I often think of Martha as a beautiful example of a pastor’s heart.
Her home was open to Jesus.
Her heart was open to him.
She wanted the very best for him.
Jesus loved visiting her home. He loved staying there. He loved eating her food, listening to her and conversing with her.
She was warm, she understood how to create space at the table for one more.
I can see her house filled with beautiful cushions and rugs, earthenware cups and plates. Candles lit, the smell of bread baking, herbs drying and the beautiful aroma of freshly picked vegetables.
Yet, this one time when Jesus comes to visit, Martha is anxious, frustrated, and angry.
Her soul is unravelling.
There is something very restful and therapeutic about chopping, dicing and slicing. The stirring, the mixing. The kitchen is a place where our soul can slow down, our minds switch off and we begin to find rest and quiet from the busy day.
But when our soul is anxious, stretched, hurried, hard and busy, the place it often unravels is in the kitchen.
Have you ever noticed how many times our soul erupts in the kitchen?
Lovers fight, husbands are accused of being useless, grumbles about children living entitled erupt.
There is something about the kitchen when our soul has gone too long and too hard it erupts.
On this particular day, Martha’s soul unravels.
We don’t’ know why.
Maybe she has just gone too long, too hurried, too hard.
But on this particular day she is anxious, frustrated and angry and her soul erupts in the kitchen.
She lashes out at her sister’s disengagement with the work of hospitality.
Disengagement is confronting. It’s painful, it’s unfair, it’s frustrating. It creates anxiety in our soul and we get angry because we can feel powerless and not enough.
Disengagement is real, it surrounds the work of pastors. It confronts our labour 7 days a week, our identity, our self-worth and it drains our soul.
To Martha’s heart, standing there in the kitchen chopping, dicing, stirring and baking, her sister’s disengagement was painful to her soul.
Martha’s heart’s intent to deliver this beautiful meal to Jesus, to make him feel warm and welcome was breathtakingly beautiful. Like the work of pastors day in, day out.
Martha’s heart was struggling to be seen and heard. She was run off her feet trying to love.
On the inside her soul unravels and she begins to whisper, “I’m not enough.”
Our souls often whisper those kinds of sounds, don’t they?
I’m never going to be enough.
I’m never going to be good enough.
I’m never going to be successful enough.
I’m never going to be extraordinary enough.
I’m never going to be certain enough.
I’m never going to be …
I love this quote by Lynne Twist
“For me and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining and worrying about what we don’t have enough of… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack…This internal condition of scarcity, this mind set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life. Scarcity is the never enough problem.”
Martha didn’t have enough…
Her soul was unravelling…
Mary’s disengagement confirmed the workings of her soul.
I am not enough
“Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself.”
How many times have I prayed that prayer?
“Jesus, don’t you care that whilst my husband has had a stroke, I have to do all this extra work? Can’t you see the stretch? Please heal his brain now so I can have him back again.”
“Jesus, can you please tell so and so that they should take on kids ministry!”
“Jesus, can you please tell so and so that they are really annoying me with all their pastoral needs and they need to grow up and take responsibility for their decisions? I’m not social services. I don’t’ have enough time for all of this.”
“Jesus, can you please bring in some real workers, not consumers or messy Christians, but some real workers who can help me out!?”
“Jesus, can you please put a bomb underneath the pants of the so called “mature Christians” and tell them to come and help out?”
“Jesus, can you please bring in some non-Christians, can they get properly saved and become mature fast so they can become real workers for the harvest?”
“Jesus, don’t you care about the load you’ve placed on me? The struggles I have? Your people are disengaged we need revival, please hurry up. I can’t do all this work by myself.”
How many times have I uttered Martha’s cry?
Jesus simply invites Martha to the table.
I don’t think Jesus was giving a tick to contemplative spirituality and a cross to a spirituality of action and deeds.
I don’t think he was saying to Martha that she lacked faith. She was the first one to come out to see Jesus when Lazarus died. She is the one who will share with Peter the honour of boldly declaring Christ’s Messiahship minutes before Lazarus returns to life.
Jesus isn’t chiding her for cooking or being hospitable.
Jesus isn’t saying Mary has more faith than Martha.
He’s simply inviting her come to the table.
You can’t find me in your pots and pans at the moment.
You don’t have to live with this frustration, anxiety, this feeling of not being enough. You don’t’ have to live angry because of Mary’s disengagement.
Come, leave all the busy, all the hurry, all the hard, and come to the table. Let’s chat.
You’re a little messy, a little different, a little wrong, a little stretched, a little hurried, a little unravelled – but that’s okay because I have space at the table for you. Here, sit here Martha I want to see you. I want to love you. I want to nourish you. I want to care for you.
I wonder how she felt as her soul began to slow.
So many times as pastors we think our mistakes and sins are beyond repair. Our faults and failures are too deep and too ugly. The voice of shame speaks loud and we repeat over and over in our heads what we have done wrong.
But Martha took a chance. As she slowed, I’m sure her anxiety and frustration came tumbling out and she knew she’d stuffed it. I’m sure that even as Jesus spoke, her heart was filling with shame because she knew she’d gone too long, too hurried, too…
Yet she took a chance. She accepted the invitation to come to the table and accepted the kindness that was offered, the deep seeing Jesus offered.
I wonder, as her soul slowed and as she listened to Jesus, if the voice of shame didn’t begin to recede…the voice of not being enough receded just enough for her to hear the voice of truth, the voice of hope, the voice of Christ himself and the very presence of Christ got planted a little deeper within her.
The table is powerful.
The table is where we are seen and heard. It is where we can whisper our story and create memories. It is where we can laugh and where we can cry. It is where we can be real. It is where we are enough. It is where we can just be. It is where time passes and memories become memorials of growth and presence, of grace and love.
Body of Christ broken for you.
Blood of Christ shed for you.
Every time we eat the bread and drink the wine, Jesus says, “Remember me!”
Martha discovered the power of communion when she sat down at the table and received what Christ had for her. In her sitting, in her coming, in her being, she connected at the table. She accepted the different kind of food that Jesus was offering her soul. A food that nourished her soul, a diet that told her she was enough. Food and wine whispering, “You are enough. You are my beloved – a little crazy, a little messy but my beloved.”
Sit, eat your fill.
As pastors, I believe the communion table is for us.
If for no one else, it is for us.
We are to gulp large amounts of wine and tear great big pieces of bread and practice gluttony, to not leave until we have had our fill.
I think as Martha sat at Jesus’ table and began to eat the bread and the wine, allowing him to be present to her in the midst of her ‘too far, too hard, too long, too hurried, too…’ I think her soul would have started clamouring “He’s here! He’s here! God is here and He is good and I am enough!”