Jesus says to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
There is need of only one thing.
I made a discovery this week…
My discovery is that I think you can date yourself based on slogans for Coca-Cola!
I grew up with the song, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke….”
– the slogan from the 70’s.
If you’re younger than me, you might remember the slogan,
“Catch the wave…”
If you’re older than me, you might remember a slogan from the 50’s,
“Things go better with Coke.”
If you’re a lot older than any of us here, you might appreciate my favorite slogan;
it’s from 1906 –
“Coca-Cola: the great national temperance beverage!”
There’s one slogan which has kept coming back in different forms over the years, however.
And it’s this: “Coca-Cola: It’s The Real Thing.”
It’s the real thing.
Somehow I don’t think that’s the “one thing” Jesus was trying to get Martha to pay attention to.
Martha was so distracted by the details,
she lost track of the really real thing.
And who could have blamed her?
I get distracted when I have Dinner-for-8 at my house…
Martha has Jesus coming for dinner!
So there’s Martha…scurrying back and forth between the kitchen and the doorway.
“How many people are out there?”
“Peter didn’t tell me he was bringing his brother – I’ll need to set another place.”
“It’s going to be too crowded at the table!”
“Maybe we could set up another table outdoors.”
“But we don’t have another table.”
“I’m going to need 3 more fish – maybe I can get that boy to run to the market!”
“We’re going to run out of wine too!”
“I wonder if that water-to-wine thing really happened?”
“Maybe I’ll fill some jugs with water just in case.”
“Are there enough glasses though?”
“I’m going to have to use the one with the crack in it.”
“Do you smell something burning? … Oh no…the bread!”
“Why did I try this new recipe today of all days!”
“It doesn’t look quite right.”
“Look at the mess in this kitchen!”
“Did I remember to set out the water bowl for washing?”
“Where is that boy with the fish?”
“WHERE IS MARY?!”
And of course as she looks out the doorway,
she sees Mary.
Mary her sister.
Mary who is supposed to be helping her host this party.
Mary who isn’t doing anything to help.
Mary who’s sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening.
I’ll just interject here,
and say that I feel for Martha.
I have two sisters.
And of course when we were getting ready for company,
we would always compare who was doing more work.
But I dare say that none of us would dare sit down with company
while the others were preparing the meal.
So as one who has found her place in the kitchen quite a lot,
it sounds a bit harsh to hear Jesus scold Martha.
After all, if Martha wasn’t in the kitchen,
there would be no dinner.
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus says,
“you are worried and distracted by too many things…”
“there is need of only one thing…”
Martha’s distractions make her lose sight of the one thing
– the real thing.
What is the ‘real’ thing according to Jesus?
(It’s not Coke.)
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say
that ‘love’ is the real thing – love is the “one thing” Jesus is speaking about.
Some of you might know the story The Velveteen Rabbit.
Written in 1922 by Margery Williams,
it’s one of those children’s books which is really for adults.
In the book, a little boy receives a brand new stuffed bunny rabbit for Christmas.
About 2 hours later – the boy throws away the stuffed rabbit
for other newer toys.
While he is in the nursery cupboard, the stuffed rabbit
sees other toys pretending to be “real.”
The model boat pretends that it is real.
The wooden lion pretends that it is real.
But the rabbit has never seen a real rabbit before, and so
he asks the wise old toy horse,
“What is Real?”
The old horse replies,
“Real … is a thing that happens to you.
When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with,
but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
Love makes us real too.
Love is two-fold.
We become real first as we are loved and then as we love others.
Mary was seeking to become ‘real’ by sitting at Jesus’ feet,
receiving the love of God.
She was not doing anything,
but hearing and trusting those words given us at baptism,
“You are my beloved child.”
Martha was seeking to become ‘real’ by doing,
by preparing a meal for her guests and loving others.
Her fault was perhaps she was distracted and over-doing.
But both hearing and doing matter.
The great preacher Fred Craddock once said
“If we sensor Martha too harshly, she may abandon serving altogether.
And if we commend Mary too profusely, she may sit there forever.
There is a time to go and do.
There is a time to listen and reflect.
Knowing which and when is a matter of spiritual discernment.”
So this week, which do you need more of…
do you need more of Mary’s reflectiveness,
or do you need more of Martha’s activism?
Maybe you’ve just come from a week of volunteering for VBS
and your heart is still full with all that busyness…
is this week a time for listening then?
Or maybe you’ve just come from a week of vacation
and your mind is still and relaxed and refreshed…
is this week a time for action then?
Love is the real thing…
Love is heard and love is done.
May you hear love this week
if that is the “one thing” you need.
May you do love this week
if that is the “one thing” you need.
Love: It’s the real thing.