Reading: Luke 10:38-42
So how are you when it comes to balancing your life?
Work and pleasure Exercise and rest
Crowds and solitude Noise and silence?
Busyness and devotion? Doing and being?
Being a Martha or being a Mary?
Hospitality has been a big issue in Luke’s gospel as we’ve travelled along through the story.
You will remember the sons of thunder wanting to call down fire on that Samaritan village which was not hospitable to Jesus. They wanted heaven to “nuke” the lot of them.
You may remember the 72 being sent out – and Jesus’ instruction for them to shake the dust off their feet when they did not find children of peace in a place. You only had dust on your feet when people were inhospitable – otherwise they would have washed your feet when you arrived at their place. We have hospitality-lite in New Zealand – people take their shoes off and we are let off the hook.
And of course the forgiving Samaritan who rescued a half-dead Jewish enemy arranged hospitality and paid for the man’s stay in a local inn – extravagantly caring for him. You can’t always sit by someone’s bedside when you have work to do – but you can sponsor someone else – in our day like a hospital chaplain.
Our team today is helping getting patients to the chapel service at North Shore Hospital.
So perhaps Martha is just as right as Mary in this event. We read in verse 38: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
There would have been no place for Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus had Martha not opened her home. And I bet they had yummy food.
So there are some simple lessons today.
1. We’re all different – and that’s okay
We’re different in personalities, in gifting, in strengths and weaknesses.
It’s the nature of the body of Christ that the different parts have different functions. Read 1 Corinthians 12 to remind yourself of that.
And you know – and I know – that our bakers and chefs are critical in church growth – even if we are at risk of the wrong kind of expansive growth.
Hospitality is crucial. Martha was good at that. In fact, she is doing Christian ministry – she is serving. Both the word “preparations” and “work” in verse 40 come from the word diakonia – where we get the word deacon from. That’s the role of our board – it’s real ministry doing the practical caring – and the fixing of things..
There are a couple of verses that commend hospitality – including this one from 1 Peter:
1Pe 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1Pe 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
It reminds me of the family who invited church friends around for a meal, and the mum said to the little girl “please say grace”. The child responded: “I don’t know what to say”. Mum replied: “just say the last prayer you heard your father pray”. She did – and prayed: “o Lord why did we invite this lot over for tea?”.
Having said that:
2. Food and entertaining isn’t everything
I think I understand the Martha thing in this sense – you can really go over the top.
Martha seems to be a bit obsessed with all the detail – and frustrated enough to ask Jesus to take sides. Ah the joys of sibling rivalry. “Tell my brother to do this dad! He won’t listen to me” In Jesus’s words she was “worried and upset about many things”.
There’s a good approach to enable you to be more hospitable – people have to take you as they find you. And if they don’t like your chaos – too bad.
If you saw the movie “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce, you would have remembered the hosts of people eating at his place, and the fact he had to remove a pet – I think it was a hare – to find a seat for someone.
Biblically – perhaps the key verse to balance this should be this one uttered by Jesus at his temptation: Mat 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
3. Mary chose the what is better – only one thing is needed. (v42)
The quote Jesus uses is from Deuteronomy chapter 8 – here it is in context:
Deu 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. Deu 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
To get back to Luke 10, this account is not about women essentially – although it was unusual for women to be in a rabbis group of followers. It’s not primarily about siblings or catering either.
It’s about discipleship. Following Christ changes our focus.
And many other things also crowd out our time – time we need to take to be really still and listen to Jesus’ teaching.
Whether here on a Sunday – or in our personal devotions – or in the invitation he extends for us to take longer time out – retreat days and extended periods of quiet.
Too much of everything else can choke out God’s life in us.
We become dry and spiritually barren.
The active life and the contemplative life are both important.
But it’s better when what we do flows out of who we are.
Being has precedent over doing. We are human beings after all – not human doings.
If we don’t attend to this contemplative life, and listen, study and digest the words of Jesus, we burn out. And we’re no good to anyone or ourselves. “This little light of mine” that we are supposed to shine – goes out.
RISKS FOR THE CHURCH
Apart from our individual lives and walks with God, we also get distracted by the details here.
Keep focus people. Remember that lovely song:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
There is a second verse of the song which goes like this: “keep your eyes upon Jesus”. Let’s do that.