Last week, we started this Pentecost season series, which is looking at how we are Blessed by God. We thought about the idea that we are Blessed to BE and simply to live as the Beloved Child created by God.
It can be too easy (for me-and maybe you) to get distracted from that simplicity of connection. I am much more a ‘Martha’ by nature than a ‘Mary’. I like to get things accomplished. Because of that characteristic, I sometimes take on more tasks than necessary, because I am afraid to say ‘no’. It can be a blessing to learn to say No to things that we aren’t meant to do. We can learn to 'choose the better part'.
You remember the story of Martha and Mary from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus visits the home of some friends. “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.’” (Luke 10:38-42)
Martha tends to get the raw end of the deal in many sermons and meditations when she is characterized as rejecting the idea of simply sitting at Jesus’ feet like her sister. Perhaps there is a more favorable interpretation for her actions. You’ll notice that Luke says it Martha ‘welcomed [Jesus and his disciples] into HER home’. Don’t we all have the pride of home that makes us want to make everything perfect for a guest?
The problem came up when she became ‘distracted by her many tasks’ and consequently angry at her sister. She comes whining to Jesus, demanding that he ‘tell her to help me’. In his reply, Jesus hints that it is perfectly alright to have things less than perfect, in order to enjoy the ‘better part’.
Jesus isn’t scolding Martha for wanting to have a nice meal, and a clean house, and a fresh blanket on the bed. He is noting that being ‘worried and distracted by many things’ keeps her from remembering that she is a Blessed daughter of God. Knowing you are beloved of God is the ‘better part’, which in the story her sister understood. It is alright to say ‘no’ to the extra salad, washing the blanket again, and scrubbing the back corners of the kitchen so that they are spotless, so that we can be present to what God really wants-our relationship.
It can be easy to let the tasks of family, job, volunteer obligations, and keeping up with everything distract us from taking time to remember how Blessed we are. There are many, many wonderful things to do. However, I need to remind myself, that I personally don’t have to do every one of them. It is OK to choose to say NO to some things in order to leave time for remembering that you are Blessed and Beloved.
How do I say ‘no’ without appearing rude or selfish, you might ask? A wise counselor suggested once that you simply say the word ‘no’ without any explanation as to why you cannot, or do not want to do whatever it is. An added benefit of saying ‘no’ to some things is that you give others the opportunity to take on tasks that they might enjoy and do well.
God has the right person in mind for each ministry that comes up. It might be you-or it might be someone else. Weigh each request in the light of questions like ‘does this use my God-given gifts?’; ‘do I really feel called to do this?’; ‘could someone else do it better?’; ‘would my connection with God be enhanced or diminished by this task?’; ‘would this opportunity to minister help me live and witness to being the Beloved of God?’.
What are some things in your life that are keeping you distracted and worried? What can you say ‘no’ to and let go of in order to find a closer connection with God and with your identity as a Blessed child of God?