24th September 2021

Recently I was asked to read the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 38-42) in church. I found myself trying to imagine my way into the story…

Martha welcomes Jesus into her home, but it’s her sister Mary who sits listening to Jesus while Martha is “distracted by her many tasks”. Martha says “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” Would Martha have sounded cross; or perhaps she would have been trying to keep her annoyance under wraps and sound as if she was half joking?

Jesus says “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.”

Does Martha feel that her worries are being acknowledged or does she feel rebuked? My immediate thought is that I’d have liked Jesus to suggest they all muck in, “many hands make light work” and all that! The Martha in me argues that they’d have had nothing to eat, and that Mary was being selfish.

How does Mary feel? Does she feel affirmed by Jesus? Is Jesus giving us permission to stop and do what really matters rather than feeling compelled to be endlessly busy, even if with the best of intentions?

My shoulders drop and I let go a little:

Drop thy still dews of quietness,

Till all our strivings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of thy peace.

Ruth Allen