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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Today’s Reading | Luke 10:38–42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (NRSV)


Imagine this scene acted out as a play. Martha has invited Jesus, and presumably some followers, into her home. The room is modest and represents Martha’s high standards of order and cleanliness. The shutters and door are open to capture cool breezes and possibly to show the neighbors her prominent, if controversial, guest. Men and women surround Jesus, who is teaching them patiently. Mary, sister to Martha, is among those sitting near Jesus and listening intently.

Martha is in the kitchen, separate from the house. She is accompanied by servants who follow Martha’s strict commands as they prepare food and drink. Children, naturally drawn by the commotion, are shooed away but linger outside the windows, unseen. Martha, at a distance from the room where Jesus sits and busy as the hostess, cannot hear Jesus’ words. She wipes her calloused hands on a cloth and looks around for her sister to help, but Mary does not appear.

Frustrated and confused, Martha finally spies Mary sitting with the guests at Jesus’ feet. Martha does not send a servant to retrieve Mary; she does not grab Mary by the ear and drag her outside. Martha stomps into the house and chastises Jesus for condoning her sister’s behavior.

Martha’s boldness is met by Jesus’ gentle teaching. Mary, distracted by Jesus, is reminded of Martha’s good work. Jesus brings the sisters together for the first time in the story. Now, finally, Mary and Martha face each other with Jesus to bridge them.

What do they say to each other in the presence of their Teacher? Will they see each other differently than before? What will their relationship be like when Jesus leaves? What happens next?


Teacher, you know very well the relationships in my life that need your presence. You know the coworkers, relatives, and friends against whom I bear a grudge, great or small. As you lay yourself down as the bridge, help me to cross it willingly and with an open heart meet those on the other side. Amen.

Written by Patty Jenkins, Director of the Center for Life and Learning

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