Jesus arrives for supper (Luke 10). By this time, he’s something of a celebrity, but he’s calling as a family friend. Martha goes into an adrenaline overdrive, setting out cakes and wine, basting the chicken, clattering the pots about, but Mary hangs around the honoured guest, chatting, laughing and listening. He’s the most interesting man she’s ever heard. Martha leans through the doorway, rolling her eyes, face red from the kitchen and clutching a tea towel. Jesus, she’s leaving me to do all the work. Tell her to grow up and get with the progamme.
And comes the reply: Martha, Martha, There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it! Staying close, listening to my words. You’re fussing unnecessarily.
It’s a mild rebuke, but rebuke it is.
The fact is that there are always people ready to run about and to do the stuff, but very few ready and able to sit tight and listen.
Its not that “active service” is unimportant, its just that we don’t get around to listening much. We get distracted by fuss. In the old version it says, beautifully, that we are “cumbered about with much serving.”
It’s difficult to truly comprehend that the things that last don’t come from our actions but from our listening. Your worship, love, devotion….. these things last for eternity. They won’t be taken away from you.
Sometimes –speaking from a perspective of continual illness- it’s easy to feel left on the shelf, as if the real world is just out there, where everything is happening. We get muddled, thinking that God has sent the sickness.
No: he hasn’t sent the sickness, but he uses it. He turns everything to good. So even my lying here, feeling low and useless, becomes a “a treasure of darkness” by God’s grace, where I can learn, finally, to be still and listen.
The right words come out of silence. Worship comes out of rest. Thank you Lord for where I am right now.