What if we understood the story of Mary and Martha as “not a sibling rivalry?” It really does seem to be a bit disingenuous to the flow of Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus. Unless of course you see Luke as doing nothing more than cobbling some pericopes together inattentive to the flow of his own narrative.
No. No sibling rivalry here. We would see the attempt to draw Jesus into the fray and he, as usual declines. Instead Jesus points to Mary’s posture of choosing an attentiveness to Jesus words. The contrast is not between those who serve and those who are more devotional or reflective. It seems the real issue lies in attentiveness when tempted to distraction.
Is it possible inherent in this story is the kernel in each of the texts that suggests when given to distraction someone suffers? Martha is distracted away from Jesus by Mary’s posture not realizing that she is prepping for the meal in a grand show of hospitality having Jesus as her focus is not different than Mary who demonstrates the willingness to focus on the words of Jesus. Must there always be a split between those who speak and those who do? In this case, those who listen and those who do.
Here in the Mary/Martha rhythm we witness the melding of postures that should always characterize those of us who follow the Way of Jesus. We should fixate on the words lest we find no embodied action. We should not fixate on our doing lest we find no spiritually formative purpose for our actions.
Amos seems to startle the audience with powerful metaphors exposing the distractions that come when we tip our hat to the words. We can’t wait for worship to end to get back to really living – and at that a way distant from the very One we worship. And, we also see where industrious hands void of a spiritually formative connection will result in self-ish actions at the expense and on the backs of others, less privileged others at that.
No sibling rivalry here. No, instead there is an underlying note to marry the words of Jesus with an embodied practice that demonstrates the imprint of the “image of the invisible God” in Jesus, the Christ. It is a focus that draws us into the way of peace and reconciliation with the One who intends to sum it all up in Jesus.
No, no sibling rivalry here.