Luke 10:38-42 “Taste of Forever”
July 19, 2013 – Caitlin Trussell
New Beginnings Church at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, Denver, CO
SIT AT YOUR FEET – Oil on Board
Bryn Gillette (artbybryn.com)
Used with permission.
Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Here’s how I’m afraid most of us hear the Martha story: “Hey, people, stop all that inconsequential doing, sit down and focus on Jesus!!! You are delusional in the way you think about what’s important for survival and the things that you’re doing are useless!!!!!” [I use multiple exclamation points so you readers hear this in a very loud, stern voice].
Now, is it possible that we focus on some things that might be unnecessary? Probably. But I don’t think that this is what the text is challenging us toward. And I don’t think this is the good news in this text. After all, the story of the Good Samaritan, just before this one today, finds Jesus telling the lawyer to “Go and do likewise” after the example of the Good Samaritan. The act of doing is simply not the problem. We are commanded by scripture to do all kinds of things that show love for neighbor and love for ourselves.
So if doing is not the problem then what is the problem in this story? Part of the problem seems to be Martha’s concern about what Mary is doing, or not doing, and trying to bring Jesus on her side against Mary. This is a common human action that actually does create problems among us and against each other. After all, if I can get Jesus on my side, then my side automatically puts me on the right side, and I can feel oh so much better about what I’m doing for and with Jesus.
So if Jesus is not invalidating Martha’s work, not siding against her, and is also not siding with her, then what is he doing? Here’s where the story of Martha and Mary gets interesting. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. This is a student’s posture, a posture of one who is learning and listening to someone who has something important to teach. This posture is reverent and focused and ready to receive. In the first century, this posture was one reserved for students in the temple, traditionally male students. So this posture, taken by Mary as she listens to Jesus, would be seen by first century people as radical. But this story is so much more than simply one that breaks down the gender norms of its day or even our day.
In verse 42, Jesus says that Mary’s experience of receiving what Jesus has given her “will not be taken away from her.” What Jesus gives her “will not be taken away from her…” All well and good for Mary, but what might this mean for us who live now, worried and distracted by many things today? It means that those who sit at Jesus’ feet are being given something eternal in the here and now. If something can never be taken away and is given here, now, today, then it is indeed a taste of forever here and now.
Did you notice that there is no “if” in our text today? What Jesus gives, what Mary receives, is for always. There is no contingent clause that sounds like Mary will only keep what’s been given to her if she performs a certain set of actions. This means that:
When Jesus comes to you in the proclamation of forgiveness by the power of the Holy Spirit , He will not be taken away from you.
When Jesus comes to you by the power of the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism by the power of the Holy, He will not be taken away from you.
When Jesus comes to you in bread and in wine by the power of the Holy Spirit, He will not be taken away from you.
Jesus remains with you today, tomorrow and forever…and you with him…which will not be taken away from you.
Thanks be to God!