Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
How is Jesus going to complete His work on earth? I am no missiologist but as an observer it would seem the plan is; to send more people to seminary so more churches will be planted or built so that more sermons can be peached; more bible studies can be held; more programs can be sponsored; more missionaries can be sent; more crusades can be sponsored; more books can be written. In other words, we will add more gears to the existing machine and better lubricate the ones that are already whirling. Let’s call this Plan “a”.
Perhaps there is another overlooked possibility for furthering the kingdom of God. “Now as they traveled along they entered a village (a network of people) and met someone who opened their home to them“.
I have often wondered how the early church grew so rapidly without a bible, without books, without nearly so many churches and 501-c3’s. They didn’t have large buildings where they could assemble. They didn’t have the modern means of transportation and communication we consider “essential” to the completion of Christ’s work on earth. So, what was it that the early church had that God used so dramatically in the beginning?
In our passage, we just have Jesus, His friends, a house and a gracious host. What Jesus and company found in that house is what He found in every house he entered; people separated from God by sin and busily trying to make life work out somehow. It probably always involved people comparing themselves with each other and tormenting themselves and everyone around them with their protests against the inequities they perceive. One way people try and make life work is by striving to arrange their circumstances (or society’s if they are ambitious) to meet their own standards of fairness. A little fairness, that’s not too much to ask is it?
“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
Here is another example of a question that (in spirit) is really an indictment. This is really kind of rich isn’t it? “Jesus, don’t You care?” I see Jesus, fully knowing the predicament of Martha’s heart, totally without offense, lovingly saying (perhaps with his hands on her shoulders, looking into her eyes), “Martha, Martha, you are so worried and bothered about so many things..“. In my imagination, I do not see Martha going off in a huff at Jesus’ penetrating observation. It may have stung her but I picture her drawing security from these hands which were the most loving thing that had ever touched her. I see her drawing rest from those eyes which she knew saw all there was to her but accepted her as His very own friend.
It may have also stung Martha that Jesus used her sister Mary who was the person she had (incorrectly) sighted as the source of her misery as the reference point for her repentance. Jesus was saying, “Martha, your sister is not your problem she is your example.” Ouch!
There is another element that factors in to this story and perhaps into the story of the church’s early influence. It was Mary herself, the sister who had disengaged herself from the busyness around her. Jesus was saying, “Martha, take a good long look at your sister. While Mary has provoked worry about the necessity of your service, I am telling you that she has chosen the only really “necessary” thing, which is simply “sitting at My feet and listening to Me“. Mary chose Me.”
God has done much with it and by all means press on with Plan “a” if that is where God has called you but let’s not overlook Mary’s plan that involves you and I right now. Let’s cal it Plan “A”. Don’t we have everything available to us that was in this story? It makes me think that it was perhaps this scene and millions like it occurring wherever 2 or more had gathered sharing “their story” which when energized by the Holy Spirit, was the spark of the early church – explaining its explosive growth.
I think Martha left that encounter with Jesus as a woman with a transformed heart; one armed with a story about the loving correction, the goodness and the power of God. She, along with her friends, who likely had their own stories, engaged their friends and neighbors (more networks) as “they were traveling along” just living their lives out in their natural contexts.
Father, in the war You are waging to liberate Your sons and Your daughters from the tyranny of our own delusions of fairness, raise up these catalytic types who will sit at Your feet and listen. Confront us where we are busy and distracted. Set us free from our bitternesses born of comparison. Whether we are Your Plan “a” or “b” or even “c”, release us all into this world with fresh stories of Your intimate involvement in our affairs. Help us to courageously choose the truly essential thing. Use us to provoke life in all our various networks, Amen.
An Army of Ordinary People is book by Felicity Dale that gives modern day accounts of beleivers who are breaking out of the old wineskin of church attendance into a new one of being the Church. If you would like a copy, let me know.