C Pentecost 9 proper 11
Martha & Mary are sisters. Do you wonder if there has been sibling rivalry all their lives? Today’s story must just be one snapshot of their lives together.
I took E and C home last night after watching them for two nights because Mom & Dad were at a road race. I am as exhausted as they are from running after them since I did this without Loren around. Without any intentional effort at all, I got my 10,000 steps yesterday. Kids that age are perpetual motion…physically, emotionally, and verbally! Truthfully, they were wonderful and we had a blast. I am so blessed to have them so close and a part of my life.
On the way home last night, My older grandchild wanted the hairbrush that he could see in the console of my car. He wanted to comb his hair. I handed it back to him laughing to myself, since I don’t think the child has had a comb through his hair more than a dozen times in his four and a half years of life. He proceeded to brush his hair for several minutes,into a lovely bouffant with hair going everywhere.
At that point, C decided that he wanted the brush to comb his hair. After much counting down and many empty promises, the brush was finally passed from one car seat to the other. Now C had his turn to style his locks into something lovely. Neither had a mirror, but I could see them both. It was hilarious.
And, as you can imagine, after about 30 seconds, Evan wanted the brush back. C clutched the brush tighter and continued to brush. Whining ensued. Great whining and tattling ensued. A moral discussion about sharing commenced out of the mouth of the four year old. Nothing worked, until the grandmother finally intervened. Both of them held the brush twice on the ride home. I was lucky to get it back before I left.
I assume that such squabbles were as common in 1st century Palestine as they are today. Martha and Mary had probably argued over everything from hairbrushes to chores all their lives. Who hasn’t?
The twist here though, that Jesus’ admonition to Martha about Mary having “the better part” is not about the roles each is playing – because both have great value – but that Mary has seen the possibility of doing something different, actually of being someone different – a disciple of Jesus. This is in a way few would have expected or allowed a woman to consider. She chooses to be seen in a new and unexpected way. It’s out of the norm, perhaps shocking, but it upsets the status quo that was set, not by her, but by others. She is causing a disruption and a distraction in “the way things are supposed to be.” Things aren’t often just, but they are set in motion by those who have control or power over anyone or anything that doesn’t have power.
Perhaps, Mary assumes that she is worthy enough to sit as Jesus’ feet and that is what he commends her for. She imagines and lives into a possibility that stretches the cultural norm because she is in the presence of the one through whom God promises that all things are possible. Jesus, in effect is saying, “Women’s lives matter!”
Perhaps this story isn’t so much about weighing the contemplative life over the active one, because both are necessary. What if it is to recognize that what we do or who we are has value even if it is being seen in a new and challenging way?
Mary was putting herself in a position of equality…of being a learner or listener on par with the men in the group. I’ve often wondered if they too were a little startled by her presence and thought she should be back in the kitchen with Martha. Hand it to the sister to try to get things back into the proper order. They may have squabbled, but she didn’t want Mary to get into serious trouble either.
I think at the heart of this story is a request “to be seen”. Perhaps that request is at the heart of Martha’s frustration too. Perhaps it is at the heart of all of our lives. Don’t we all have a need to “be seen” and be validated. That might mean a need to be loved by our parents, be recognized by our boss, or seen as something more than our skin color. But we all need to know that “we matter”. Especially that we matter to God.
We all have a primordial need to be loved, valued, & deemed worthy. That need is so deep we struggle from sibling rivalry to global warfare. We need to be loved to survive. That’s why we join gangs, religions, societies, nations, & book clubs.
And Jesus is saying that until each life, each culture, each religion, each race and gender and, and, and, matters, none of them do. Jesus is so much about turning the tables on who’s in and who’s out. Samaritans last week, women this week. He is such a rebel!
I saw one article that said, if Jesus were here today, he would say, “Black lives matter.” People, Jesus is here today! In us, through us by the presence of the Holy Spirit! Don’t forget that.
It’s hard to share. We all know this. But the Good News is that there is enough to share.
It may seem that things are worse than ever. I’m not sure this is true. While it’s terrible in Nice, Baghdad, Chicago, Turkey, and again this morning in Baton Rouge, some of that is our ability to know it so fast and so thoroughly. It has tainted our perspective and made us hold on more tightly to what we have. Or question what we don’t have. I wonder if we are so consumed with the bad that we lose sight of the goodness that is even closer. Someone asked a radio commentator if we as a culture might be suffering from PTSD after all the recent events. That’s an interesting thought.
Let’s not lose the surprise of a glorious sunset, a newly blossomed flower, hilarious and adorable grandchildren. The love of God is all around us: In bread and wine; In sharing our stories; In holding onto hope in the midst of fear. These are the things that counter the horror and offer Good News in the midst of terrible things.
We all matter to Jesus, but until those that are outside the circle are welcomed into it, we certainly don’t all matter to each other. How might we include others and recognize their ultimate worth? How might we be Jesus today and welcome. The stranger, the outcast, the women, the minority, the disenfranchised, the lost and lonely? To do so, offers Good News and can change everything.
(C) The Reverend Patty Baker
St. Clare Episcopal Church