A few years in my past, I used to live in a residential living, learning, and worshipping community. I can remember my orientation session to community life. The community leader said, “As we all have to learn to live together as a community, we can do things one of two ways: We can either create a lot of rules about every little bit of our lives, down to whether or not the margarine will be stored in the refrigerator or in the cupboard. Or we can invite everyone to be caring and compassionate to one another and talk about more important things.” We chose the latter, and it was not long before I was faced with a sink full of dirty dishes when I walked into the kitchen on a Saturday morning. Was I angry? Yes. I thought that someone was taking an opportunity to be lazy at my expense. It didn’t seem fair to me that I should have to clean up my own dishes and someone else’s.
I would have rather had a lot of rules. Accountability. Consequences.
Martha must have felt the same way that day when she found all of the serving duties were heaped upon her. She must have felt that it wasn’t fair that she should have to do her serving and Mary’s, too.
It would have been much easier for all of us structure-oriented people if Jesus had said “Mary, Martha’s right. You’d better go do your share.”
But He didn’t. As the ultimate teacher, He used the opportunity as a “teaching moment.” It was revealed that Mary had chosen the better part – sitting at Jesus’ feet, hanging on every word that He said.
Martha didn’t get the point that there is more to life than protocol. A lot of times we get hung up on doing an occasion correctly, hanging our identity on what we do over who we love.
Mary loved Jesus. That part is clear. Jesus recognized this love and held it up as a standard for all of those present, and for all of us in the present as well. Did Martha love being the perfect hostess over everything else? Did Martha lose sight of the whole reason she was doing the serving in the first place? We will never know for sure.
As the year went on, our community grew closer, and soon we began to hit our stride. The things that needed to get done got done, either by the people who should have done them, or others who shouldn’t have.
The focus of our community sharing and conversation centered around one topic: Where did we encounter Jesus that day? And when we encountered Him, what part of ourselves did we give to Him?
It beats arguing about dirty dishes and where to put the margarine any day.
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