Martha vs. Martha

Yesterday’s sermon highlighted a contrast I’ve seldom thought about: this is the same Mary & Martha as in the story in Luke 10:38-42. You know, the one where Martha is busy serving and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Jesus has to give Martha a verbal shake because as she serves, she is forgetting the reason for her service–Him! Jesus. The man sitting in the middle of her living room. Not only that, but Martha attempts to interrupt Mary in her teaching posture and move her away from Jesus. She’s judging Mary in her worship and staying out of worship herself.

Contrast this with Martha in John 12. All that is said of her is “she served.” This statement rings with beauty and simplicity. Martha is doing exactly the same thing she was doing in the first story, but in this instance she is serving without distraction; she is serving in a way that recognizes the reason for the service, namely Jesus.

This is a well-timed reminder as we move towards Holy Week. I don’t consider “service” one of my spiritual gifts, but I do a lot of it at this time of year. There are two ways I can do it: I can serve quietly and attempt to remember the reason for the service. Or I can get stressed with all the things that need doing and very quickly forget the reason that I serve.

Do you think it matters? Often, I convince myself it doesn’t. Things need to get done in order for other things to get done, right? But there are apparently two people to whom it mattered how Martha served. Herself and Jesus.

My prayer right now is that I worship in the Lord in the beauty of holiness, which can only come from right worship. Jesus, be the center and let my gaze be ever on you. Amen.



  1. […] Martha vs. Martha | Light of Christ Anglican Church. […]

  2. Fr. Eirik’s sermon spoke about how and what we decide to lavish our attention upon and how it can be a form of worship. It had to do with a woman bathing Christ’s feet in a costly jar of nard.

    This past week, I watched my already too busy husband fit into his schedule the task of building a set of steps for our sanctuary. Had I been assigned this task, I would have hastily built something that would have done the job, been completed as quickly as possible and resulted in something that served the purpose but could also have been easily converted into scrap for a great bonfire. I would have been impatient, eager to get the steps done so that I could get on to other things.

    My husband, however, chose a different route, one that initially confused me and then fascinated me. I thought the steps were finished when he first asked me to look at them. He then started to explain all the other details that he was going to add. I challenged him, reminding him of his many other jobs and he calmly explained that these were steps for our church and for the Lord. He then proceeded to add various pieces of trim that made the steps look like something meant for a custom made home instead of a gym converted into a sanctuary. He spent time countersinking the nails and then filling the holes with perfectly matching putty so that once he sanded the steps they would be a single spotless hue. He spent days sanding the steps while I secretly thought about all the feet in shoes that would never be able to tell how smooth the steps felt beneath their soles. I also secretly questioned his devotion to this task. Lastly, he stained the steps to try and better match them to the gym floor so that they would not stand out too much against the background. My internal reaction by this time was to think “Why not let them stand out? Look at all the work and time you put into them. Why on earth would you want to hide them? People are just going to scuff them up. They would look great in our home!” My husband just kept on patiently and lovingly put his hands to the task, asking nothing from anyone, and wondering aloud if there was more he could do because these were steps meant for worship.

    I have to admit that it took me all week to finally get the point-the sermon in my husband’s hands- his gift of a jar of costly nard to the Lord. He didn’t care what others thought and knew that the best offering is the one made with love, intention and the best you have to offer. Thank you God that I was not in charge of building the steps. And thank you for the reminder of lavish love that I will see each time someone steps to the alter on the new set of stairs and each time someone leaves a scuff mark as they go to receive communion.

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