In my experience, nothing stirs the Sunday lunch conversation, among the women anyway, like a sermon on Mary and Martha! “Belinda,” I heard last week, “It doesn’t matter what people say, someone has to be Martha and do the work!” Or, “I still don’t get that story. It just isn’t fair! Why should Mary get to sit and contemplate while Martha does everything!”
This sentiment is expressed in Professor of New Testament, William Loader’s commentary, He writes, “It’s time Martha went on strike!” But then he says:
In fact, it is time for Martha to go on strike. For part of the message of the word is that everyone is to be included and no one is to be left aside trapped in a role which prevents them from participation…. [Martha] is being challenged to leave behind the stance which says, ‘If I don’t do it, no one else will!’. She doesn’t have to ‘play mother’. As long as she does, some people are not likely to grow up and she will… carry a resentful sense of fulfilment. Not until she abandons that role will the community be challenged to take seriously that caring belongs to all and is not to be shunted off onto one particular person and usually one particular gender….
The extent to which the gospel had set them free would be reflected in the extent to which all owned [the work] and mutually decided who would do what. They would surely also have known the experience of finding that the gospel could easily be banished from practicalities and the same old people left to do all the work. The story is not told to punish these Marthas, though it is often used that way. In fact it heads in the opposite direction. Martha’s traditional roles are now thrown open for all and embraced in the word. The one who speaks will, a later gospel tells us, also wash the disciples’ feet.
Yes, someone must be Martha, in fact, we all must! But we all must be Mary, too. As I said on Sunday, “We must all mix prayer with action and service, and action and service with prayer.”
And that leads me to expressing my gratitude that CBC is a place where the work of ministry is shared: where people are comfortable being Martha and Mary; where Marty and Tryphena and Cecelia share the day to day tasks; where the deacons work hard at leading and guiding the church; where we have a pastoral care team, and many others, who help the sick or sorrowing or struggling; where people are constantly volunteering to teach Sunday School or to welcome people to our services, or to make our property beautiful, or to look after small groups, or to help run programs in the Community Centre or to raise their voices for justice. And that we are also a faith community that takes time to learn and listen to God; that all of us are engaged in lifting up the work and the workers of our church in prayer.
Thankyou to all of you!