6 Pentecost, July 21, 2019
“Now as they went on their way, [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman name Martha welcomed him into her home” (Luke 10:38). Martha then began preparing a meal for her guest, engaging in “much serving.” Despite the rebuke from Jesus when Martha complained that her sister Mary had left her to do all the work alone, Martha’s work must be understood, at least in part, as a customary expression of what it meant “to welcome him into her home.” To welcome is to extend gestures of hospitality, to provide food, and drink, and rest. Hospitality is a virtue, and was especially cherished in the world of the Bible. Similarly, when father Abraham saw three men standing near him as he sat at the entrance of his tent, he ran to them, bowed before them, and pleaded that they accept his offering of water and bread, a calf, and curds and milk. In these three persons, Abraham was serving the Lord who appeared to him just as Martha served the Lord Jesus by her labor.
Martha did not, however, move about her tasks with purpose and calm. She “was worried and distracted by many things” (Luke 10:41). She was also embittered against her sister Mary who chose to sit at the Lord’s feet. Leaping to the present moment, “worried and distracted and embittered” describe a psychological disease of our time. The energy spent flitting from one thing to another robs people of their time and attention and makes them incapable of discerning what does and does not matter. The one thing necessary, the better part, the hearing of divine instruction is lost entirely among countless errands and electronic devices and chasing after the wind. Losing the capacity to hear the real and true voice of God, people are losing their minds.
There are things to be done, but there are also things to be left undone. Duties and the obligations of love may at times be overwhelming, heartbreaking, and all-consuming. This is a cross to bear for love. Nonetheless, it is easy to trick oneself into believing that impetuous activity of every kind is necessary when it clearly is not. Do what love requires; but no more. Do it with devotion and calm, if possible. Find time to behold and listen.
Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying; literally, she kept listening to his word. The Lord appeared to Abraham as he sat at the entrance of his tent. After delivering food to his guests, “[Abraham] stood by them under the tree while they ate” (Gen. 18:8). Abraham stood by and looked; Mary listened. Beholding and listening are essential spiritual practices. Unless absolutely prohibited by real obligations, time should be given to this contemplative exercise, or rather, contemplative resting.
Why is it so important to behold the Lord and listen to the Lord? Names and titles tell why this is so important and so good and so beautiful. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible. … He is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. … For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:15-20). Behold the Son of the Most High. Listen to him.
Look It Up: Ps. 52:8
Think About It: The olive tree in the house of God is not busy.