Some of you have heard me tell of my time on silent retreat recently, where my commitment to God was to try to sit and listen for five days. And about half way through the time there was a severe thunderstorm which whipped up and rain began pounding and blowing in all of the open windows of the retreat center and dripping everywhere, and then the power went out, and smoke detectors went haywire and the elevator got stuck, and we all left our silence and began scurrying around, closing windows, wiping up water, looking for towels, checking on people-talking. And we could hear the sirens of an accident at the bottom of the hill. And sometimes we need to attend to important things. But after awhile, everything that could be done was done. But it was challenging not to keep looking for things to do or rehashing what had happened as we waited for power. But really there was nothing I could do. And I heard God saying in the midst of the busy-ness around- there is only one thing. And I felt drawn to enter the chapel. Even at a religious retreat center it was empty. And there I sat alone because there was one important thing. To sit and to listen to God and to pray for those who really did have things to be doing. Be here with me, sit. And it was hard because surely I should be doing something, or even could wonder or feel guilty that I was not doing something. But there I was in this holy moment with God doing what was most important. And wishing others were sitting there too.
And I wonder if that’s how Mary felt.
And the other day we had more time than we expected before Table Church and it was relaxed as we set up and could then instead of racing and saying, “Go ahead and start without me…” we could sit and welcome others as they came and become centered and show real hospitality. And I wonder if that’s how Mary felt.
And what Martha longed for. Because in that more Christ centered time on Wednesday it reminded some of us of that longing.
And I was struck again by a question that has been on my mind since that retreat as someone remarked how relaxing Wednesday night is because it is not like Sunday worship- here is the question.
Does Sunday morning feel like a Sabbath or like work? Do we come here and sit at the feet of Jesus together or are we, all of us, individually distracted by many things?
I’d like to invite you into a space by starting with our eyes closed. And I want to ask a series of questions. If what I ask sounds true for you raise your hand, and when what I say does not sound true, you may put your hand down.
Do you make a point of coming to Sunday worship when you have something to do?
But find you’d rather not when you don’t?
Does it feel like coming on Sunday is running the gauntlet of people looking to give you something to do?
Do you find rest here?
Has someone ever said- “Sorry to bother you but… and then finished by talking
Or told you that the reason they are doing this now is because they are not sure when they will talk to you other than Sunday morning?
Do you feel distracted from spending time with Jesus here?
Do you feel that way today?
Hello, fellow Marthas- fellow distracted ones pulled in lots of directions.
All of our distractions that we brought with us and the ones we met here challenge our ability to be really present with God and with each other.
So now I want to invite you to enter a little deeper into a space where we are all here together but where I encourage you to stop and be still with God. For a minute. …….
Was it easy to be present in this moment with God?
Martha is busy and distracted- in many directions. She actually wants community ( why I am doing this alone?) and wants to be valued and loved. But she looks to her own actions as the center. Jesus is not mocking her, or belittling her, but he is trying to break the cycle to invite her to step out of herself. Because he loves her.
And he loves her and values her just as much as Mary, and he loves and values her for her own sake. And he longs to meet her and draw her to both himself and her sister.
It’s not that what she is doing is not worthwhile or even important, it’s just not critical- it does not define her or her worth, and it does not give love or life. And Jesus knows the time with him is short. What Jesus knows is that he is headed to Jerusalem and he will not be with them soon. There is only awhile. And his clarity is like that of a person who has learned there is not much time to live who can see that all the titles, or achievements by themselves are not a life. Real relationships matter. I once met with a person who was always a doer, always giving and sending cards and striving to fill everyone’s needs. But when that was no longer possible, there was a sadness- all those years “I thought if I did, that people would do in return. I sent hundreds of cards every year, I only ever got a couple.” All those deeds did not make anyone love deeper. And all the time away from family had not created a life. And over and over there was a refrain- look what I did- why didn’t others? Why don’t people do for me? I never got to rest.” Our time here can feel like that too.
Whether you are distracted by many things here or many things elsewhere or both, Jesus says- you don’t need to do that for me to love you. And you do not need to feel alone. Come, sit, share, listen, learn. Celebrate! The most important thing is to be in my presence. To know the love, the peace, the forgiveness and the healing Jesus brings into our midst and to share it with each other.
I invite you into a new way that I think will help us live together into the life God intends. Where our Sabbath doesn't feel like too much work. Fellow distracted ones, our time with Jesus on Sunday morning is limited. So let’s not transact business here in God’s house on the Sabbath. Let’s not track down greeters, lectors, ushers and others, or exchange papers or hand notes. There are 6 other days, and 166 other hours, each week, and many ways to communicate. When this is our focus, we miss those holy moments.
Jesus is inviting us to see our time here is precious, to listen to God, to share life with each other. To step away from distractions and into a holy moment. To rest in the word and celebrate at the table together. What give us real life and love is such a Christ centered presence. Come enter this moment- we need it and God’s deepest desire is to give this to us.