A Modern Martha and Mary

A Modern Martha and Mary

Do you know the Bible story of Martha and Mary?

IMG_2989Jesus visited the home of two sisters. He sat and taught – doing His thing. Mary chose to “sit at his feet and listen.” Martha busied herself tidying and preparing – complaining about no one helping.

Who was right – or acted in a better way? Here’s my modern take on the lesson of this tale.

First off, the characters in this drama today would be Marty and Mary, or Martha and Mark, or Marty and Mark. The teaching applies to everyone, anyone.

IMG_3273Historically,  it was more notable – almost shocking in the 1st century – for the actors to be women. Jesus was emphasizing the discipleship of all people.

Second, neither sibling was doing wrong. Both were ‘working’ at good things, learning and providing food. Jesus simply pointed out that food for thought was the more important at this time.

I mean, how often do you have The Messiah in your house?

IMG_3189Third, it’s the attitude, not the activity, that Jesus was trying to stress. It was perfectly fine for Martha to get dinner together. Her lack was in speaking out against what her sister desired in that moment.

A righteous evening would have gone like this:

I imagine how my extended family gathers for special-Sunday dinners like Easter or someone’s birthday. Let’s say Jesus shows up.

IMG_3188We’d be at my brother-and-sister-in-laws’ house. It’s always immaculate, no pre-cleaning needed. Dan is into hospitality and cooking, so the appetizers would already be out and there’d be plenty of time to socialize. The main course would almost be ready.

Jesus might speak now or just meet the folks and impress with how much He knows about us, hosts included.

IMG_3290Eventually, it’d be time. Everyone would help swap in the dinner dishes, and we’d pick our spots.  Good food and some light conversation would be served.

As the eating winds down, the serious talking builds up. Again, it’s all hands clearing the table (or as many can fit in the not-overly-large kitchen).

We then play a sort of social musical chairs, switching every now and then to catch up with everyone. There’d be dessert. Yum.

IMG_3279.JPGI can hear Jesus gradually getting the whole group’s attention. He’d’ve grabbed the spinny chair that’s right in between the dining and sitting halves of the room. He’d slowly turn every now and then, catching eyes intently.

After a while, His voice would be the only sound, into the wee hours…

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Says Who!?

There are only two kinds of people. This is determined by the answer to a single question: “Says Who!?”

Another form of the question is like that asked ad nauseum by healthy, growing, young minds everywhere:”Why?” “Why?” “Why??”

From where can a final answer come? Perhaps, it’s more accurate to say ‘when does it come?’ We can continue to ask all our lives – certainly as children we all seek endlessly. But, as we age, our actions become consistent evidence of our belief. Fortunately, minds don’t have to be made up permanently. We get to ‘pencil in’ our response, and have a lifetime to erase and choose anew. I know I revisit and debate again and again, but these days, each time my doubts are put to rest.

The only two answers to “Says Who!?” are, “I do!” or “God, the Creator.”

It’s a simple choice, but it can take a long time to decide. This is sometimes called ‘growing up.’ I say: all it takes is accepting a definition of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘wrong’. And it is who we are centered on that points us to our answer. If ‘good for me’ is what matters, I will not care that it can be wrong for you. Like a toddler, why should I share?

But if I believe that the Creator, The Highest Authority, makes each person equal in His love and in His purpose, I become willing (though I may still struggle with being able) to give in favor of need. If I believe in the Creator, I can trust Him to provide for me, as He promises to. In my life, I have experienced abundance – at its most basic, with every breath I take.

Writers like C.S. Lewis have said that we share an inherent feeling of guilt, like from Original Sin, the rebellion in Eden. (Which, not coincidentally, was the result of asking the “Why? Did God really say ____?” question one too many times.) This morning I began wondering about this – do I have guilt only because of the wrong I have done? Or from something deeper? Are there actually people who believe they’ve done no wrong, and therefore do not have this feeling?

The only way that would be possible, I concluded, is if those people are focused solely on themselves. (Or soullessly on themselves.) ‘Good’ and ‘wrong’ are then relative, and survival of the fittest is the name of the game. That explains what is in the world, I think. Surely, we are meant for something better.

“We know deep in our hearts that we don’t measure up. We feel the lack of our Father’s approval, and so we set out to get it ourselves – we work, we strive for acceptance and significance, but we are never satisfied.
“The result is that a black cloud of guilt hangs over our lives. The solution is not trying harder – it’s resting on what Christ has done for us. We need to remember that nothing we do, achieve, accomplish, or make can erase our guilt and provide worth. Only the righteousness of Christ can undo, wipe away, and remove guilt before our Holy Father.
“… come to Jesus for forgiveness… [this feeling] becomes a reminder that you are a sinner who needs to daily ask for forgiveness and daily claim Christ’s perfect record (His righteousness) as your own.”
(Pete Alwinson, Like Father Like Son excerpted in Men of Integrity magazine)

Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Romans 5:1

I Welcome His Welcome

Is it my choice or His? The American Dream of Self-Sufficiency prompts me to take credit, and that might be somewhat true of life after, of the way I have ‘been’ since salvation struck me. But, self-evaluation confirms Biblical Truth: He gave first. He loved first. He sacrificed first. I was simply incapable of making the first move. Maybe that’s what really changes in those Jesus saves: the ability to choose the completely unselfish action.

I would really have to sit down and think about whether, in my past, I ever did anything of no perceived benefit to myself. I know some say that is the only human motivation – we do a thing because we get at the least a good feeling from it. But I look at the cross hanging on my wall, and really doubt that. Nothing could have been pleasant about that; even a masochist like me would not want to feel that pain.

No, I did not ‘seek’ Him – I desperately sought something to save me from myself, but I knew not what. Nor, at that moment, did I care. I had descended to a place of paralyzing despair, all thought and action unfruitful, even quitting had been unproductive. I slumped, weighted and spiralling downward by crushing waves of … just absolute readiness to cease, but complete inability to do anything. I imagine I could have sat there until I perished, but, instead, Jesus leaned down from that cross, lifted me up, and touched my very heart, wiping it clean, and sparking new life – a new desire for life – in me. So, I know that I am not my own. And, no matter how strong the temptations or doubts, I am never free of that awareness.

It’s this new sense of ‘never being free’ of Him that I write about. When it’s phrased like that, it sounds like a bad thing. A thing to dread. Sometimes, reminiscing about my past ‘fun-centered’ existing, I can tend towards resentment – until I remember where living that life left me: literally hanging. The desires I pursued then were unfulfillable. I know that now. But Christ overflows, full of blessing now and nothing but promise (of all good stuff) to come.

Is it just an appreciation for the sacrifice someone else has made for me? Certainly, becoming a parent gave me an understanding of my parents and their sacrifices for us kids. Or the 12 straight hours the heart surgeon gave. Or the full measure of some. But there’s something more about Jesus. To the death, yes. For all of us, incredibly. To accept the punishment for the entirety of evil, amazing!

Periodically, someone posts a “Would/could you do this for that” meme: stay in a derelict and remote cabin with all the necessities but no electricity or internet for a month for $100,000. A posh house but no blogging or football for a year for $1,000,000. These pale in comparison to what Jesus took on. Dying in agony, convicted and despised, suffering divine wrath, to save everyone else? Would I be willing to even try?

Today, I got up to try my little bit. I understand now how my Heavenly Father’s ever-open arms were always waiting for my return. They are a constant welcome relief. I welcome His welcome. And I am changed.