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With our Advent focus on the pure gift, and unconditional acts of mercy, we moved this week into the tension of Mary and Martha, of being and doing. We explored this story which poses a question about the better way, turned the standard reading in on itself, and refused to choose one or the other, instead, embracing the unresolved third way.
This week we read a passage about Mary and Martha, two sisters who followed Jesus. Mary is praised for listening to Jesus' teaching while Martha is too busy trying to fix up her home to pay attention. Traditionally, this reading is interpreted to present a choice: choose to be spiritually attentive like Mary or to be hospitable but wanting attention like Martha. From a psychoanalytical perspective, those who act like Martha are, consciously or unconsciously, seeking approval from the 'Big Other,' which can be God, parents, a boss, etc. This pursuit of approval becomes an obsession, or even a prison for those who cannot escape the cycle of wanting approval. This traditional reading forces us to choose to either simply be, like Mary, or to do, like Martha.
However, we interpreted this text in a decisively Collective way, where we can both 'be' and 'do,' without having to choose between Mary and Martha. We considered how the dichotomy between existing and acting is a false one, which is against the idea of the incarnation where a being acted to become human, combining both being and doing.
Instead, we considered how Martha's path of 'doing' was superior to Mary's, because Jesus spoke Martha's name twice when he talked with her. Jesus is implying that Martha lived both the contemplative and active life, while Mary only lived the contemplative. Martha can both actively engage in hospitality, while still switching to a place of 'being' and meditating on life; she has a materialist connection to Jesus. This integration of the sacred into materialism is exactly what Advent speaks about: there is no divide between the sacred and the corporeal world.
Martha is, in a sense, a mother of God. She is a virgin because she is free from religious dogma and simply chooses to 'be' , and she is a mother of God because she gives selflessly as she 'does.' She shows how each work of love and hospitality bears God into the world, emphasizing how there is no divide between spirituality and reality in our lives.
We are a misfit faith community that gathers in DeLand on Sundays at 5pm. Come as you are.
We value highly the metaphor of journey. We’re different people from different places and backgrounds, representing an intergenerational community, and we’ve traveled different paths. So, we agree not to make assumptions about the person across from us, next to us, or in conversation with us. We challenge ourselves to be sensitive, knowing this community includes a diverse group of people from life-long followers of Jesus, to people who are just now open to the idea that God might exist. We strive to avoid offense, ask good questions, articulate and explain our responses. We don’t assume fluency in bible, spirituality, or Church language, because we believe the message of Jesus is not for Christianity, but for humanity. So, we do everything in the spirit of love and grace.
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