Posted by: mikebackup | July 20, 2013

Be still

Luke 10:38-42

New International Version (NIV)

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I can once again bless you with something I gained from my Newly Accredited Ministers conference and it fits great with today’s reading – it’s a one liner you can take home, and stick on your fridge –

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Martha is miffed; cross about all she must do while Mary swans off and sits at Jesus’ feet. But could her distraction simply be a convenient excuse not to hear what Jesus has to say? She is both distracted and protected – frustrated in her unfair burden but shielded from the vulnerability that might require her to change. She needed to learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

What are the beats in the rhythm of a faith-filled life? Can we identify rest and response, action and reflection? When the rhythm is disjointed, faith becomes strained and action arbitrary.

Let’s first consider what life is like for those that are very busy. For them silence and inactivity are not only sometimes desirable, they are essential.

‘What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stop and stare?’ As a cautionary word for the life of faith it could hardly be bettered. The problem with de-regulated Sundays is not so much that the Christian faith’s special time is compromised but, rather, that the religiously-inbuilt downtime in our week (giving a rhythm of rest and activity) is swept away in the drive towards 24/7 living. To stop and stare may be unfairly characterised as time-wasting. But manic activity is not the only wise activity. Sometimes the fruitful way is to take the space to rest and rejoice in being children of God.

You often hear people say ‘I’ve no time’ to justify how busy they are. The truth is less accommodating. Some – notably carers – have little choice over their time, but many of us have significant choices. A more honest response would often be, ‘I am not prepared to prioritise what is being asked of me’.

Graffiti on the university wall was very telling: ‘To do is to be!’ – Voltaire; ‘To be is to do!’ –Sartre; ‘Do-be-do-be-do!’ – Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, unwittingly, got it right.

Life as disciples is dual track: being and doing. As balanced pilgrims, we spend time ‘being’ children of God and we spend time ‘doing’ discipleship deeds – serving without counting the cost.  We must learn the unforced rhythms of grace. For those that have plenty of rest and down time, the opposite is being asked here. Get involved, challenge yourself, do what you can to be engaged in service. Age and ability are no barrier – Marge and Maud in our congregation are great examples

Get the balance right between rest and activity and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Generous God, we give thanks
for those who have welcomed us into their homes
and shared their food, their time,
their energy and their friendship.
May we never turn others away from our tables,
or keep our doors closed, but be generous in our sharing,
imaginative in our inviting and
celebrate always your presence with us at every meal.

Forgive us, gracious God,
when we are resentful of our tasks
and distracted in our following of you.
Bless us with the confidence to lay aside
all that feeds the pride of our busyness,
and draw us closer to you in words and in silence.


We pray for individuals and communities
who offer a ministry of hospitality:
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

For those whose discipleship is in serving, like Martha’s,
for those who follow the way of Mary:
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

For our churches,
that they may be places of welcome and of nourishment:
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

For our homes,
that they be places where food is shared
and conversations are enjoyed:
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

For those who have no food to share,
no home to feel safe in, no one to talk to:
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

For those who find no pleasure in their work;
and those denied the opportunity to rest:
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

For those who have shown us the way of service
and drawn us into the life of prayer:
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

For those whose tasks are all done
and who sit at your feet in your kingdom.
God of Mary and of Martha,
hear our prayer.

As a postscript – I read this today:

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired:”How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

Remember to put the glass down.

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