Anglican Morning Devotion, 7 February 2022 Anno Domin
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:38-42; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
In the modern church, there seems to be a lot of make-work and much ado about nothing. In some, the color of the carpet or drapes could lead to a church split sooner than a dispute over biblical truth. That is unfortunate and cast an appalling shadow over the testimony of the church. Individual church members often carve out their own little strongholds of responsibility and resent anyone coming who may be more qualified to fill those duties.
Mary and Martha, two sisters of Bethany, serve as a good example of misplaced emphasis in the church. But let me say at the beginning that both were dedicated friends to the Lord – it is only true that one bore a greater portion of attention to Christ than the other, while the other focused more wholly on service and what she perceived as necessary preparations to honor Him.
Martha was work-oriented, and certainly there was no dishonor in Martha’s efforts to prepare suitable meals and accommodation for the Lord. But Mary, on the other hand, focused more completely on all that the Lord spoke. She was ever found at the feet of Jesus hanging on to every word and syllable. It was Mary of Bethany who anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive ointment and wiped them with her hair. This was His anointing for the Passion He would soon suffer on the cross. In our text today, we again see Mary at the feet of Jesus while Martha worried herself in the preparation of the meal. Which was more important?
When the brother of the two women, Lazarus, lay dead in his tomb, it was Mary who came running and again fell at the feet of Jesus though filled with sorrow and remorse for her brother. Martha had more calmly carried on with practical inquiries concerning the Lord’s delay in coming.
Now, on the occasion cited in the text, Jesus came to visit the home of His friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Martha was busy preparing the meal while her sister, Mary, sat at the feet of Jesus listening intently to His teaching. Martha, however, considered her busy efforts in contrast to the relaxed position of Mary at the feet of Jesus. She became frustrated and felt it to be unfair that she must labor while her sister sat at the feet of the Lord. There was likely even a certain amount of jealousy involved. Martha brought her complaint to Jesus.
Jesus tenderly, but firmly, responded, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Sometimes we of the Church today are too mindful of many things to the detriment of our focus on Christ and Him crucified! There will always be moments for attention to the lesser things in life – even meal preparation; but while Christ is in the House at worship time, or in the daily by-ways of life, we must concentrate on Him and His Word to the exclusion of every other minor consideration.
An old friend of mine, Bishop Garth Neel of Canada, once gave a sermon at St. Peter’s that had a profound impact on my mind, and probably many others, too. He began by making this point which has been emblazoned on my memory. He said “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Well, that was so simple that even I could grasp it. So could a child. But Martha had not kept the main thing – the Bread of Heaven – the main thing but, instead, thought the bread she was preparing was of more urgent concern.
We worry about the building maintenance of the church, we want to make it grow where Christ may not intend it so, we want to furnish it with the most modern facilities. We may even worry that it is not as fine and glorious as the church down the road. In so doing, we omit the weightier things – the concerns of the soul. We will do well to heed the Words of our Lord:
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)