IT’S A MATTER OF PRIORITIES
It was an exciting but a scary time. Jesus is headed on his last trip to Jerusalem. There he will suffer and die between two thieves. On this journey He earlier was rejected by a Samaritan village when his disciples asked for lodging, and he rejects the disciple’s plea to destroy the village. Jesus goes a step further. When he was next asked by a religious scholar “Who is My Neighbor”, he tells the story of the Good Samaritan making a Samaritan the hero.
How’s that for teaching by example? Love your enemy, even when they reject you. They are actually a sibling of yours. You are both children of God sent here to look out for each other.
Martha, Mary and Lazarus live in the town of Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem. Jesus knows his hour of suffering and death will be happening soon, so it is all the more important to teach his disciples in depth so they can carry on after his death, resurrection and ascension.
They come to Martha’s house. It was rare in Jesus’ day for a woman to own her own home. But since she is the one who invites Jesus and his travelling disciples into her home, it is clearly her place. Perhaps she was a widow. We can only guess. But this much is true, she has invited Jesus and his travelling companions into her home.
Most often when you issue such an invitation it includes overnight lodging, if necessary, and a meal. Since there are at least 13 of them, a lot of work lay ahead for the host, such as, getting a meal together and possibly preparing lodging for a large group.
It is easy to see why she is distracted by her many tasks. And what does her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary do? They both sit down at Jesus’ feet, expecting Jesus would use the opportunity to teach them on a deeper level about the Kingdom of God where love is more important than hate, and service is more important than just looking out for #1.
Martha comes to Jesus. Jesus, there is a lot that needs to be done here. Make my sister come and help me. There are a few important assumptions behind this request. In that day only men were educated and sat at the feet of rabbis. Mary is acting like she is as important a disciple as the men. Of course, no one would think to ask Lazarus to be of domestic assistance – he’s a man.
Jesus knows that making a meal and serving it as well as preparing a home for at least 13 guests is terribly important. I am certain after being rejected by a Samaritan village, Martha’s invitation is seen by him as even more of a welcome gift.
But something else is happening inside Jesus. Both males and females are being called to be disciples and to be trained in what it means to follow Jesus and share the invitation with others to join the Kingdom of God.
So, Jesus tries to both lovingly correct and invite Martha to join in the teaching.
“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.”
Martha, Martha; thanks for inviting me to stay at your home. That is an awesome gesture for me and my travelling band; but my time for being with you to teach you and show you the way of discipleship is of paramount importance because I will soon be leaving this earth. Come sit at my feet and learn, starting with learning about what it means to trust in me and be not anxious about what we will eat or drink or where we will sleep tonight. Eating and sleeping are important, but first take time to be with me and let me show both men and women how to have the more abundant life.
I believe that is what Jesus could well be teaching us. Taking care of this building, each other, making and growing disciples, and reaching out to those who are hungering for food and clothing as well as purpose in life are terribly important tasks for the church.
But we are here first to worship the living God, be taught at Jesus’ feet through the Word, and to be fed by Holy Communion. We are called to become a close family in Christ, caring for each other no matter what other differences we might have.
I remember a member of a church I served in another state. I went to visit them and asked them why I had not seen them at worship for weeks. They let me know they had many tasks to accomplish during the week. Sunday was their only chance to visit their elderly widowed mother.
I wish I would have asked why not come to worship and study scripture to get your priorities right. Then after worship visit your mother and take her to lunch, or better still why not bring her to church with you before you greet the rest of the day.
And to us I think it is important to say: Thanks for taking time to gather to worship, hear the Word proclaimed, pray, sing, and be fed by Jesus in communion as well. Thanks for taking time to get to know each other better so we can rejoice with each other as well as weep when necessary. Then when we leave this place, take time each day to pray before our daily activity and take time to read and reflect on the scripture. Then ask Jesus to help you set priorities. It is impossible to do everything in a day, that is why we need to seek Christ’s help to set priorities.
Thank you, Jesus. Amen.