing the Lord’s Supper, we believe he was calling us to sacrificially break our bodies, calling us to selflessly pour ourselves out. And each Sunday we gather together to worship, we remind ourselves of this. So we are a church that goes, and we are a church that does.
Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by 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.” But the Lord answered her, “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.
I believe Jesus is saying that in all of our 21st century busyness, with all our email and texting and skyping, facebooking, and googling, with all of our running around, even with all of our ministry, our service, there are times when we need to slow down, stop, sit down at the feet of Jesus and listen.
Now, Martha was not doing anything wrong. She was doing what she was taught to do as a faithful Jew, serving the guest who had come into her home. She was practicing the hospitality that was taught over and over in her Bible. She was doing ministry. But Jesus suggests, it may do her more good to slow down, to stop and to listen.
I believe we do so many things well here because we have been doing them for years. Sometimes we don’t even need to think about it. And to be honest, we are sometimes tempted to believe we don’t need to pray about it. We just come, go to work, do what we need to do, and it gets done. And it gets done very well.
But what would happen if we stopped, sat down, and listened to Jesus. Listen, in the silence.
What is the Christ is calling you to do.
Who is the Christ calling you to be?
Where is the Christ calling you to go?
To whom is the Christ calling you to see today, to care for today, to love today?
Listen to the Christ. What is God calling our church to do? Who is God calling our church to be? Where is God calling our church to go?