I like to wonder – about a lot of things, really. Especially when faced with things I don’t understand. Rather than just throw up my hands, I tend to approach situations with a question: what if? It doesn’t always help, but sometimes it will give the opportunity for some things I hand’t though of to come to the surface.
So I did that with the story of Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary. I struggle with this story a bit because there are just so many layers. Not the least of course is simply wondering, is this something that really happened, or is it a story that was made up to address challenges between a diaconal ministry (caring for the poor and destitute – the Martha role) as opposed to a preaching ministry (exploring and grappling with the scripture – the Mary role). Both have their place – yet some suggest there was tension between these two back then, and so the story was presented to give more weight to the preaching role. (And, as an aside, isn’t it fascinating that – if this story was “invented” to address that dilemma – that the two pastors here are represented by women?)
Anyway, I approach this brief story and never quite know what to do with it. So I decided to imagine verse 43. Without assuming anything sinister about why it was no longer there, I decided simply to imagine that there had once been a verse 43 and for reasons inexplicable it had fallen off the page. What might it have been?
Of all the various possibilities I have come up with, the one that tends to resonate the most goes like this: Jesus said, “Why don’t you join us, Martha? And after a while we’ll all make dinner together.”
I like to think that both women are being respected and honored for the choices they made. I like to think there is a place and time for sitting and learning, and a place and time for doing and serving. Sometimes the places and times overlap, and that’s okay. Sometimes there’s conflict over which needs to be done first, and all manner of things can rush in to try and grab our attention.
Perhaps most of all, though, I like to imagine that Jesus would hep us resolve these conflicts – and I think would often help us do that by finding ways in which the most people can participate in the most activities, by sharing responsibilities together.
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