Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martha and Mary

Today was the best Mary/Martha Sunday I can remember. 

Normally, I cringe and frown quite a bit when this story pops up in the lectionary.

(For extra credit, friends, guess which sister I identify with.)

So this morning when I looked at the readings, I thought, "Oh, here we go again."  The Old Testament reading juxtaposed against the M&M tale very loudy.  Abraham being visited by three angels.  He had his servant killing, marinating and grilling a piece of fresh meat.  He had Sarah in the tent baking bread (and if the temperature there and then was anything like it is here and now, Sarah's an absolute saint for obliging her man on this particular task.)  He himself, Abraham, that is, scurrying about, setting the table, washing the feet, prolly arranging an attractive centerpiece.  Way to go, I think, for entertaining important guests.

So.  Fast forward through the Psalm and the New Testament lesson the to Gospel.  And what do we have?  M&M once again, with Jesus and the guys having dropped in for dinner.  Mary, slacker that she is, hangs out in the front room with the men, leaving Martha to get the entire meal ready and on the table.  And, to put the icing on the cake (metaphorically speaking), Jesus sides with Mary!  Do you believe it? 

Frown.  Cringe.  Snarl.

Coincidentally, tomorrow night a friend of ours who is a young pastor is coming to dinner.  With his wife (who's a kick-ass quilter,by the way) and a second couple (another quilter and her delightful husband).  I spent a good bit of time planning my menu, shopping at not one but two stores to get what I need, and kind of had the thought that if the sermon was not to my taste the morning, I'd spend that time considering what kind of flowers to put on the table and whether it would be nice enough to have the shrimps and crudite on the deck, and whipped cream vs. vanilla ice cream to top the cobbler.

Yeah, yeah.  Call me Martha.

But wait!  Listen up! 

Our terrific pastor took the position that Martha got a bit of a bad rap and that the human side of Jesus got carried away.  I sat up.  I took notice.  I paid close attention (kind of like Mary would have done).  Pastor suggested that if the story were being lived and told today, when Jesus popped in and saw Martha get afluster at the sudden need to serve a meal (what with the local grocery being closed, it being the Sabbath and all), why Jesus would have suggested they all work together in the kitchen.  He even offered to cut the tomatoes while Martha threw together a frittata or some such.  No mention of Mary.  And that suited me just fine. 

I liked this story.  A lot.

Even came up with the next scene:  The frittata done, the bread sliced, the tomatoes meticulously and gorgeously sliced, the wine poured (a nice white, I think, chilled to perfection) everyone sits down at the table.  Whose turn is it to say grace?

Aha!

Cue Mary -- who, of course, knows exactly how to proceed:

"Be present at our table, Lord . . . ."

Amen.

9 comments:

Sandy H said...

Love this post. I, too, have always struggled with this story as I am also a bit of a Martha myself. After all, the Bible also teaches us a lot about the importance of showing hospitality, and that's all that Martha was doing! :-)

Hope you have a great time with those kick-ass quilters!

StitchinByTheLake said...

Since our pastor follows the lectionary too we heard a similar sermon today. :) However, he had a little different way of looking at it. He talked about the distractions of life - and how Martha was distracted by all she had to do and couldn't hear Jesus' words being spoken to Mary and the others. She was in the kitchen baking bread, worrying over whether she had enough olives, etc. Mary was focusing on Jesus. We do the same thing today both in and out of church. It's too hot, it's too cold, it's raining today so maybe I'll stay home, the preacher's going on too long and we'll never get a table at Cracker Barrel, that young woman needs a talking to because her skirt's too short, there's a fly buzzing around me. Instead of focusing on Jesus we get distracted and don't hear Him talking to us. And he reminded us that Jesus spoke softly to Martha reminding her of what was important. Like you when we're having guests I work the details of what I'm serving, how the table looks, making sure hot foods are hot and cold foods are cold. But really my focus should be on my guests. That really struck home with me because even here on this mission trip some days I get caught up in the details of what needs to be done and forget to listen for Jesus to talk to me personally. blessings, marlene

altar ego said...

Love it. I think I totally botched the sermon this morning, and I will try to remember this tale when it comes up next in the lectionary.

howdidIgethere said...

I loved the sermon yesterday too! What a creative way to view this story that I, too, have problems with (bet you aren't surprised!).

I was wishing my daughters had been there to hear it -- think I'll point them to your blog for the condensed version.

WV: blamin -- what Jesus and Mary always seem to be doing to Martha!

Pat said...

It first I thought "where the heck is he going with this????" But then I thought "what a great take on this story!" I think Jesus belongs (metaphorically) more in the kitchen, helping us cut up the tomatoes for the salad than he does sitting in the living room waiting for us to serve him apps.

Every read the book The Shack?

Guenveur in Kent said...

But this is so bblack and white. There's nothing so grim as an uptight hostess who has worn herself out and is so busy being a Martha. One can't be all one way or the other. But then subtlety is almost never a hallmark of fables and parables. It's a "THIS IS THE LESSON!GET IT?" kind of thing. Is Martha trying to impress Jeseus? Is Mary just heedless? I dunno. Another lesson may be that it takes all kids, and who are we to judge? Maybe Martha enjoys being who she is .and just says,as family memebers say about their siblings, when someone points out that Mary isn't helping, , "Well, you know how Mary is!", while rolling her eyes. Which Jeseus didn't notice.

Laurie said...

I always wondered what Jesus would have said if both Mary and Martha had hung out with the boys and nobody had made dinner. :-)

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I, along with a multitude of Marthas, feel vindicated by this perspective. Thank you.

Tanya said...

What a great mental picture. Jesus helping out in the kitchen.