Listening to God – what does this mean to me, what does it mean to you? In Christian circles taking time to listen to God often seems like ‘motherhood and apple pie’ – sign of our obedience and even humility. Something passive and accepting.
Going to take some time now to look at a moment when listening to Christ changed a world – it’s the account of Martha and Mary inviting Jesus into their home – going to spend some time thinking about and imagining that day when Mary listened to Jesus. I am going to run through the passage – let’s try and think what it might have been like to be there as a man or a woman. As we go along I’ll give some questions to think about and also at the end leave some time to think a bit more.
It’s Bethany and you are in the house of a woman called Martha – it’s a bit unusual that – women don’t often own houses and certainly don’t invite men in to be their guests. But Martha seems a pretty generous woman opening up her home to friends and strangers and certainly seems to want to feed us all well as she is busy in the kitchen.
Think for a moment – are you in the living area with Jesus – or are you in the kitchen?
There is something else which is not quite the usual thing – Martha’s sister Mary isn’t giving a hand in the kitchen – instead she is out in the main living area with the men. She isn’t really doing anything - just sitting beside him - listening to him – you can’t hear what he is saying.
What do you think about that?
Although there are some rabbis who think that women should learn the law – there are others who fiercely oppose it. And even those who believe that everyone should know something of the law probably wouldn’t have a woman as a pupil, a disciple … after all that might mean they meant to teach someone else in their turn.
Martha is coming out of the kitchen and she doesn’t look very happy – she is saying something
‘Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.’
Why do you think she is she so concerned? Is she overloaded with work? Is she resentful of Mary? Is she frightened that Mary is too unconventional? Is she jealous?
Jesus is saying something: ‘Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course and won’t be taken from her.’
What does he mean?
What does it mean to you?
Just think for a moment – what does listening to God mean to you?
Is it a duty?
Is it something that has changed your life?
Is it something that has changed your whole way of thinking?
Could it change the world?
I love this part of the gospels –for me it isn’t a tale of quiet contemplative Mary – but of bold Mary wanting desperately to learn all she can by listening to Jesus so that she can play her part in the kingdom. We don’t even know what Jesus was talking about – all we do know is the listening was important and that everyone is welcome.