Nik is preaching today, and I hope you come hear him at our 10 am or 5:30 pm worship. The gospel for today Luke 10:38-42: the story of Martha complaining to Jesus that she is doing all of the work while Mary is lounging with Jesus.
I preached about this lesson three years ago at All Souls Episcopal Church in Berkeley, where I served as interim rector.
At the time, All Souls was deeply immersed in searching for a new rector. Here is the meat of the sermon:
Mary and Martha: Don't forget to pray
In the months ahead all of us will be very busy – there is much to do. Many of you are going to work harder than you have ever worked in the church. And that is why I find today’s gospel lesson perfect for what we are about to do.
In the lesson, Martha is in the kitchen making dinner and Mary is in the living room hanging out with Jesus. Martha is working hard, and her complaint is not without merit. Martha is a pillar; she is a pillar of her family, of the community, of the church – she serves on committees, goes to all the meetings, takes care of the kids, and fixes everyone dinner; and she never complains, at least until now.
But this time, seeing Mary slacking off, she complains to Jesus.
But instead of upbraiding Mary, Jesus tells Martha that she missing the point.
"Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things,” he tells her. “Mary has chosen the better part.”
That may sound harsh, but work with me here.
This story is a reminder to all of us that, yes, we will get very, very busy. We have much to do. We need Marthas to get it all done. There will be many challenges for you, and for me, in the months ahead at All Soul’s. We do need a lot of Marthas.
But let’s not miss out on the better part – being in the presence of God, being in the presence of the Risen Christ. We will miss out on the better part if we get so busy, so distracted, that we forget why we are here. As important as all of the tasks may be, we need to pause, catch our breath, and look for the better part.
There is a lot of good news in this – and I’d like to offer a few ideas about the “better parts” that are ahead of us.
Take time to notice the presence of God around you. Dwell in the Spirit. Don’t forget to pray.
This is a tender time for this congregation.
So here is my first piece of advice as your new interim: Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s share the blessings we are given – the better parts – and show each other the grace that God gives us abundantly. Let’s have fun. Laugh, celebrate.
Let’s all take time to take care of each other. Let’s be pastors to each other. Let’s go out of our way to be good to each other.
Jesus will surprise us if we let him. Jesus often picks the most unexpected people to do his work. Remember the story about Paul on the road to Damascus. He is a persecutor of the early Christians, but the Risen Christ chooses him, of all people, to grow the church. By any conventional wisdom, Paul is the last person that any of us would chose to lead the church. But Jesus chooses him – and he chooses you and he chooses me.
Be open to new people, be truly open to people who are searching for meaning in their lives. You have treasure here at All Soul’s. New people will come. This Church is place where people can come with their questions and their doubts and not be judged for being, well, human. Have faith that Jesus will find them and feed them.
There are people all around you who are hungering for something in their life. You run into those people every single day. Invite them here.
Do everything in the Spirit of God’s love and generosity. Be slow to anger, quick to forgive. If you err, err on the side of love and generosity.
Here is the easy part: You don’t need to be anyone other than who you are. Be yourself. You don’t have to copy someone else’s church. You have everything you need right here in this place. It is all here, and God will give us the power to do amazing things.
God has given each of us this gift of life – so let’s make every day count. Worship the Lord, the Lord is with you here in at All Soul’s, and in our hearts. You are the beloved, God made each and every one of you good, so be glad in it and celebrate. The Risen Christ will be with us on our journey, each and every day, and in the age to come -- forever. Amen
Art of Mary and Martha, Chinese.