March 9, 2015

Dear Family and Friends of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

Luke 10:38-42 tells the story of Martha and Mary, sisters in the village of Bethany, which is just to the east of Jerusalem. From John’s Gospel we know that Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, is the brother of Martha and Mary. According to Luke, Jesus visits the sisters and engages them in conversation. Martha is working to provide hospitality while Mary simply listens to what Jesus is saying. Finally Martha is fed up with doing all the work while her sister does nothing. She tells Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” Jesus responds by saying, “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.”

A few weeks ago I had a treadmill break after I had exercised on it for little more than a month. I bought a new machine and needed to send the old one back for a refund. The new machine was a floor model, so I had a problem. I had no box for shipping the old treadmill. I asked at several stores for an empty treadmill box. No luck. I tried taking cardboard boxes and wrapping them around the machine. It was clear this wasn’t going to work. I thought about forgoing the refund only to realize I was going to pay someone to haul the machine away. I went to a large hardware facility to consider building a box out of lumber. This seemed too much to mess with. After six hours of running around, I was angry and frustrated. Instinctively I stopped thinking about it. I ate lunch and took a short nap. When I woke up, I let my mind gently reflect upon my predicament. The lumber yard could solve my problem. By taking two sheets of cheap 4 x 8 foot plywood, I could measure out the dimensions of the box, saw the sections, and build a container where Dracula (or his machine) could rest. I acted upon these thoughts and in a few hours the box was made, packed, and ready for shipment. I spent less than $20, and my problem was solved!

A common question in Bible study groups is, “Are you a Martha or a Mary?” This assumes you must choose to be a doer rather than a contemplative or someone who reflects and prays but declines to put thoughts into action. Must we choose to be Mary or Martha? Can’t we retain the qualities of both sisters and understand the attitudes each brings into our consciousness? I solved a problem by letting Mary inform Martha. I had internalized Luke’s story! By stepping back from a situation that frustrated me, a solution unfolded in my mind, and I acted upon it. We tend to treat the Bible like a school book. Here was an application that solved an everyday problem. Could it be that God knows more than we do and likes guiding us to use Scripture for practical purposes? With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,