“Martha, Martha,” Jesus said. “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 from her.”–Luke 10:41-42
I have to admit: I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with the story of Mary and Martha. I love the way Jesus lifts up Mary as a disciple–listening and learning from Jesus, drinking in the word. I hate the way he seems to put Martha down as a doer–focused on cooking and cleaning, hosting and serving.
One of the very best things about Jesus (Pro Tip: There are many) is that he is the Word made flesh. He doesn’t come into the world as an idea or a lesson plan; he comes into the world in a body like ours. Flesh and blood. Emotion and appetite. As Tom Long puts it:
The incarnation means that the place to find God is not in otherworldly thoughts but in the earthy details. Martha was not being hospitable in the abstract and her cooking that meal that day was not trivial; hospitality finally means that somebody has to boil the water and slice the onions.
Somebody has to boil the water and slice the onions. This means: what we do matters. Boiling water and slicing onions matters. Preparing and serving food matters. Changing diapers and wiping noses and reading bedtime stories matters. Fighting for justice matters. The big things and the little things and the hard things we do–for love of God and love of neighbor–all matter.
But the “many things” can easily worry and distract us. Especially after a week like last week, we feel beaten down. We wonder how anything we do can possibly make a difference in our broken, hurting world.
And so, we remember that the “many things” are grounded in the “one thing”: listening to the Word of God. When we listen to the voice of Jesus, what do we hear?
We hear, Peace be with you.
We hear, Do not be afraid.
We hear, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
We hear, as Tom Long puts it,
. . . . that our lives are gathered into God’s life, that God is out there in the world healing and feeding and restoring, and therefore what we do for others counts, really counts, and we can trust God and hope for God’s new creation.
If you need a moment at the feet of Jesus today, please take it.
If you aren’t able to take a moment, know that God is with you as you boil the water and slice the onions. God is with you wherever you go, gathering your work of healing and feeding and caring into God’s own holy work in the world.
What’s your take on this story? What onions are you slicing today?