Today the Church remembers Mary and Martha (and Lazarus in the Episcopal Church’s trial Holy Women, Holy Men calendar). Earlier today (7/29) I posted a link to a Jesuit site called Pray-as-you-go. The meditation offered for today (offered by the Jesuits) was on the Lucan text (Luke 10:38-42) describing Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In the meditation we are asked: “Who showed hospitality?”
It is a fair and decent question. It is a reminder that it is as valid a question as “Who chose the better part?” Asking about hospitality is a reminder that Jesus needed both Martha and Mary. Jesus needed the hospitality Martha extended and he needed Mary to listen as he told the Good News. Ever since that day in Bethany the Body of Christ (the Church) has needed faithful men and women to both listen to the Word and then do the Word/work in the world. So it is today. We need to constantly strive for a balance in our being (listening) and doing.
As a further meditation on Martha and Mary I’d like to introduce you to Shawna Atteberry (“Writer. Storyteller. Poet. Feminist Theologian. Episcopalian. Married with cat”) and her blog. She has posted her own research and meditation involving Martha and Mary: The New Testament Church: Built by homemakers like Martha.
What do you think about the “Church’s one foundation” calling upon women to build the home and care for the household? What do you find most attractive in this story of Martha and Mary and Jesus? What do you find least attractive? Leave a comment here. Read about the New Testament Church and leave a comment for Shawna. Let’s talk and listen to each other as we strive to hear the Spirit.
5 thoughts on “Who showed hospitality?”
I’ve always felt for Martha because she’s the “bad guy” in the story–the one who doesn’t know how to appreciate what’s right in front of her. But I think every woman knows how she must have felt–your house is full of hungry, tired guests, and they’re having a good time drinking some wine and hanging out while you’re hidden away in the kitchen working up a sweat and having a good cry because no one will come help you. Martha thought she was doing the right thing, and she was probably doing exactly what her mother and grandmothers had taught her. I’m sure she couldn’t understand how Mary could be so rude and thoughtless as to just sit in front of Jesus instead of helping to make his dinner.
There was a time when I would have been uncomfortable–offended, even–at the notion that women are “called” to the home. But growing up a bit has taught me some things–
1. Hospitality is an art form.
2. A ministry doesn’t have to exist from behind a pulpit; it can also exist across a dinner table.
3. We are called to different things at different seasons in our lives. There are a number of factors right now that require my calling to be more domestic than I thought it would be. In 5 or 10 years, things might look different.
I’m glad that you find the story of Martha and Mary provocative. May it always be so for you. As an ordained person I wish, hope for, work toward helping others find out the truth you have discovered: “A ministry doesn’t have to exist from behind a pulpit; it can also exist across a dinner table.” Amen to that. And thank God many have discovered this truth.
As if the connection (Spirit) could ever be doubted, here is a post from Shawna Atteberry that furthers your thought about Martha and you and ministry. God calls the right person (the right woman) at just the right time to continue the work of salvation history. The 12th Century B.C.E. Career Woman: http://tinyurl.com/448zmmn on ShawnaAtteberry.com
In researching Mary & Martha I found an interesting comment on this chapter in Luke that I had never encountered, but will, I think, change my take on Mary & Martha from now on.
I found it first in the historically critical “The Acts of Jesus” (Robert W.Funk and the Jesus Seminar) and on looking further I found the same ideas in the older and more moderate “The Interpreters One Volume Biblical Commentary”. (I had expected to see something in “The Jerome Commentary” but it wasn’t there.)
It goes like this.
Mark, Matthew and Luke all write of the Two Great Commandments – to love God and Neighbor –
but Luke alone supplies two narratives, found only in Luke, to illustrate these commandments and explore their interaction.
One narrative is the parable of The Good Samaritan. Luke presents love of neighbor in relation to insistent religion.
Directly following is the narrative of Mary & Martha. Luke presents love of God in relation to insistent service.
Nice lesson, I think.