Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Marlo, Marlo" or "Lessons I've learned from Mary and Martha"

I love reading the story of Mary and Martha in Luke chapter 11.  I am so like Martha and yet I long to be  like Mary who was always at the feet of Jesus.  In the story Martha starts out good by opening her home to Jesus and inviting him in.  (Jesus the Messiah in MY house?  Yes, yes!  Come in, come in!)  She wanted him there.  She was honored by his presence.  So after he comes in and sits down and begins teaching, what does Martha do?  She starts serving him.  There was much to do and someone had to do it, but she gets so distracted by all the preparations that she doesn't even take the time to listen to Jesus.  God in the flesh is sitting in her living room teaching and she is washing the dishes.  (Sounds like someone I know.)  Eventually her stress builds up and she not only gets mad at her sister, who is sitting at his feet listening to what he says, but she rebukes Jesus himself, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!"
(Lord,  don't you care that I have to do everything around here?  Don't you care that I teach a class, serve at the food pantry, lead a prayer group, volunteer at the church, and write cards to my friends who are sick?  Well, somebody has to teach Vacation Bible School, bake a cake for the bake sale, volunteer in the lunch room, and organize the next potluck!  I have so much to do.  Don't you care?   Tell someone to help me!)
"Martha, Martha, 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."
(Marlo, Marlo, don't let your service to me keep you from sitting at my feet.  Don't get so busy that you aren't listening to what I am saying.   There will always be more people to serve, more cards to write, more lessons to prepare, more cakes to bake.  But what you  learn from me can never be taken away from you.)

Later after their brother Lazarus had died, we see Mary once again at the feet of Jesus, but this time she is crying.  "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw Mary weeping he was deeply moved and he also wept.
Not only are we to listen and learn at the feet of Jesus, but we are to grieve at the feet of Jesus.  Go to him with your pain and your questions.  Fall at his feet and you will find mercy and compassion.

The third time we see Mary at the feet of Jesus is six days before the Passover.  Jesus had come to  a dinner given in his honor.  Martha is again serving, but apparently she is also listening because we don't hear her complaining.  During the dinner, Mary takes a very expensive bottle of perfume and pours in on Jesus' feet and wipes it with her hair.  This sounds unusual to us, but this would have also been unusual to the people who were there.  Why? (1) Oil was usually poured on someone's head as a blessing, not their feet.  (2) A respectable woman would never unbind her hair in public.  And (3) it was the job of the servants to attend to someone's feet.  If Mary had worried about what other people thought, she would never have done what she did.  But she had learned to listen and learn at the feet of Jesus.  She had learned to grieve at the feet of Jesus.  Now her only thought was to worship at the feet of Jesus.  

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet are those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation (Isaiah 52:7)

Choose what is better.  Fall at his feet and listen, grieve, and worship.  What you gain there will not be taken away from you.

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