Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
March 6, 2015
May the words of my mouth and all the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about slowing down.
Hey kids, we are going to have a competition, on the count of three I want you to walk up here as sloooooowwwww as you can. Ok, ready…1….2….3….go!
Now that was silly. Today in big church we heard the story about Martha and Mary, who are sisters. They are all grown up when Jesus comes to visit. Martha had a lot of work to get done. What do you do when you are expecting a visitor? Do you clean up your room? Do you vacuum or sweep? Do you pick up all of your toys? Yes! Well that is exactly what Martha is doing. Jesus comes over to her house and she is busy doing work while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to him teach.
Today would you guys help me with something? In church this morning we are going to pretend to be both, Martha and Mary. Can you kids pretend to be Martha for me and sort all of the money you have collected to buy chicks this Lent? We need to count and sort it all, a very Martha like task. While you are doing that the grown-ups will pretend to be Mary and listen to me teach, you see I am wearing my teaching glasses today and have my ruler.
Awesome, thank you kids so much!
Now adults, you don’t have to come up here and sit at my feet, like the students of Jesus’ time did, you can stay put while I teach. So here we are with the familiar story about the sisters Martha and Mary. For me, I tend to relate more to Martha. In this day and age I am scurrying around all the time, making one to-do list after the other, working while the TV is on, talking on the phone while checking email, folding laundry while watching TV, thinking about my sermon as I vacuum or walk the dogs; I am always multi-tasking. For decades we have been praised for the ability to multi-task. In job interviews it is a frequent question, “can you multi-task?” As I get older, I find my answer to that question becoming more complicated. There are so many moving parts in our lives that my tasks seem endless. At times I feel like the lady on the front of our bulletin in the hamster wheel that just keeps turning. Even when I am on vacation or on a day off, the things I need to do just keep piling up. I need to do more laundry, I need to paint the cabinets, I need to bath the dogs, I need to clean my closet, I need to plan this or that, etc, etc…
Martha is caught in this never ending task list, she “was distracted by her many tasks.” Another way to translate this sentence is to say she was “distracted with much serving”. By using the words, “much serving”, Martha’s tasks are given more honor and religious acceptability. We after all, we do not know what tasks or serving she was up to. It could have been preparations for the Sabbath, or the meal for Jesus, or taking care of a neighbor in need.
As Martha is scurrying around, Jesus stops by for a visit and Mary goes right over to the Lord’s feet and begins to listen to what he is saying. Martha becomes upset. She comes over to Jesus and says “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” (v.40). All the work, all the tasks, all the serving? To which Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (v41-42).
What is Jesus telling Martha, what is Jesus telling us? If Martha is “serving”, is doing God’s work then why is Jesus not supporting her? Martha I would imagine is perplexed and confused by Jesus’ response. Jesus has been teaching to “go out and do likewise”, he is the epitome of service. Jesus is constantly telling his followers that “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16), that we do need to serve others, that we should take care of our neighbors and visitors. After all this passage follows right behind the parable of the Good Samaritan. Yet if you re-read the Good Samaritan you will notice at the beginning that this parable is in response to a question asked of Jesus:
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28).
So what is Jesus telling Martha and telling us? To “love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your strength, and with all your mind.” I think Jesus is telling us to Slow It Down. Jesus is saying that the word of God (his teachings) and not food is the one thing needed. That Martha needs to slow it down and take time to love and listen her God; that we do not live by bread alone but through our faith that we learn from Jesus.
Jesus is also pointing to Mary as an example of taking time to sit, be still and listen to God.
The other morning, I was taking the dogs outside when I heard a couple of birds chirping. I looked up to the clear blue sky and saw a beautiful red cardinal perched up in the leafless tree. That bird reminded me of two things: first, it reminded me of one of my mentors who has in recent times referenced birds in her sermons and secondly, that spring is coming! Easter is coming and Christ is resurrected. Through this little bird, I slowed down and God was revealed to me for a moment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson a famous transcendentalists believed that God is revealed to us through nature. Emerson saw a direct connection between man, nature, and God. One of my favorite quotes from Emerson is “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.” I think this is also what Jesus is teaching us today.
We are in the age of instant information, notifications, visualizations, mass media implications; surrounding us 24/7. Our phones ring or bing and we all jump to check out what we are missing. Communication happens with our thumbs and our tongues, at the same time. More is better and faster. Yet Jesus is here praising Mary for slowing it down. For sitting, listening and being with God.
Our scripture today follows the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ instruction to “Go and do likewise”. Now Jesus blesses not going and doing, but sitting still and listening. Jesus is calling us to slow down and make time to sit with God.
So kids, how is the counting going? Did you hear anything I just taught the Mary’s, the adults? What did our pretend Mary’s hear?
You don’t know? Well good job, you played Martha perfectly. Just like Martha you all were busy and distracted with your tasks. We can’t do everything and in order for us to be like Mary we need to stop, turn off our TVs, tablets and telephones and just listen to God. This week each day try to take a moment and just be in the quiet and listen to God. Whether it is in your car on the way to work, outside looking at the stars or sitting on your living room sofa. Come and sit with God.
So why don’t we do that right now together. Everybody let us get the wiggles out first and then when I say freeze we will sit and be still and quite. Once I say Amen we will start wiggling again. Ready….wiggle…..and freeze.