Martha and Mary – Secret Santa Worship Day

Martha and Mary

If I decide to come to your Church

Will you expect me to be?

Martha…
Always busy, busy doing
Raising money, baking cakes
Calling door to door for
Christian Aid
Giving lifts to the young and elderly
Being part of the coffee rota
The flower rota
The counting of money
And giving of money
To keep the Church going
A few stalwarts baling water
To keep it afloat
Growing ever more
Resentful
Petty and petulant
Until exhausted with our efforts
Of doing our duty (over years)
To others
And to God
We collapse
Yet limp on…
Under the strain

If I decide to come to your Church
Please let me be…

Mary…
Seated
Quiet
Still
Listening to his voice
Wondering at his words
Marveling at his unusual wisdom
Apparently doing
Absolutely
Nothing
Except
Being
Here
Close to Jesus
Gaining courage
For a tricky week ahead

But then I hear a rustle…
Martha is
Limping in behind me
And I become restless
And guilt-stricken
Needing to move
To help
Or hinder
And sometimes retreat altogether…

How would the Church survive
If we are always Mary not Martha?

Yet on that particular occasion
Jesus said
Mary chose the better way. (Luke 10:38-42)

Perhaps if all the Martha’s
In the Church
Could be…
Like Mary

And the Mary’s
When the pace is right
Act…
Like Martha

Perhaps then
We could renew our strength.
And soar on wings like eagles
Run and not grow weary
Walk and not be faint? 

(Isaiah 40: 31)

43 thoughts on “Martha and Mary – Secret Santa Worship Day

      • Hi Julia – what caught me was the word “expect”. It is a word not often used out loud, but so often hanging in the air. This skeleton staff of overworked volunteers looking on each new person walking through the doors. A look of “despondent hunger”. Despondent? They probably won’t. Hunger? But I so wish they would.

        It is an element of church not often talked of, not often acknowledged, but so often the unspoken reality.

        Currently our church sees those who have been “on the committee” for decades, withdrawing reluctantly – but then withdrawing from church and church life. Almost as though they are so burnt-out they want to to be away form the place.

        Your poem captured all of that in a very gentle and loving way. And reinforced something that He and I have been discussing for a while now. That the “committee” will always focus on the “maintenance” of keeping things going – and without a spiritual team of disciples – there is a big gap in the make-up of the church fabric )of people). All too often the church focuses on the committee (the Martha’s)” as being the be all and end all, and the discipling is viewed as the Mary’s – not much use to anyone!

        Thank you!

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        • Yes. Burnt out! That is what I had become!

          For several years I lived in Bradford, West Yorkshire, five of these were after I married Kevin.
          Kevin was Roman Catholic. I was Methodist. When first married we alternated by going to a Methodist Church one week and a Roman Catholic Church the next. We also attended an Anglican Church for a less formal evening Sunday service. I was part of a group there that had provided me with much needed friendship when I had been single and living alone.

          I enjoyed attending each church. I didn’t want them to be all the same. I revelled in their differences and got something out of each one and the way in which they worshipped.

          At the height of our involvement, I was on the rota for reading lessons at the evening service at the Anglican Church; we were welcomers and my husband was a server at the Roman Catholic church; and I was a steward at the Methodist Church.

          It was at the Methodist Church where I fell foul of the Martha’s. Members of the congregation were very critical. I wasn’t there at every service. I wasn’t doing things like they had done them in the past. And then I suffered from stress at work. My GP signed me off work and advised me to resign from my voluntary activities. I resigned as steward from the Methodist Church and gradually withdrew from everything-else.

          Then we moved house to Todmorden, and for a time I left church and regular worship altogether.

          So yes, it is much as you say. I become so burnt out that I wanted to be away from the place. And it is expectations of ourselves and from others, not from Jesus, that does this.

          Thank you for realising it so vividly.

          Julia

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  1. It perplexes me – for if someone came to our church we would not expect them to be a Martha because we have Ministries devoted to those of catering and finance and community outreach. We would be happy firstly with them being themselves and then to discern what the Lord desires of them. Too many Mary’s would be a trifle burdensome, just enough of either to balance the ship.

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    • Hi Br Andrew,
      You sound like you belong to an amazing church; and large to have at least three Ministries. I have been part of a large church in my young adulthood when I was a student in London. Not so now. After some years away, I have returned to the small northern town where I was born and find myself in my old child hood church. Here I recognise the same faces,having aged over the years, still running things 30 to 40 years later. And the church is much smaller.I am not criticising them.They are stoics. They have remained, only leaving the church one by one as each one dies.The place I live has much history that impacts on our lives today. It is a place where John Wesley visited and held huge meetings out on the moors. It is also a place known for paganism and witchcraft- the lancashire witches in fact and I have witches among my acquaintances. And there is secularism- I have friends and colleagues who are humanists.The church here is struggling and it was from that experience that my poem emerged.
      Thank you for your interest and your comment. Love and best wishes, Julia

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      • Hi Julia, alas we are a very small congregation a Mission of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order, to which all three Pastors belong. We live in far flung suburbs of Sydney, two of us without vehicles and at the whims of State Rail trackwork each weekend. – so it is fortunate that one of the three of us lives near the Church. We all have jobs and so work to a roster, I was supposed to Lead worship last week except the trains were out so Br Luke read my sermon instead and my wife and I attended church by Skype. We have been meeting together in hired buildings for two years and one day in the future hope to have a space of our own. Andrew

        Liked by 1 person

        • Gosh! That wasn’t how I imagined it! That sounds even more amazing and gives me hope about how church could be! I guess we all want a building, a space of our own. Dare I say it, I envy you and your lack of a building. Too often the building can become the thing we raise money for; the obstacle to change and reason to do ‘church’ as it has always been done; the burden that has to be maintained and preserved at all costs; and then sadly each chapel is closed one by one due to lack of attendance. Don’t get me wrong, a place of worship that has held years of prayer has a special atmosphere. Yet that can be felt in the smallest of rooms. Your church sounds vibrant and alive and gives me hope when our building is gone!
          Love and best wishes, Julia

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          • Thank you, Julia,
            we have all known each other, in the most part for 12 years and recently drew away from several larger congregations to form a small community consisting of a group of people from Church of England, Church of South Africa, Sydney Anglican, Anglo-catholicism, and Catholicism with Methodism and Celtic Catholicism being the occasional visitors – from all these we make a single community attempting to live Jesus before the ‘church’ got hold of Sacramental Theology and placed it beyond the reach of some of the most vulnerable in our society. What is interesting is that except for two, O and visitors, we are migrants.

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            • Wow! It sounds better and better. If you read my reply to Paul you will discover that I love diversity in worship and I have attended more than one denomination at the same time because I appreciated and learnt something from each.I also have a special place in my heart for Celtic Christianity and I love John O’Donohue’s book of blessings “Benedictus”. Your church sounds truly special with such a lovely mixture of people and so many influences. I feel honoured that you stopped by to read and comment on my post. Thank you

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              • Yes, I have just read your reply to Paul, and you were so lucky to have “gotten away with it” here the churchy Police would have been on to you wanting to know why your husband dared darken the door of an Anglican Church when he was a member of the One and the only True Faith. 🙂

                Australia is a strange place – sometimes

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              • Ah, that’s a whole other story. In some ways we didn’t get away with it! Sadly, it may have led to loss of faith in my husband. I was greatly blessed by the experience, especially when in the Holy Land, on a pilgrimage with the Roman Catholic group.That is a story I hope to tell on another occasion.It was not an easy time and yet we had some profound experiences and learnt a lot.To my amazement I was accepted by the One and only True faith despite being a Methodist. Yet I also experienced the pain, I believed it was part of God’s pain, of our disunity among the denominations.More to tell another time!

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              • Julia, I am interested in what you will relate. I was Christened in the High Church of England, Baptized in the Baptist Church in Australia, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1984 and Ordained a Deacon in an Independent Catholic Church in 2004. Ordained Priest in our new Community by a Celtic Bishop on 4th October this year and function as both a Catholic and Protestant Minister – regarding theology and Rites depending upon our congregational needs. Needless to say we are deemed heretics. We belong to the southern Cross Association of Churches.

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              • Hi Br Andrew, I will tell my story. I will try to capture it in a short post. Please bear with me. It might take a few days.Yes, and I can quite see that you may be deemed heretics. Someone once said to me- today’s heretics are tomorrow’s prophets.
                Love and blessings, Julia

                Liked by 1 person

  2. That..was…very cool. As we say in my part of the world: Sometimes we have the tail wagging the dog. You have the dog wagging the tail as it should be.

    That passage in Isaiah is one of my favorites too! Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a thought. That would be something! And perhaps it would lead into better understanding of each other’s types and less criticism when we don’t match up to each other’s expectations. Love and Best wishes, Julia

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        • I have been thinking about that word “expectations”. Sometimes our expectations of each other are too little, sometimes too much. Sometimes we expect others to think and do things exactly like we would think and do them. Sometimes the church is overtaken by the Martha’s in us.
          Perhaps that is where the Divine presence enters in. Perhaps when we encourage one another; give each other opportunities; let each other do things differently (perhaps not even as well as we would do them); and seek what is most important in our relationship with God at any particular time-“to act or to be”; perhaps then as a church community we would renew our strength.
          Perhaps I am thinking as much of my own faltering steps with God as I am of my struggling church and our position in the town.
          Thank you for your contribution. It has set me thinking afresh.
          Julia

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    • Yes, I would like to be a bit of both as both were loved greatly by Jesus. In a further passage Martha gets it right and Mary is slower to show faith and understand. I think it is best when both types combine to work together complementing each other’s strengths and I truly believe that is when we might learn to grow in strength and run joyfully and playfully.
      All the best, Julia

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  3. I’ve asked it before, where’s the LOVE button!!!?? Those who have known me for a while know my love of Poetry despite my ability to write or create poetry!! Maybe that is why the Lord has gifted me with such a love for it!! This truly is a gift from the Lord for as Brother Paul stated, it is beyond brilliant! How to show us and cause us to meditate on HOW we are worshipping Him; as a Martha or a Mary, or a combination of both and yet each way being personal and intimate! I love, love, love it!! There truly is a depth here and again as I stated with others, such a beautiful example of the Holy Spirit’s diversity of service/ministry gifts!!! God bless you for this wonderful gift Sister Julia.

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    • Thank you for your kind words. When I wrote this, some years ago now, I was on holiday and pondering about church and my place in it. I had moved back with my husband to the town where I was born, and I had stopped attending regular worship. I wasn’t sure if i quite fitted. Now I go on a regular basis. The Divine love called me back through the ministry of an unpopular Minister, strange as that may seem. And since then I have been enabled to share some of God’s wisdom to me.
      Going back to the origins of the poem. I wrote it quickly as a result of my pondering, almost without edit because it flowed. I love it when writing is like that. Thank you for appreciating it. I think… (I hope) that it is the Divine in me.
      Much love, Julia

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    • Thank you. See above comment about the origins of the poem. I am glad you can recognise that it sprung out of thoughtful pondering. And yes, Jesus loved both Mary and Martha very much.They were his friends and we can learn from each of them, both equal in value in his sight.
      Much love, Julia

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      • Wow… I read through the other comments… that’s quite a testimony! I have done much studying on John Wesley- that is pretty awesome that your church is where he went! And awesome, too, that God would call you to go back there to serve! Many blessings to you!

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        • I am thinking that if you have studied John Wesley, you probably know a lot more about him than I do, even though all around this area there are Methodist chapels and signs of his heritage.Let me know if you ever write a post about him.And it is strange the way things can come full circle. I left Todmorden, the town where I was born, only to return and find myself as part of the church where I grew up.
          Love and blessings, Julia

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  4. Nice poem! A few months ago I preached on Mary and Martha; I use to wonder why was Jesus so mean but I’ve come to understand how audacious Martha was to stop Jesus doing His ministry. We can often undermine the main thing with minor things. Thanks!

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    • Your comment is interesting: ” We can undermine the main thing with minor things” I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before. I think you are so right!

      I have been taught that hospitality was a key obligation in the culture in those times; and in a patriarchal society it was the expectation that the women of the household would undertake to do it. Martha would have been self righteous in her indignation at her sister for not pulling her weight. Jesus cut through that expectation of her sister. Martha was missing the point and something far more important was going on.

      And you are right, it can happen in Church too, so often. We bustle about collecting coffee cups interrupting some-one deep in a much needed conversation; we worry about candle wax dripping on the carpet and blow it out early when someone has just begun to allow the candle to speak of God’s light; we lock the church door after the service has started frightened of nuisance or theft and prevent the late comer from entering.

      On another level I am fascinated by the relationship that Jesus had with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They were not among the twelve disciples, yet they were his close friends. To me it reveals the human side of Jesus. Perhaps it was because of their friendship, that Martha had the audacity to speak to Jesus as she did. And Jesus was able to rebuke her without her taking offence.

      I think Martha learnt from this incident. To her credit, after her brother Lazarus died, she was the sister who went out to greet Jesus and declared her faith in him as the “Christ” who could return her brother to life, while still standing outside. Mary, meanwhile remained inside their home, weeping. On this occasion, Mary was much slower to show faith and trust. (John 11:1-44)

      The second passage confirms to me that Jesus loved both sisters equally as his friends. On one occasion, Mary did the right thing, on another it was Martha who was quicker.

      That is my prayer for worship and the church. I pray for mutual respect for each other, the “do-er” and the “reflector”; to be patient with each other; to learn from the gifts, strengths and insights of the other. And if this has to happen with humour and gentle teasing, so be it. Amen.

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