July 15, 2019
By Sue Foster.
The Rev. Dr. Sue Foster is the pastor of the East Woodstock Congregational Church and author of Retreats to Go: Twelve Creative Programs that Renew and Refresh. She blogs at www.fosteringyourfaith.com
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things…”
Maybe Martha needed to read what popped up on my Facebook feed this morning. The picture depicted someone gently wrapped in a blanket (or prayer shawl?) cradling a ceramic mug with a caption that read, “You have permission to rest. You are not responsible for fixing everything that is broken. You do not have to try and make everyone happy. For now, take time for you. It’s time to replenish.” Maybe instead of chiding, Martha needed an invitation to sit down, breathe, and take a moment for herself.
Maybe that’s what Jesus was trying to say as he reprimanded Martha for not joining her sister Mary as he shared stories meant to touch hearts and replenish weary spirits. Or maybe Jesus was recognizing a soul sister in Martha. Maybe her inability to enjoy a little bit of quiet time hit a little too close to home for Jesus. Perhaps Jesus saw in Martha his own valiant attempts to slip away and claim some quiet time. As Jesus views Martha’s incessant attention to detail, he sees someone who cares deeply and who rarely (ever?) encouraged to rest. It takes one to know one.
Jesus knows the hard work required to find time with God. He knows what it is like to rise “early in the morning while it was still very dark” (Mark 1: 35) in order to slip away unnoticed by those who would demand more of his time and attention. He knows the challenges of carving out time to immerse himself in silence and listen for God’s voice. And even when he did successfully manage to squeeze in time to pray and simply enjoy uninterrupted time with God, it would not be long before “Simon and his companions hunted for him” (1:36) with the unhappy announcement, “Everyone is searching for you” (1:37).
Jesus knows exactly what Martha is up against. I wonder if that is why his voice sounds a bit sharp to me; he has also struggled with the ability to break away, to sit down, and to rest.
In my imagination, I picture Jesus urging Peter, James, and John to step in to lend Martha a hand so she is not burdened with the task of caring for this band of men single-handedly. That, unfortunately, does not happen but in my mind’s eye I imagine the weary solitary worker being heartened and encouraged as others roll up their sleeves to help out.
Since that team-building moment doesn’t occur, it makes me wonder if Jesus is extending Martha an invitation to be comfortable with less. Less perfection. Less worrying about every contingency. Less being in charge of all details. Less Lone-Rangering. Less “I have to do everything myself” mentality. Less “I have always done it this way.” Less “it has to be done right now.”
Perhaps Jesus’ words offer an opportunity to receive more. More downtime. More time learning with others. More emphasis on being instead of doing. More time for questions and reflection. More listening, wondering, exploring. More Sabbath.
Jesus is inviting us closer. Can we say yes?
Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Help me say yes to your invitation to rest and renewal. Amen.
(inspired by the hymn “Precious Lord, Take my Hand” by Thomas A. Dorsey)
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lordship Community Church UCC
First Church of Christ Congregational, UCC
Taftville Congregational Church, UCC
Terryville Congregational Church, UCC
Thompson Congregational Church, UCC
This Week in History:
July 20, 1969 (50 years ago) Neil Armstrong, and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first people to land on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Six hours after landing, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. The two slept one night in the lunar module before returning to the Apollo command module for the 3-day voyage home.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Starting With Scripture: July 15, 2019 , by Sue Foster.