From: Charles Glenn
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:41-2 NIV).
I’ve always felt sorry for Martha. She was doing her best to be hospitable to Jesus, and presumably to his crowd of disciples as well. How do I provide enough food for appetites keen from many days on the road, and who will cook and serve it? Where are they all going to sit, and eventually to sleep? Can I get some neighbors to help, when they see that my own sister is just sitting there listening? Surely the Master will see that I need her support!
My own discipleship these eight decades has always been active, and often distracted, rather than contemplative; some of you have heard me say that the most convicting verse in Scripture, for me, is Matthew 26:40: “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?” Today’s reading provides another such rebuke of busyness.
Martha was doing a good thing, but Mary a better. As Jesus said in a similar context, “the poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me” (Mark 14:7 NIV). Mary was doing the one thing of overwhelming value and importance at that moment, paying rapt attention to the Lord, the one thing to give meaning and focus to a subsequent lifetime of good works.
What is the one thing you and I need before all else? Surely it is to set our hearts on the Living Word, not on the flood of messages and invitations, even worthy ones, crowding in from an ever-babbling culture!
Sociologist Christian Smith points out that “good lives need to be lived as adequately coherent wholes. Life plans can include multiple, disparate pursuits, but good ones cannot be fundamentally incoherent.” The only real source of coherence for our distracted lives is, like Mary, to fix our eyes on Jesus. That will not, for most of us, lead to lives of passive contemplation, but to purposeful activity in the service of the Kingdom. Jesus frequently commends such efforts in his parables and other teaching.
But our lives will be truly fruitful only if our first and final delight is in the Living Word; then we will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season” (Psalm 1:3 NIV). Our prayer, in the words of one of today’s psalms, should be, “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11 NIV) .
God is challenging me – in my 81st year! – to think afresh about the application of theology to educational policy and practice. And delighting me with ten grandchildren. What a kind and blessed Lord!