Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
The Story of Martha, Part One
Now as they went their way, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken way from her.” Luke 10: 38-42
Good morning Prayer Team!
Most of us know the story of Mary and Martha. We hear this Gospel passage several times throughout the church year and we have discussed it on the Prayer Team several times. It’s actually a two-part story. In part one, Martha “gets a bad rap.” And in part two, which we will discuss tomorrow, she redeems herself in a big way. The story of Mary and Martha merits frequent reflection, because if we look at it carefully, it is really the story of all of us.
We know that Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, were friends of Jesus. He frequently visited their home, which was in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. We know that these sisters, Mary and Martha, were very close. They loved one another very much. This story seems to put them at odds. On one visit, Mary was listening to Jesus while Martha was running around preparing the meal. Martha complained that Mary was leaving her to work alone while Jesus noted that Mary was choosing “the good portion.” Not only does that seem to set Mary and Martha at odds with each other, it also seems to devalue necessary work. After all, the meal wasn’t going to prepare itself, just like our bills don’t pay themselves. Jesus told Martha that only “one thing is needful,” and it wasn’t her running around.
So, what are the lessons of this story? First, the one needful thing in life, when you look at the totality of life, is a relationship with Christ. Because that is the only thing we take with us when we die. If we’ve been busy our whole lives running around, chasing success, chasing riches, chasing other things besides a relationship with Christ and we haven’t cultivated faith, then we really will have missed out on the one needful thing.
Second, we become and anxious and troubled about many things, just like Martha did in today’s Scripture. And some of the things we are anxious and troubled about really don’t matter. When Jesus visited Mary and Martha, perhaps He just wanted to relax. In a modern context, perhaps Martha was fretting over an elaborate meal to be eaten on the finest china, and Jesus was trying to tell her, “hey let’s eat pizza on paper plates.” Again, sometimes we become so concerned about every detail of everything that we miss out on the opportunities for substance—good conversations, deep relationships, etc.—because we are so focused on form—china plates, three forks at each place-setting, etc.
And third, we confuse needs and wants. Needs are the things we must have. Wants are luxuries. On a given day, our needs are basic—we need food, shelter, sleep. We also need love and a sense of belonging. There is a need for money to provide for these basic things, so most of us need to have a job. Yes, there is going to be some Martha moments in each day as we fight traffic on the way to work, or have to deal with a boss in the office, or maybe even something in our “shelter” needs repair. But there are a lot of “wants” that compromise our needs. We want material luxuries so we work extra and then miss out on the love and belonging that we need. We want to watch mindless television shows so we don’t get the sleep we need. We eat junk food and don’t get the nutrition we need. Certainly, some of life’s stresses are unavoidable, but some of our stresses are self-inflicted.
The most basic of needs is a relationship with Christ And in our quest to meet our needs and wants, we can’t forget THIS!
Many books have been written on how to have a Mary heart in a Martha world. And three steps towards doing that is to keep faith front and center, to not be anxious and troubled about things that really don’t matter and to make sure we have our basic needs met, even if it means putting away some of our wants.
As you reflect on today’s Scripture, ask yourself, “In what ways do you relate to Martha? Do you relate to her busyness and frustration in this passage?”
Before we give Martha too bad of a rap, we must realize that there is at least some of Martha in each of us. We live in a Martha world. We need to each spend “Mary” moments each day though, focusing on what is truly needful.
I call upon Thee, O Lord; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice, when I call to Thee! Let my prayer be counted as incense before Three, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice! Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips! Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity; and let me not eat of their dainties! Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness, but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head; for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds. When they are given over to those who shall condemn them, then they shall learn the word of the Lord is true. As a rock which one cleaves and shatters on the land, so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol. But my eyes are toward Thee, O Lord God; in Thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers! Let the wicked together fall into their own nets, while I escape. Psalm 141
Get the needful things done efficiently today, so that there is time left for the needful things we don’t spend enough time on—prayer, Scripture reading, intimate conversations, etc. In fact, put prayer and Scripture FIRST to make sure that you spend time on the most needful things. And at some point during the day, seek to have a good conversation, even if it is brief, with someone you care about—your spouse, a child, a friend, and make sure the conversation bolsters your mutual sense of love and belonging, not just business.
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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