Thursday, July 15, 2010

Replacing God with macaroni salad

This week's reading bugged me for the longest time.

It is Luke 10:38-42 and it is the story of when Jesus visited his friends Martha and Mary.

Martha was running around and making sure that Jesus was taken care of like a good host. Mary sat at Jesus feet and listened to him.

Finally, "Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.'"

I totally get it.

You see - I am Martha. There are lots of us who are Martha.

We run around and make sure that everyone is taken care of. Our families, at church pot-lucks, at scouts, at soccer. We Martha's are the ones running around and making sure that the food is on the table, that there are serving spoons, scooping out ice cream, helping the children with crafting, leading songs, sweeping up, cleaning up the spills, taking out the name a drudge task and we're doing it!

We need our Martha's. None of these church or social functions would work without us. The funny thing is that it always seem to be the same Martha's.

Have you noticed that?

And sometimes us Martha's get tired. We look up from running around and see the same folks sitting, drinking, and laughing and having a good time.

And sometimes we get mad! We feel like yelling, "Hey - you! Grab a mop and clean up the spill next to you! Lend a hand and get your kid's hand out of the punch bowl!"

So, I used to read the next part of the passage and take it personally.

"The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'"

What? That's your answer when I ask for help?

Lord, what are you saying? Are you saying I can just stop doing all this and take a seat? Aren't my hands and feet your hands and feet? Didn't you tell me to tend your sheep? If I don't put out the donuts, who is going to do it? That guy on the cell phone who doesn't even see his kid trying to stack every donut from the box on his plate?

But over time, I realized that's not what the Lord is saying.

He was not asking me to stop serving others - he just wants me to take a seat and listen to what he has to say.

While us Martha's are well intentioned in our service, sometimes we can fall into a trap. We get so wrapped up into the details of what needs to be done that we get tunnel vision and lose sight of the bigger picture.

We get anxious about whether there is enough oil for the candles that we only half-listen to the Gospel. We worry about whether there is enough macaroni salad at the social that we forget to be social.

While we are running around trying to serve the Lord, we forget that the Lord came to see and talk to us.

That's the better part that the Lord was talking about.

And that's why we need the Mary's to remind us. Sometimes we need the reminder that there is a purpose for our service - it is the Lord.

The trap for us Martha's is that we can get so wrapped up and anxious about our service that the service itself becomes the purpose. Without realizing it, we lose sight of why we are really serving and start to resent others for not serving the way that we do.

We replace God with macaroni salad.

And it is a bad trade.

Even us Martha's need to take the time to sit and listen to the Lord. He wants to spend time with us. And his words will refresh us. It will renew our spirit and remind us of our purpose. Spending time with God in devotion and prayer is what will restore our hope in the Lord and will renew our strength.

Yes we are busy serving - but making sure we have time with the Lord is what will allow us to soar on wings like eagles; run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint.

The macaroni salad will wait. Spend some time with the Lord - that's the better part that the Lord was talking about. He wants to spend time with you and he's just waiting for you to stop and sit. Take a breather with the Lord.

And then get back out there - that kid over there looks like he is making a pyramid out of donuts!


  1. You are a Martha, Phil. I can tell you are busy Marthaing, as I've missed your writing.
    I, too struggle with the Mary/Martha reading. As a fellow Marth I often wonder, if everyone is sitting around like Mary, who is going to make the dinners, clean up the mess etc., etc. You nailed it though with the explanation of not stopping serving, just pausing from time to time to fill up the old tank.

  2. Thanks Tami. Us Martha's have to stick together! 8-)