A reflection for Sunday 17th July 2022 Trinity V by the Rev'd Russell Duncan

Lord, do you not care? (Luke 10:40)

How many times have we been left to do things on our own without support or assistance from others?  How many times have we felt obliged to visit a family member or close friend in hospital, care home or at their home while others do nothing? How many times have we said those familiar words “Lord, do you not care?” either aloud or silently to ourselves?  The variety of personal situations both at home, at work and even at church where this question arises are endless but very real. Like Martha we can feel worried and distracted. There are times when we feel annoyed, angry, taken advantage of and even embittered. We feel unwanted, unsupported, unloved.

What struck me in today’s gospel is that there are no words spoken by Mary. She said nothing. It is her actions that speak for themselves. She sits at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying. There seems to be a clash of temperaments however well-meaning Martha’s actions are too.

Think for a moment where Jesus was going. He was on his way to Jerusalem to die. I wonder what Jesus wanted when he briefly visited his two friends? Did he just want an oasis of calm having turned aside to Bethany? Did he just want a simple meal? Did he just want to be listened to, to be understood, to be loved? We are not told. What we do know is that he took time to be with both Mary and Martha. He listened attentively to Martha and offered her a different way forward. He did not despise Mary for only listening to him.

Richard Harries comments that “Religion is not in the first place about believing certain things to be true or behaving in a particular way. It is about experiencing the beginnings of a change in one’s life. For some people this may happen dramatically, when they find God’s grace to overcome an addiction or pattern of behaviour. Others find a release from crippling anxiety or guilt or a sense of worthlessness. Others experience the operation of God’s grace in more gradual ways, taking them away from self-preoccupation to a greater focus on others and their needs; and to God and what he might want of us.

There are many evils we would like to be delivered from: poverty, cruelty, war, oppression and injustice, for a start. Christians believe that this process must begin within each of us, as we discover the deliverance, liberation and freedom that comes through Christ in the service of God. It begins within but does not stop there. It is manifest in trying to do what we can to alleviate human suffering and promote the well-being of others’.

In all our readings God is showing new ways of doing things that make the whole story different. He is showing that things are not always as predictable or certain as they look or appear.  A small piece of creative thought can change what seems to be a foregone conclusion. Abraham and Sarah’s story and Martha and Mary’s story are about to change forever.

As we conclude, may the familiar prayer by St Augustine ring true:-

O Thou, who art the light of the minds that know thee,

The life of the souls that love thee and the strength of the hearts that serve thee.

Help us so to know thee that we may truly love thee.

So to love thee that we may fully serve thee,

Whom to serve is perfect freedom.