Saturday, July 16, 2016

Martha and Mary - thoughts from the week.

I have been wrestling with these few lines from Luke all week. I have never been satisfied with any of the expositions on the relationships and how the words of Jesus have been used in sermons. In my restless wrestling I put a question on my Facebook page. It was great to hear from so many points of view. Yes, some were the same ones I reject but some were gems for me.

Things I have heard before.

1. Jesus scolding Martha for doing housework and complaining while Mary is the good one sitting at his feet. This sets up a dismissal of "women's work" and approval of men's (a support given is that Mary is breaking tradition by doing what men would do). This does not hold water for me as I know that women in Luke's day were heads of synagogues before this text was written. Also lack of hospitality was a the top of the list of big "sins" -- Sodom and Gommorah were destroyed because they did not welcome the strangers. (not a story of sexual activities).

2. Triangulation - a modern psychological construct where people use others to get their message across. This assumes equal power among the parties and a Western thought process. That if  you have something to say you say it directly to the other person. In most cultures of that day and even today - it is an acceptable method of communication between those of unequal power. (See the Wedding at Cana for another example).

3. A affirmation of the contemplative life versus the active. But there are plenty of places in the New Testament where action is what is called for. The Letter of James is the harshest on this - all very well to pray and think about something but if you don't do anything - you are just blowing smoke.

4. A story about the need for balance. There is no balance in this exchange. There is no word from Jesus about Martha's work.

5. A story that reveals more about Luke and the early church's agenda to silence women. Martha (the name means "boss woman") was serving at table - "deaconing." Mary (which means rebel) was in silence and praised. Mary's rebelliousness tamed. The words of Jesus are used to support the returning women to traditional roles of listening and not leading.

6. Or it is a story freeing women to follow and not feel like they always have to do the scut work.

7. Looking at the Greek: On Martha being edgy:  When they wrote that story in Greek they used the word periespato in Greek. It has the sense of being "dragged along" by the things that need doing.

And so it went with me - around and around - not really finding Good News in any of it.

The news of the week brought yet another attack on a large group of people -gathered and enjoying each other and the celebration. A man with a history of violence acts out his most terrible thoughts and 84 are dead and many wounded. In the midst of this a hash tag on Twitter appeared #ouvrelaporte. It means that people were opening their homes to any trapped in this terror. It happened in the Paris bombings and once again in Nice. You could reply and find refuge. It was an offer to all  - friend or stranger. I find this astonishing as my first reaction is not to open my door but to lock it up tight and hide out.

But together with the story of Martha and Mary - I ask WWJD - the old question of what would Jesus do? I think we know.  But perhaps for the French comes from a history of living in danger and knowing the need in scary and hard times. Perhaps reflecting about these times when times are good -helps inform the action.

Or maybe it is not so much the doing or not doing - but the centering -mindfulness about either our time in contemplation and our time of action.

Still wrestling!

Image: Found on Pinterest - no attribution