Monday, July 19, 2010

A Life That Says Welcome: Part 2

Hello!  Crista, here.  I hope that this day greets you with a keen awareness of all the blessings you have in the Lord!

I continue this week in a review of the book A Life That Says Welcome.  To read my thoughts on Chapter 1, click here.  This week I will review Chapter 2, "A Look in the Book."  In today's edition, I'll  zero in on just one aspect of the chapter: a comparison of Mary and Martha, you know those sisters who served Jesus.  You can read their story in full in Luke 10:38-42, but here's a quick summary:

Jesus was in His ministry years, wandering from town to town with His disciples.  They stopped at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Luke reports that while Mary was listening intently to Jesus' teaching and sitting at His feet, Martha was rushing around the kitchen trying to get a meal together for Jesus and the other guests.  Martha became frustrated with Mary for not helping and asked the Lord to ask Mary to help, for goodness sake!  Jesus' response?
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
 As Karen says in the chapter, Martha often gets a bad-rap because of this response.  She gets labeled as the "bad" sister.  Some women conclude, from this story, that it is better to sit quietly and reverently at the feet of Christ than to be busy in the kitchen, no matter what.  Karen did an excellent job pointing our observation in a different direction.  Jesus did not say that Martha's meal preparations were wrong.  Rather, He pointed out that her attention was too focused on the trivial issues of the meal (like the presentation of the bread on the platter, the color of the napkins coordinating with the color of the tablecloth and dishes, and using only silverware that matches) rather than on the important -- relationship with their very important Guest.  Mary took a humble position -- at the Lord's feet -- and listened intently to His Words, soaking up the time she had with Him in her home.  Martha was so busy with preparations that she was missing this precious time with Jesus.

What we often miss in this story is that BOTH Mary and Martha demonstrated spiritual strengths in these circumstances.  Mary's strength was a life of devotion, while Martha's was a life of service.  In our churches, in our homes, in our friendships, in our communities, we need BOTH kinds of women.  Both kinds of women are necessary to the healthy functioning of Christ's Body on earth...we need the women devoted to prayer to pray for what we take in hand to do in the Lord's service.  We need the women devoted to service to make things happen.  Marthas tend to get annoyed with Marys for not getting things done NOW NOW NOW!  Marys on the other hand can get equally frustrated with Marthas for not slowing down long enough to pray and seek the Lord's counsel.

The fact is, Marthas and Marys, we need each other.
"The Marthas among us need to work more on preparing our hearts to serve others before we prepare our homes -- maybe some of you Marys need to learn to help us with the housework!"
We both of us need to be looking to our Lord for wisdom and guidance, because He was the perfect blend of both.  In His ministry on earth, He met peoples' physical needs (healing the sick, feeding the hungry) WHILE He taught them how to have a right relationship with God.

So, I've pretty well revealed which sister I tend to model...what about you?  If you're a Martha, what can you do to practice preparing your heart as a part of serving others?  If you're a Mary, what can you do to be helpful in practical ways while you nurture relationships with others?  I'd love to hear from you!


Picture Credits:  Tintoretto, Jacopo Robusti (Italian, 1518-1594), Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, 1570-75, canvas, Pinakothek at Munich. From Carol Gerten-Jackson's CJFA fine arts web site.


  1. I'm definitely a Martha. When my husband and I have people over I am very prone to spend the whole visit in the kitchen doing dishes or preparing food.

    My solution to this problem has not been to leave the work undone, but rather to make sure my home is clean just in case we have people over and to make sure I have the fixins for quick and easy meals should we have people over.

    These measures ensure that I'm available to just visit with guests, rather than just work the whole time!

  2. Just a thought on the text, which was our Gospel reading this past weekend, and a point I hadn't noticed before was brought out: it was Martha who invited Jesus to their home. So she was the one extending the hospitality -- just thought that was interesting. (Especially since I tend to identify with Martha and, on previous readings of this lesson, have been one of those who really wished He would have told Mary to help with the dishes already.)

  3. Elizabeth: I really like the idea of having quick and easy recipe ingredients on hand for last-minute guests. That's a great plan-ahead tactic for us Marthas! Thanks for sharing!

  4. TopazTook: Thanks for sharing that tidbit! It makes me wonder if Mary and Martha talked ahead of time about what needed to be done and Mary wasn't holding up her end of the bargain :) I'm glad that Jesus commended her for her faith!

  5. I am most definitely a MARTHA!!!

    But I like the fact that Martha isn't getting the "bad rap" entirely here. I like the fact that Ehmen points out that we Marthas need Marys in our lives and vice versa. (Being a Martha kinda makes me grow weary among a lot of Marys!) But I know I have my faults as well.

    I think, and you'll likely agree since you know me personally - preparing things for guests either the night before or the morning of instead of in the last 15 minutes before guests arrive - would be helpful in calming my heart in preparation for fellowship.

    In the season of toddlerhood, it's extremely hard to be able to accomplish very much ahead of time. But if I set my mind to it, I could probably accomplish more the night before a gathering. That would help calm things down moments before guests walk in the door when the little guys are being, er, distracting to me! =)

    Good thoughts again! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Crista,
    I am so glad you found me and I found you on here. What an awesome blog and encouragement! I will be back!

  7. I used to think I was a Martha since I always have a to do list and like everything to be perfect. But after a recent get together I'm not so sure. I wonder if Martha was an introvert who preferred small groups and was overwhelmed by the large entourage with Jesus. And if Mary was an introvert who preferred being where the action was.

  8. Thanks for your thoughts and your honesty, friends! It's nice to know we're not alone and to know that we can do all things...even break outside our natural tendencies...through Christ who strengthens us!

  9. I always like to have the food part prepared before the guests arrive. That relaxes me so I can greet them with a welcome at the door.

    One time my ladies Bible study group came over for a movie and refreshments. Everything was set to go except the neighbor's cows decided to visit my yard on "that day". They also left evidences of their visit if you know what I mean.
    (holes and cow paddies) Well, I made the best of it and scooped the poop, then covered them with pebbles, and put my solar lights around each spot. The guests had a trail of light to their cars that night, but not extra fragrance in my house. (I admit that my first reaction was anger.) It was a situation that I can laugh at now. Also, we had a storm with rain that night, but the satelight stayed on for the movie. What was it? "A Night with the King" about Esther.

    I suppose the ladies won't forget coming to the pastor's house that evening :0)