05 Aug I’m wicked busy
The Rev. John C. Brink
Aug. 5, 2018
Luke 10: 38-42
This Scripture of Mary and Martha reveals their different viewpoints and perspectives. And sometimes we can have different viewpoints and perspectives on scripture and, yes, our lives. There are a number of ways to look at the Scripture. Let’s take a moment to look at it from our personal perspective in this place and time.
As I was preparing this sermon, I thought back a few years to my obsession with my birdfeeders on Bradford Road here in Duxbury. In keeping the birds fed, I did my best to keep the Gross National Product moving. I used to think of it as my “week’s pay restaurant” for the birds. One day, as I walked out to one of the feeders that contained black sunflower seeds, I realized there was a small brown bird within the feeder. I have no idea how he got through the screened container that holds the sunflower seeds. As I stood but a foot from the screened feeder, he took no notice of my presence. I said, “What the heck are you doing in there?” He continued to eat like a giant eagle — with neither notice nor fear of my presence. It was as if he said, “Dude, I’m wicked busy here.”
Did he have physical awareness of potential threat? Was he so busy he just didn’t notice, or maybe just didn’t care? In some way, this little brown bird was the image of Mary and Martha. He embodied both sides of the human spirt. On the one hand, he was focused, hungry, active, and productive. But like Martha, he was not aware of the changing conditions. When I started to open the feeder to let him out — or maybe just get him out — he then took notice and flew away rapidly and awkwardly. (Friends, he was there the next day, too. Right back inside the feeder.) I still can’t figure out how he got in there.
Same routine; creature of habit. He was flying high on caffeine or something. Maybe sometimes we feel like this bird: “I am honorably driven by my business and obsessions. I am also interested in taking note of the quiet within my heart and soul. I just don’t know how to get there easily and often enough.”
In this Scriptural lesson, we see the need and value of listening and doing. Biblical scholar Rev. Kathryn Huey reminds us, it is not either/or, listening or doing. Mary breaks up her visit with her sister Martha to listen, at the foot of Jesus. I guess she had a way to set her priorities. She chose Jesus first. This doesn’t mean Martha is bad, only that each chose their priorities. As we well know, we are often unable to let go of our anxiety about action. The question we all have is how do we choose when to do and when to be? We can be, we are, both Mary and Martha, at times.
One wonderful connection for us here at Pilgrim Church to this story is that we have many, many folks preparing, cooking, and serving meals and many other tasks of care to many folks in church and beyond. Our fellowship hour folks can’t come out and run around with us all and meet the new folks. They’re behind the scenes doing. We all take different tasks at different times. Loving your neighbor is what Martha was doing. She gave of herself to care for Jesus and the others.
Men’s and women’s fellowship. You can name more. You see the point. So much is done to be the neighbor and to show God’s Love for one another. Our social ministry is amazing. We are doing and listening in different teams and at different times.
We zoom around here in church life, and in our family lives as well. I see it and hear it from so many smiling, sometimes straining faces. Busy yes, and grounded here, I hope and pray.
We live in a world that seems to equate business with importance and value. And a long to-do list, especially when we complete it, can give us a sense of satisfaction, value, and some level of security. Oh boy, and then the new list gets going. Our days are full, and mostly fulfilling. Our days are busy and distracting at times, just like Martha and Mary’s days. I’m not sure – and I am not actually counting – how many times I look at my cell phone every hour of every day. Anyone else feel this way?
I think many of us don’t mind the occasional power outages, so we can be free of our technical connections. And then, of course, there are those who cannot bear the downtime — time to read, to nap, or just cuddle with the beauty of our lives and families. Jesus calls us to spend some time in the internal peace of life. The quiet time where we are in contact with our spirit and our hearts that can both calm us and energize us in life. We need to make more time for the Holy Spirit to calm us and comfort us in silence and peace.
However, this story can be read differently. It does not necessarily affirm the contemplative over the active life. Theologian John Shea observes that, while in English we hear that Mary has chosen “the better part,” in Greek the word is translated as “good.” Mary has chosen the “good” part, meaning she has chosen “the connection to God who is good, the ground and energy of effective action.”
He sees the story not as reinforcing a Martha-Mary dichotomy but calling for a recognition that God is both inside and outside, sustaining us while summoning us to work and, through our service, to bring about a world of justice, mercy, and peace. It is not an either/or message but a both/and message.
A few years ago, Tom Friedman had a column on the op-ed page of the New York Timescalled “The Taxi Driver.” He told of being driven by cab from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris. During the one-hour trip, he and the driver had done six things: the driver had driven the cab, talked on his cell phone, and watched a video (which was a little nerve-racking!), whereas Friedman had been riding, working on a column on his laptop, and listening to his iPod. “There was only one thing we never did: talk to each other.” Friedman went on to quote Linda Stone, a technologist, who had written that the disease of the Internet age is “continuous partial attention. Perhaps it is not only the disease of the Internet age; perhaps it has always been with us, and just the causes of our inattention have altered.”
Is it possible that this story of two sisters offers us an ongoing plea from Jesus to focus on Him, to give Him some “face time,” some continuous fullattention, just as we do for our close friends? At least, this is what we do, if we want to keep them as close friends.
This same Jesus calls us to focus on him when we gather on Sunday, to move from our place of being “worried and distracted by many things” to one where we are in touch with the one thing needed, the good part that will not be taken away. There we will connect with Jesus, the One that brings both peace and energy to all our undertakings.
I confess, I was constantly looking out at my feeder to see if the brown bird was back. I had to stop. My obsession meant I could miss the call in my heart from Jesus that He is asking for some time together. Technology aside…Jesus is there for us…all we have to do is stop…and welcome Him to our hearts, the very home we share with all the ones in our lives we love completely. Our prayer groups here, whether together or alone are wonderful ways to stop and be at peace with Jesus, as we pray for our friends, or families and ourselves. It works. Let’s try it.
Dear Lord, if you were to come to my home, like Martha, I would have done all I could to prepare and provide for your visit. I’d straighten up my mess, set the table, clean the house, try to make a meal … and certainly … serve the guests … and when I saw my guests enjoying themselves while I was managing the trash bags … I might get annoyed like Martha.
Brother Jesus, help us to enjoy providing for others …. no matter what we do …. and if we can’t…
Grant us the resolve to let the dishes sit for a moment …. so we don’t miss you in our midst, in our hearts and minds.