Monday, September 17, 2007
Devotion: Martha and the Machine
I have staff devotion duties tomorrow, here it is for your viewing pleasure.
-Luke 10: 38-42
Yesterday I was able to spend a lot of time getting ready for my wedding. It’s almost exactly 9 months away. There is a lot to worry about! For good reason! It will be the single biggest day of my life thus far. It is a big deal. But I believe the same thing that happened to Martha can happen to me with my wedding and it can happen to EUMC and it can happen to the church as a whole.
But before we look at the big picture, lets stick with what I started with- weddings. Frankly, as special and wonderful an occasion it will certainly be, it can also just get plain ridiculous. Have you ever picked up a bridal magazine? You need two hands. This will probably be a gender bias question, but have you ever stepped foot in a David’s Bridal? It’s like a matrimonial wal-mart. Here’s something a little more “male oriented”: over/under 23,000 for the average cost of a wedding? Over. According to a May 2005 article on CNN.com the average wedding costs $26,327. That means in 2005 over $125 billion was spent on weddings. That’s about the size of Ireland’s Gross Domestic Product.
A little out of control isn’t it? Let’s not even get into the cultural impact of shows like “Bridezilla” and movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. What has been a right of passage throughout human history- two people joining their hearts for life- has morphed into a cultural and economic juggernaut. Somewhere along the line what should be “the main thing” about weddings (the bride and groom’s commitment before God and loved ones) becomes almost a footnote to the endless list of things to be bought, arranged, registered, and coordinated. It is so easy to get caught up in the pressure to have the huge cake, the flawless flowers, the magnificent string quartet, the most elaborate meals, and the most extensive guest list. But all of that is crap in comparison to the whole point of the wedding. The hype and preparations for the wedding can turn it from something simple and beautiful into a machine that monopolizes all your energy and runs on money.
So lets go back to the context of Jesus. Scripture tells us that he’s traveling, and that Martha opens her home to him and his followers. Obviously this is a big deal. There are preparations to be made! Her sister is listening to Jesus teach, giving him her attention instead of helping Martha with all that needed to be done in light of the occasion. This gives Martha reason to be a little miffed. Her sister is hanging out with the guests and leaving all the work to Martha! Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” She protests Jesus “Tell her to help me!”. When my sister and I were young, that two syllable name of mine was like a rallying cry: Aaa-duuuuuuum! This is probably a stretch, but I can just hear Martha: Je-suuuuus! Tell her to help me!
But Jesus flips the script and tells Mary to relax, that “only one thing is needed”. To sit at the feet of Jesus. After all, what good is making all the preparations and missing out on what all the preparations are for in the first place? Mary chose what would last, which trumps even Martha’s best intentions.
I believe it’s the same with my wedding, and it’s the same with the church. Even with good intentions, we can become so focused on all the preparations that we miss the point. I can focus energy on my ego and on how I want to be perceived at my wedding instead of focusing on my love for Sarah and the celebration of our commitment to each other. Martha focused on getting the house ready or whatever she was doing instead of spending time with Jesus.
As a church we are to be building the Kingdom of God. I believe even with best intentions, we can instead be running a machine. Now the tough part becomes sorting and discerning the kingdom from the machine. So let us not forget in our effort to serve God that we must always chose to sit at Jesus feet, may we have the wisdom to focus on things that will last and gently lead others out from the machine and into the kingdom.