The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It’s not always about doing something.


Pentecost 9, Proper 11C
Luke 10:38-42


In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

One of my favorite television shows of all time is The West Wing.  Partly because it’s mostly good writing, partly because it feeds my inner political junkie.  But every summer - when most current television shows are on hiatus - I dust off my West Wing DVD and watch the series again.  I can’t seem to get enough.

Pretty much every situation I encounter seems to have a West Wing reference that works for it.

This week, as I read the Gospel lesson, I thought of a scene with Leo McGarry - the White House Chief of Staff.

It was one of those awkward, in-between moments in the Oval Office - a speed bump between crises and decisions - when the President asked what he should do next.  Leo says, “This office isn’t always about doing something.  Sometimes it’s about not doing something.”

Last week, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the moral of the story was, “Go and do…”  Just as the Samaritan had cared for the one who wasn’t like him - just as he had done more than anyone would have expected him to do - we should do the same.

Go and do.

But this week, the moral of the story is a little different.

It’s less about doing, and more about being.  It’s not always about doing something.

Martha had welcomed the traveling Jesus into her home.  As soon as he arrived, she set about to the many tasks of entertaining.  But her sister, Mary, wasn’t so consumed.  Instead, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening.

Martha must have been fuming.  There she was, doing everything.

But following Jesus isn’t always about doing something.

In our culture, doing is highly valued.  “What do you do?” - we ask when we meet someone.  We celebrate people who can prove they’re busy.

But faith isn’t always about doing something.  Sometimes it’s enough to simply be in the presence of Christ, and to soak it all in.  Sometimes we do so much that we miss the bigger picture.

So last week, the moral of the story was to “go and do”.  This week, the moral of the story is to not do quite so much.

Living as Christians means taking both lessons to heart.  We are the hands and feet of Christ in the world.  It is our duty to do the work of Christ for our neighbors: to feed the hungry, and to heal the sick, and to comfort the afflicted.

But sometimes we get “worried and distracted by many things”.  Doing the work of Christ is essential, but when it devolves into worry and distraction, we’re missing the point.

Sometimes, the “better part” is sitting at the feet of Christ and taking it all in.  Sometimes we’re called to “go and do”, but sometimes, what we need most is to learn, and to listen, and to love.

They both are a part of a full Christian life.  Just as it wouldn’t represent the fullness of the Christian life to sit apart from the world always in contemplation and prayer, so, too, does it not represent the fullness of the Christian life to always be busy.  We need both.  Last week AND this week.

The challenge is to lead a life of sufficient discernment so that we know which job is when.  When to do, and when to be.

Jesus’ lesson was probably frustrating for Martha.  When we’re wrapped up in doing, we often can’t even think of anything else other than getting done.  Maybe she had a “light bulb” moment right then, where it all made sense, but more likely, she found the whole exchange really annoying.  It probably wasn’t until much later - maybe even years later - that she figured it out.

Maybe sometime after he’d died she began to realize that moments with Christ are fleeting.  They shouldn’t be taken for granted.  They’re a rare gift.  When one comes along, we can’t waste it by being “worried and distracted by many things”.  We need to embrace those moments.  We need to revel in them.

It’s true that sometimes we need to “go and do”.  Sometimes we need to be Martha.  But sometimes we need to be Mary, too.  Amen.

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