Monday, July 19, 2010

Another take on Martha and Mary

One of the stories in the New Testament that always niggles me is that of Martha and Mary, and the way Jesus speaks to Martha when she asks for help in the kitchen. It turns up in Luke's Gospel, chapter 10 and verses 38-42.

Luke is the most sympathetic of the Gospel writers when it comes to women, so perhaps in this story his sympathy is with Mary who is definitely doing something out of the ordinary. That may be why Martha seems to get the bum's rush.

However, while I appreciate what Mary does, I always feel for Martha: she's got a houseful of people on her hands, no one helping her in the kitchen, all the blokes sitting around being spiritual, and no one seeming to care that she's trying to get some food ready for when they stop being 'spiritual' and come down to earth, as it were. So the discovery of the poem ‘Unauthorised Version’ by U.A. Fanthorpe, (on Bosco Peter's Liturgy site) was a delight.

It's spoken from Mary's viewpoint, but the intriguing thing is that she doesn't take Jesus' side - she takes her sister's. She doesn't apologise for her own behaviour particularly, but she certainly understands where Martha is coming from, and reminds us that Martha is no slouch when it comes to the spiritual side of life - consider Martha's behaviour at her brother's tomb. She's the one who speaks the theology at that point; she's the one who's in Jesus' face asking why he'd left things too late. She's great!

You can find the poem on Bosco Peter's Liturgy site, and you can also find a sermon preached by Colin Gibson (of Mornington Methodist Church in Dunedin) on the subject. He included the poem in his sermon. (I don't always see eye to eye with Colin on theology, but in this instance I think he's pretty close to the mark.)

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