Martha, Martha…

I’m one of those people who loves a personality test. You know the type? I can tell you I’m an enneagram four, a Myers Briggs ISFJ and, in one test I once came out as a sunshine yellow fox. I don’t know… I think my interest in these tests stems back to when I was that geeky teenager I told you about before. I would buy the magazines the cool teens were reading and do the tests that would tell me when I was going to fall in love, or whether I was pear or apple shaped, and I would live the cool teen existence vicariously through those pages.

Anyway, in churches across the world today there is another personality test being foisted upon congregation members: are you a Mary, or are you a Martha?

Clergy will have their people self-identify with the sisters in today’s gospel reading and they will encourage the Marthas to slow down a bit and remind the Marys that they can’t sit there all day – there might be times they need to be a bit more Martha. And the more-Martha-types among us will feel a bit bad for constantly being distracted or will become more and more frustrated at the Marys who don’t seem to notice that there’s so much to do. And the Marys will continue to sit at the feet of our Lord, hanging on his every word, (maybe slightly smug about how right they are). But I feel like, in doing so, we might miss the true sentiment of the passage. We might fail to hear the deepest invitation.

See, I am way more Martha than Mary. But none of us are entirely one and not the other. We’re all on this continuum, from Mary to Martha. Here, we have wonderful opportunities to lean into our Mary side – with our contemplation mornings and Heartsong and quiet gardens. And then, because of our community living and extensive grounds and our beautiful outreach in Just Manna and IGWR, we also recognise there is always work to be done and ‘if not us then who’, so we are also often on our feet, Martha-ing. So, no, we’re never entirely Mary nor are we entirely Martha.

And not one verse before this morning’s passage we finished last week’s story of the Good Samaritan and didn’t our Lord end by saying ‘go and do likewise’ – GO and DO. Go and care for the injured and tend their wounds and pay their bill and put yourselves out and allow the pain of others to disrupt your day. Go and do.

And now it is sit and listen. So it seems both have their merits. Of course they do. It’s not that. Jesus isn’t saying don’t do the jobs. He’s not saying don’t be Martha or be Mary. He’s saying something else entirely. And I think it’s probably best summed up by something that I hear in these two words in verse 41; Martha, Martha.

Martha is whizzing around. And she’s cooking and cleaning and welcoming and busying. And she’s annoyed. She’s really grumpy. She’s doing all the work for Jesus and his entourage. I mean, let’s face it, Jesus never travels alone, does He? He’s turned up, with all the other guys and she’s trying to turn the contents of her pantry into a veritable feast whilst sweeping the floor with her spare hand and washing yesterday’s pots with her left foot or whatever. And Mary is just sitting, and Martha spits out, ‘do you not CARE that she’s left me to do everything. Tell her to help me!’

If she had been calmer, she probably could’ve leant over and said, ‘grab this Mary, please can you give me a hand?’, but she’s exasperated, so it comes out ‘do you not care Jesus?!’

And Jesus sees her.

He sees her heart and her flustered cheeks and her overflowing hands and he speaks to it all. Martha. Martha. First to the chaos that fills her mind and then to the person who is right there in her heart. Martha, precious wonderful grumpy anxious Martha. Just stop my darling. You’re alright. I’m here. I see you and I know you and I love you and there’s nothing you need to do or say or bring or sort or clean or hide. Just come. You are invited. You are welcome. You are enough.

Mary has chosen to sit at the feet of her Lord and listen to his word. Sit in the presence of the Living Word. She recognised that invitation and she responded. And maybe Martha didn’t know that she was also invited, just as she was. That there was nothing she could do that would make her more welcome but that she was invited – all of her. Her distracted mind and her anxious heart. Her messy house and unwashed floors. Martha, Martha, come here my darling and just sit. Bring it all. You are enough.

And that is beautiful. Jesus sees her heart and he adores her. When he says her name, it’s not a voice of admonishment. He’s not cross. He’s not shouting at her. Martha, Martha, stop. You are enough.

And once again, as it is with her, so it is with us.

Jesus doesn’t care if we are busy or anxious or sunshine yellow foxes. He doesn’t care if we are grumpy or serene. He doesn’t care if we want to be here or would rather be somewhere else. He doesn’t care if we prefer silence or noise. He doesn’t care if we come with our hands full or our minds blank. He just wants us to come. Come to this place. Come to this table. Come to the beach or the gardens or to see the sunrise or whatever it is. Just come.

That eternal invitation is extended to everyone, every personality type, wherever you are on the Mary-Martha continuum. Whether you feel like you are worthy and enough, or not. And that invitation is extended to you.

Last week, John ended his sermon with the great line, ‘go and do likewise’…and may the Lord be with you, he said. Jesus is still encouraging us to go and do likewise, especially if that is the way your mind and heart are fired. But he also extends this invitation to come and sit at his feet and listen. To go and do, but also come and be.

So, come and be. And may the Lord be with you.

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