|The Rev. Matthew Hanisian|
I am a list maker, which goes against every fiber of my being. I think of myself as able to accomplish every task that comes my way efficiently…taking things as they happen, working on projects that I find interesting and challenging. The reality is that sometimes I manage to find a whole lot of ways to not work on those projects that need to be accomplished. To a degree I enjoy crossing things off of my daily list, but often at the end of the day I find that the list which started off being 12 items long somehow exploded to include 21 things to accomplish (usually with four or five of the original tasks still not crossed off). How very Martha of me.
The words above come from a portion of the gospel text (Luke 10:38-24) assigned to the feast day of Mary and Martha of Bethany which we celebrate on July 29. For centuries theologians have argued and theorized over the meaning of these words Jesus speaks to Martha. My guess is that like Martha we too are worried and distracted, “by many things.”
Christ tells us that we need only one thing. Given that we are into late July, my guess is that at the top of most lists is: “Vacation!” However, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what Jesus was thinking when he tells Martha that, “there is need of only one thing.” For Jesus, our list is only one item long.
That, “one thing,” in which we have that singular need, I believe, is deepening our relationship with God in Christ.
That relationship may happen and be strengthened as we sit at the feet of Jesus, learning from the living Word of God as Martha’s sister Mary does. That relationship might also be strengthened by the Martha-like “doing” of hospitality for the stranger, the poor and the needy. If we enter into those moments intentionally seeking to be in closer relationship with God, we will be on our way to accomplishing that “one thing.”
I think if we examine our lives we’ll see that there are moments when we feel that closeness and presence of God in the stillness of quiet, silent prayer, or in taking some time from our busy, rushed day to contemplate a passage from Holy Scripture. At another time we may see and feel the nearness of God in the work that we do in service to others putting to good use the talents and skills that God has graciously given us.
The point is that as followers of Christ we can continually build and strengthen our relationship with God all of the time…in Martha moments and Mary moments. Knowing THAT makes our daily to-do lists a little more holy.
The Rev. Matthew Hanisian is the associate rector at St. Alban's.