Is this what we are seeing in our Gospel reading between Mary and Martha or is it something deeper?
Jesus has come to the home of Mary and Martha and both sisters see a different emphasis of what needs to happen.
It reminds me of a similar situation which involved Mary in John’s Gospel – it may have even been the same event when Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, Mary and Martha’s brother whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary took some expensive perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples said, “Why was this perfume not sold and given to the poor?” Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Was one action more important than another?
It was seemingly a question of priorities.
Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teachings because who knows when she might have that opportunity again.
Entertaining the guests could have happened anytime afterwards.
Mary chose to use the expensive perfume to anoint Jesus because he was about to die.
The poor could be helped continuously after that or with other resources.
So this Gospel reading speaks to the heart of priorities.
I don’t believe it’s a situation of one of the sisters being better or more “Christian” than the other because of what they have chosen to do.
Both were believers in Jesus as the Christ.
Both loved Jesus and Jesus loved them both.
But they were very different women.
There is no doubt that grace lived in both their hearts.
But each showed that love and grace in different ways.
So we learn from this that we should not expect all Christians to be exactly the same as each other as the body of Christ is made up of many different members – like a human body.
We learn that we can each make decisions on how we believe God is calling us to express our faith and gifts.
Neither, therefore, should we judge based on our own expectations and gifts – which is what Martha did.
And that’s one of the beautiful things about God’s creation – the differences and diversity.
As we look at creation we see a variety of flowers – different colours – different aromas – different times of the year they flourish in different conditions.
It’s the same with God’s creatures – we don’t have one type of bird but thousands – the same with all animal species.
That’s part of God’s creativity.
So too in humanity –we have different gifts – different skills – different ways of expressing ourselves – including our faith and service to God.
What we are called to do, as members of the body of Christ is to embrace what God has gifted us with and support the other members as they too express their God given gifts in their own ways.
And together we express God’s creativity in harmony.
St Paul highlights that when he says: the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour.
Martha’s problem is that she was bringing down both herself and Mary by her criticism of her sister.
Martha’s gift was the gift of hospitality.
But because she was so focused on Mary not sharing the same gift she also distracted her own gift.
Because of her distraction she didn’t see what she was doing as a gift and that’s when we begin to lose passion for what we are doing for God.
And that’s what Jesus is pointing out.
He points out her distraction not her decision to not sit at his feet.
He doesn’t tell her to stop what she is doing and come and sit down but to not allow her distractions from affecting her calling and also her sister Mary’s.
The body of Christ is like a well-tuned machine.
Each part by itself doesn’t really achieve anything.
But when it works in conjunction with all the other parts it achieves the outcome for which is has been built.
A sparkplug in an engine has an important function.
By itself it has no purpose.
An engine without one will not function.
But together they work in harmony.
Or take a piece of music made up of many notes.
By itself a note is just a noise.
But with other notes it creates a harmony.
So too the body of Christ.
Martha had a function which in harmony with everything going on created a harmonious environment for Jesus’ visit.
But she stopped serving.
She interrupted Jesus’s function.
She interrupted Mary’s function.
We no longer have harmony but chaos.
When God created the world he created order from chaos.
The Spirit of God hovered over the empty void and then God began to create order – he brought light and life into our world.
He ordered it in such a way that had harmony between creature and creation and behold it was very good.
And that harmony continued until human beings broke that order through sin and reintroduced chaos through disobedience.
Adam and Eve were distracted by Satan to look away from God’s harmony and let their own desires break that harmony.
Martha, too, became distracted and allowed her own desires to break the harmony of Jesus’ visit.
So this text speaks to us and any behaviour we might show that breaks the harmony of God’s work.
Each of us is gifted in one way or the other to which we contribute to the harmony of the body of Christ.
St Paul, so majestically paints that harmonious order in our 2nd reading today:
Notice how many times he highlights Jesus being at the head that puts everything in our lives in order:
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
In him all things in heaven and on earth were created.
All things have been created through him and for him
In him all things hold together
He is the head of the body
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead
In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell
Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things
I think we start to see the picture here.
If Jesus is at the head of our congregation.
If Jesus is at the head of our family.
If Jesus is at the head of our ministry.
If Jesus is at the head of how we live our lives –
Then everything falls into harmony.
It’s when we let our own desires – our own egos – our own agendas – our own criticisms, when we let these influence our judgments – then chaos creeps back in.
When we start to act like Martha and start judging others by our standards rather than Christ’s then our harmony breaks down.
We all play our part in our community of Christ here.
And some play what might seem a lesser role but one that would create chaos if it wasn’t done.
Just like a $10 sparkplug can render a $100,000 luxury car inoperable if it is faulty or missing.
All of us are an intricate and vital part of the body of Christ and we should value each and every part as indispensable and irreplaceable.
That’s how God sees us and that’s how we should see ourselves – we are that one lost sheep – we are that one lost coin – we are that lost prodigal son – and together we make up the body of Christ.
Whatever it is that God has gifted you, do it joyfully and don’t be distracted by how God is using others.