Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘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.’
I’ve often felt for Martha in this story and my sermons on the passage have reflected that. However, let’s take a different tack today. It was Eugene Peterson, once described as Reformed Christianity’s nearest thing to a saint, who said, in commenting on the work of full time ministry, that an unwillingness or inability to take time off is a lack of discipline. Work is something we can hide behind, and idolise. Hard for us Protestants to swallow, I know. Work is good, right? Not always it seems. Tony Burnham once wrote of his worries about “activist ministers” not spending enough time studying Scripture. He said “ I fear ministers are selling their birthright for a potted message”. Great word play, but I worry too about all of our people who don’t give up enough busy-ness to spend time “with the Lord” in prayer and shared Bible study.
Almighty God who is uniquely made known in Jesus the Christ, forgive us for making an idol of our busyness and indispensability. Forgive us for starving ourselves, and remind us that “Human beings do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your mouth”. Renew in us a desire for you, your ways and your Word, because you love us and your world. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen
The Rev’d Peter Meek, Moderator, East Midlands Synod