What a crazy week this has been! Each day I've been working frantically to find material on Mary, the mother of Jesus, so I will be prepared for the class I'm leading at Vacation Bible School -- "Our Lady of... studies in Mary." Since I know little about the Roman Catholic traditions of venerating Mary, I've had to search for and read lots of material before each evening's class. Whew!
This Sunday we hear the brief story of Martha and her sister Mary. Martha has invited Jesus to their home. While she works to serve her guest, Mary sits at Jesus' feet listening and learning. Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is leaving all the work to her. (That doesn't sound fair!) But Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better option. "Martha, Martha," he says "you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing."
What's going on with Martha? Is she trying to be "Martha Stewart" and rather than simply serving her guest, burdening herself with lofty expectations of how the table should be set or arranging the flowers just so? A colleague of mine who loves to entertain said more bluntly that Martha is simply being ungracious - inviting someone to her home and then complaining about having to work to serve him. Maybe Martha is run down and tired after a hectic week. But the bottom line, it seems, is that Martha is distracted by less important matters while Mary is listening to Jesus. Disciples sit at the feet of their teachers - Mary, at Jesus' feet, is trying to learn what Jesus has to teach.
We will sing a wonderful hymn this Sunday right after the sermon. I chose this hymn and it will probably be unfamiliar to most of my congregants. But I love it. In fact, I hope I don't get choked up while we sing it. It is the spiritual "Give Me Jesus." I don't know that I would even have to preach if we could simply meditate on the words of this hymn: "In the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise... give me Jesus. Give me Jesus, give me Jesus. You can have all the rest, give me Jesus. Dark midnight was my cry, dark midnight was my cry, dark midnight was my cry, give me Jesus... You can have all the rest, give me Jesus." (African American spiritual - Evangelical Lutheran Worship, hymn #770)
Yes, you can have all the rest - the material things, the worry, the distractions, the quarrelling, the striving for more... just give me Jesus.