You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 11, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.
In this passage, Jesus is staying in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy taking care of everything–fussing around the house (oh sometimes I am such a Martha myself–I do like to fuss around and check off my to-do list, though I’m probably less efficient). Meanwhile Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him teach.
Martha got fed up (I can really relate to this, too) and complained that she was doing all the work while Mary sat there. She told Jesus to make her help out. Can you imagine the audacity?
Jesus tells her she’s worried about too many things, but Mary has made the right choice in what is important.
This is such a hard teaching for me. If women still often have the onus of the housework even today, imagine how much more was on them back in that day. And stuff does have to get done. Every day I have stuff I have to get done–in my case it’s usually my mother stuff that I have to do. Not only do I have the usual mom duties, but oen of my kids has a syndrome and more needs than the usual kid stuff. He gets medications four times a day, for instance. I have to get stuff done or the consequences could be very bad. But even so, how often do I fuss around getting less necessary stuff done, when I could be focused on the spiritual or even on the loving part of mothering rather than the fussing part? So often.
So I can see the story that way–an indictment of my Martha side. But I can also examine something else that is happening here. Martha is embracing the cultural norms of the day–women doing the housework while the men sit and talk. Mary is being more like the male disciples we usually hear about–learning from a great teacher. And Jesus doesn’t rebuke her for that choice but instead celebrates it. Often growing up it seemed like the church was all about patriarchy–women had their place and it was in subjection to men. But Jesus didn’t often promote that. He was radical in lifting up women in so many ways.
Yes, I can be convicted as someone who spends far too much time fussing with my to do list rather than dwelling in the presence of Christ, but I can also feel the liberation of a Christ who lifts us up in love and equality.