The rector stood tall and announced in church this morning that although this was only his second week in the pulpit he was going to take on something controversial. My heart sank.
"Oh, Lord, couldn't he have waited until we got to know him just a little bit better?" I thought.
You could have heard a pin drop.
Then he asked, "Are you a Mary or a Martha?"
"WHAT?" My brain exploded, but he had my attention....and maybe just a hint of aggravation.
Am I a Mary or a Martha? What kind of controversy is that?.....but I listened and so did Sky. (After the service was over she asked me if Mary and Martha was on the front of the church bulletin and if Mary was the one listening to Jesus. They were and she was.)
Anyway, Fr. Kendrick talked about the day that Jesus came to visit the sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Familiar with the story, I was already aware that Martha worked while Mary sat and I don't know where Lazarus was but I imagine he was sitting too. As the oldest of five siblings this story really irked me when I was young. I always had to set the table, and help cook and clean when visitors came. My brothers and sisters may or may not have helped depending on the situation but it was a given that I would help Mom. So when Sunday School teachers and ministers sang the praises of Mary and even Jesus reprimanded Martha. I would take offense. Didn't anyone realize that without Martha there would have been no dinner? or a clean place to sit? Maybe Martha wanted to hear what Jesus had to say--after all He was her friend too-- but who would make sure there was something to eat?
As I grew older, I realized that what Jesus had to say was important. Mary was all ears, but Martha had it in the back of her mind, that there was plenty of time to listen. Jesus knew his time on earth was coming to an end. Martha was more concerned with the moment and in hindsight I know she wished she had sat down too. But that is not where this story ends.
Fr. Kendrick also related another story of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. It was the story when the sisters cried out because their brother was dying. By the time Jesus came to their home Lazarus was dead. Mary was mad at Jesus because "he let their brother die" while Martha ran to Jesus because she recognized who he was and what he was capable of doing. "Wow," I thought, "Martha WAS important after all!"
The soul of the "savage beast"--me, the oldest sister--- had finally been soothed. But that thought only lingered for a moment. This is more than a story of importance, or sisters, or whether we are type A or type B. This is a story about balance and timing and being open to Christ. It takes action and contemplation to be in Christian service. I believe that most of us are Marys and Marthas depending on the situation and time. I also believe that as Christians we need to recognize when the Mary's need to work and the Martha's need to listen. Over time and with God's help I have become a little less Martha and a little more Mary and it has enriched my life. I have also learned that tolerance and forgiveness can go along way.
So Fr. Kendrick, if you are reading this, forgive me for jumping to conclusions before I heard your sermon...... and I forgive you for unsettling me in the pew. Amen.