Luke 10:38-42 Martha and Mary – a homily for 8am BCP Communion
Its not about the cake…
Poor Martha. She has done all the cooking and not unreasonably asks Jesus to prompt her sister Mary to help but she is told off by Jesus for doing so: ‘Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her’.
What is going on here?
We know a bit about Mary from Luke 8:2. It seems that seven demons were removed from her and she may even be the woman who anoints Jesus in Luke 7:36-39 who is described as ‘living a sinful life’. In any event she is the sort of woman about whom her much steadier sister Martha would have been praying for a long time. We can imagine her saying: ‘Please God turn my sister’s life around from her life of sin and disgrace for the family’ and wonderfully Jesus does just that he removes the demons which are afflicting her, and perhaps the pouring of expensive scent on his feet was a reaction to the freedom that she had found as a result.
Now Jesus is at her sister’s house and Mary is again at his feet wanting to absorb everything that he says. Not to miss a single syllable.
But Martha is narked, even though her prayers have been answered Mary has not become the good housewife that Martha wants her to be but rather the enthusiastic follower of Christ, as one speaker I have heard recently say. This story illustrates the principle ‘don’t complain if your prayers are answered’!
Perhaps Mary has even overtaken Martha in her devotion to Jesus.
So how do we see the Marys and Marthas of life?
Is Jesus saying that one role, the spiritual one, is more important than the practical?
But only one thing is needed, and that is worship of God, engaging with him.
But there is no reason why we cannot worship through baking; every ingredient that we pour into that bowl, every turn of the whisk, being held up to the Lord with him, for him. We can worship as we bake, as well as we can through singing and praying.
We all have gifts and none of them are any greater than the other.
But fulfilling the niceties of first century Judean hospitality or indeed 21st century English hospitality is not what matters, what is needful, because respectability itself, good hospitality can become a god which becomes more important than God, which becomes the thing that matters.
We must ask ourselves is what I am doing worshipping Christ, or impressing everyone with the respectability of my home, something which might have been in question, in Martha’s case given the behaviour of my sister Mary, before Jesus came on the scene….
When we approach Jesus, remember that he wants our hearts, not our best china…but we can bake with our hearts as well