A sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Luke 10:38-42
There are many things to distract us today. We live in a world where literally anything can be found on a high speed computer that we carry in our pocket. We can connect with people we know (or don’t) who are far flung all across the globe. We can play games that are mindless, yet addictive, unending and yet nothing we can put down. We can learn how to do just about anything, or waste our day watching videos of cute animals (although, some may argue that isn’t really a waste). We are exposed to music, thought, art, and more that we would never have known of if not for the proliferation of access to the ever evolving and growing world of content that is available to us. Much of this serves to distract us from aspects of our day, our week, our year that we want to escape from. They offer a release valve, a way to let go of the stresses and expectations and fear and disgust that permeate much of our days.
Unfortunately, these platforms of escape also allow for many of those things we’d like to escape from to perpetuate, grow, find audiences that normalize extreme, unacceptable, hateful ideas. Our world full of possibilities and endless scrolling can trap us in a never-ending cycle of escapism and things to escape from. We’re never truly satisfied because we never truly leave the distractions behind, wading into the conflicts, wading into the discourse to make our voice heard, except it’s never really heard, it’s just bouncing around in an empty echo chamber that serves to only draw us in further to the distractions and draw us away from truly knowing each other, from truly hearing one another, from being able to see the world for how it really is rather than the narratives that are trumpeted by the current side in power.
I resonate with Martha today, not because I am always distracted or worrying about house projects, about wanting to make sure the chores are done, or because I have some shared sense of responsibility and duty that Martha is expressing today, but because I am so easily distracted from what is happening right in front of my face. For those who are familiar with the language of introvert/extravert (those who find fuel by being in quiet and calm or those who find fuel through the energy of being around others) I tend towards the introvert side for my personal refueling, even as I fully lean into the leadership style of an extravert.
This past week has been a bit of a personal space of retreat as Krista and the girls have been at a family reunion in Walla Walla, I have been able to do home projects and enjoy those distractions that speak to me without guilt that I’m missing something (outside of the guilt of not being with them this week). But, this is a rare space in my life that is much more defined by laughter, play, screams of frustration/pain by misbehaving toddlers, and everything else that comes from raising children. I do find myself though, being distracted by all the things that are at my fingertips. I want a space to escape to recharge a bit, but I do so through distraction that doesn’t really serve to help myself or anyone really. This is a reality of our world now. And, it’s much of what is happening in today’s gospel, giving into the distractions of the day, giving into the distractions of where we are drawn to focus our time and energy, when there is something so important happening right in front of our faces.
Not a lot of people had the opportunity to interact with Jesus in a private and personal way. Martha’s tasks that have her distracted are not unimportant, but the question remains, do they need to be the priority in this particular moment or are they distracting her from a truly rare and fleeting opportunity?
We have the benefit of knowing the theology that comes after this moment, not the least of which is the writing of Paul today where he writes, “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” This lens of understanding provides some of the basis for how we interpret the stories of our faith, not the least of which is this story of Martha and Mary.
But, imagine being Martha, without this framework of understanding of Jesus as first, as the focus of first things first, as someone worth putting your responsibilities and tasks and distractions on the back burner for even just one evening. It’s easy to see why Martha might be frustrated. Jesus is clearly an important teacher and healer, but he’s also a house guest and there are important tasks that must be completed in order to insure his stay is comfortable, acceptable. And here is Mary, shirking those responsibilities, because she is grasping that what is right in front of her is more than just a simple house guest but a rare opportunity to connect to something real, to connect to someone real, someone that will radically change the world.
I deeply resonate with Martha today, because it is so hard to hear the words of Christ today and simply accept them as reality and give up all of those distractions to simply be in the moment. Christ tells Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
And I can only imagine Martha going, “says, who?!”
That’s the reality of our world and our existence though, with really the only difference between us and Martha of 2000 years ago is that we have an exponentially greater amount of distractions available at our fingertips to where even the house work is brushed aside. So, how do we return our focus onto the moment at hand, how do we push aside those distractions and be fully present in the moment, to recognize Christ sitting in our living room, to recognize the rare and fleeting moments that we have the privilege of experiencing.
If we take the words of Paul and truly think of Christ as the first of all things, and begin to view our world through that lens, we can also begin to categorize our distractions between those things which draw us closer into relationship with Christ, and those things which push us further and further away from Christ. If we are constantly putting Christ first, then we begin to understand that Christ is present first and foremost in people, in creation, and that connecting with Christ in tangible and immediate means is ever more powerful than any connection that our distractions provide. I want to make a note here that, even as I speak of the world of distractions, I don’t think that many or even most of them are evil, and in fact can be very useful and beneficial to our “real world” interactions, but there is something different, immediate, about finding Christ sitting in our actual living room, rather than finding Christ existing in some ethereal cloud. So, that’s our challenge today, recognize when Christ is sitting in your living room and be like Mary in this story. Know that the distractions can wait until tomorrow. That tonight, you have a rare and fleeting opportunity to connect to the one and only Christ in a way that will never exist in exactly the same way again. Know that Martha isn’t being chastised here, know that Martha is us but not because we miss the one and only Christ with us, but because we allow our distractions to prevent us from seeing that the everyday, regular events in our home are where the one and only Christ comes to be with us. Don’t blame Martha for not realizing it was the Christ. Do know that we are accountable for when we miss, because we have the knowledge base to know better. Connect with Christ who is with us everyday and know that Christ is the first of all things, and from that launching point, we can grow and learn in our faith and belief.