“Many Kinds of Faithfulness”
July 21, 2019 – Year C – 6th Sunday after Pentecost
Dear Friends in Christ,
I am Martha and I write to you in the name of Jesus Christ our teacher and friend.
I write because I have heard of the wonderful work that the United Church Women’s group has done on behalf of your church. The UCW is important in the life and work of the congregation. Women have been coming together in the name of Christ Jesus for Centuries – and that is good, and I am pleased.
One thing does concern me, and this concern is what I want to talk to you about.
I know you have read about me and my sister Mary, and I know that we have been talked about a great deal in circles of church women. Luke told you about us in his gospel – a least he told you one little portion of our story. Sometimes, I wish that he had told of some other happening in our lives, for the one he wrote about has been preached all over the world, and, I must admit, I feel that my sister and I have been misunderstood.
It seems that we have been used to create divisions amongst women according to the work they do – and this greatly saddens my heart. For years Mary and I have been compared, one against the other. I know that many discussions have taken place about which one of us was the better disciple. Many have suggested that Mary was the more faithful church woman because, from Luke’s story, she appeared to be the one most anxious to learn from Jesus. As for me, I have not been looked on favourably. Many have called me a fussy, complaining housekeeper, because, on that day, I was concerned about the practicalities of caring for my guests.
It seems that women after us have even been labelled ‘the Mary’s’ or ‘the Martha’s’ of their church depending on the way in which they have chosen to serve the one whom we all love.
I think much division and much guilt has arisen over this and I’m sorry that our names have been used in such a way.
As women, Mary and I both had inner conflicts about how best to serve our Lord. Our feelings of duty to our home and to our community seemed always to be in battle with our deepest heartfelt desires for ourselves.
Both of us had to make hard decisions about our lives and about our responsibilities and this is where Luke found me that day at Bethany – caught in a struggle of duty over desire. On that day, I chose duty. I do not believe I made a mistake – it was the way it had to be. Although Jesus teased me about it – he really did understand. We’d had many talks about this struggle, and I was surprised one day to realize that it was his as well.
Now, Mary and I are left with an image of ourselves and of our work in the church that is not accurate. Such images are hard to change, but I want you to know that Mary and I did not intend to divide women in the church on the matter of how best to serve in faith.
In real life, Mary and I were sisters – we did not compete – we loved each other. We were both called to be disciples and we both wanted what was best for our friend Jesus. Our only difference was that we sometimes meet his needs in different ways – in the ways in which we felt the most skilled and the most comfortable.
And so, you read about us again. I hope that you will not think of us as women in competition. Rather, I hope you will remember that we were sisters – birth sisters – but also sisters in faith. And women, you are our sisters as well. Men, we are your sisters, proud and faithful.
Women in your day have many ways to serve the church. You all have before you a wonderful opportunity to learn, to serve, to love, and to be loved. You all have the opportunity to grow in faith, together.
Peace be with you, my friends.
May the one who taught us to listen, to serve, to be together in laughter and in tears, be with you all.
Let’s hear our scripture text one more time, and listen to this new translation and see if there is new clarity for you.
(Luke 10:38-42 Living Bible )
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem[a] they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. 39 Her sister Mary sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked.
40 But Martha was the jittery type and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing.
She came to Jesus and said, “Sir, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “Martha, dear friend,[b] you are so upset over all these details! 42 There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her!” Amen.