Only One Thing Is Necessary

“Now as they went on their way, [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “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.” ” (Luke 10:38-42)

Hi Fighter,

I’ve included the entirety of this Sunday’s Gospel reading above as it’s relatively short and deserves to be read in full. It’s a story that I had always taken to be an example of Jesus’ progressive attitude towards women, though now I’m not so sure.

According to my old reading of the text, the conflict between the two sisters – Mary and Martha – was about their gender roles. Martha was trying to be a good hostess – cooking, feeding and catering for her guests – as would be expected of a woman in her situation. Mary though was joining the disciples at Jesus’ feet – a role that would have normally been reserved for men.

I’ve realised more recently that this reading of the text does a disservice to first century Judaism, which apparently never prohibited women from being either students or teachers in matters of religion. Yes, the church has had a terrible history of excluding women from positions of spiritual authority but we can’t blame our Jewish forefathers and foremothers for that. Mary may have been one of any number of women sitting and listening to Jesus that day, and nobody would have balked had Martha joined them too.

If the issue wasn’t gender roles, then what was the issue? The answer, I now think, is ‘hospitality’, which was enormously important across the Middle East, and still is!

In Damascus in 2014, I was welcomed into the home of an elderly couple whose two sons had just been killed in the conflict engulfing the country. It was a tiny home, and I was part of a peace delegation of around a dozen people but we all squeezed into the family living room which was decorated with photographs of the boys. At this point the father, conscious of his need to show hospitality, tried to serve everybody coffee. The problem was that he only had two tiny coffee cups, which meant that the poor man had to walk around with his two cups, humbly requesting that each of us take a sip from one of them. It was a powerful sacrament.

Going back to the Gospel scene, Martha, who had welcomed Jesus and his entourage into her home, must have felt enormous pressure to show proper hospitality to her guests. Her sister’s failure to pitch in could bring disgrace on their family. Jesus, in His response to Martha, isn’t dismissive of her concerns, but He talks to her about priorities. Showing hospitality is important. A lot of things are important. Mary though had worked out what was most important at that time.

I think we can all connect with Martha. There is so much to do. We have so many responsibilities, and we often feel crushed under everybody’s expectations. The problem, as Jesus points out, is that our many responsibilities can cause us both unnecessary stress and distract us from what we really need to be focusing on.

We need the wisdom of Mary – the wisdom to cut through the clutter and to know where to focus our energies. Our number one priority should be to make sure our number one priority is our number one priority, and sometimes our number one priority is just to sit down and listen.

Our Sunday Eucharist

What a wonderful Eucharist we shared last Sunday! It was a great privilege once again to have our Islamic brother, Tom Toby, join us, along with dear David Baldwin. I always find I learn something fresh from both these men, but it’s the way that Tom links the Christian and Jewish Scriptures to the teachings of the Qur’an that is the special gift I get from these sessions. Enjoy the replay of our Bible Banter below.

This Sunday we are privileged to have another two wonderful men join us – Robert Gilland and Sam Madden. They are both long-established members of our online community but, in case you don’t know them, Robert is a former missionary and is completing a theological degree in Queensland, and Sam is in the USA where he’s been doing some wonderful work with vulnerable people, and as well as working actively in helping build Christian-Muslim relations.

As you know, I’m still keen to get more members of our online community involved in our Sunday Eucharists – if not in the Bible Banter then perhaps in the prayers. Please let me know if you’d like to lead prayers on one of the coming Sundays. If you’re not confident, I’ll give you a format to use and work on the prayers with you so that you feel fully prepared.

We will meet as usual this Sunday at midday, though it’s possible that I’ll be running a bit late. I have the privilege of speaking at a mosque in Auburn this Sunday morning, which is about half an hour away from Haberfield, from where I’ll stream the service. I’m due to leave the mosque at 11.15 am. Hopefully, I’ll be back in time.

Do join us this Sunday at midday please, via either:

What’s happening this week:

  • Saturday, July 16th, Boxing from 3.00 pm @The Fight Lab
  • Sunday, July 17th, our Sunday Eucharist (see above)
  • Tuesday, July 19th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
  • Thursday, July 21st – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab

I expect to be back in the bush for the weekend of July 22 to 24. The waters have subsided and it’s time to venture back. We will have spare beds there if any of you would like to join me. Just make sure you pack plenty of warm clothes.

Thanks for your support

Once again I want to thank all my Patreon subscribers without whom my work would not be able to continue. If you haven’t signed up yet but would like to, please choose one of the following options at the Patreon site.

  1. Middleweight Division ($10/month) where you get access to the member site, along with the videos and other resources.
  2. Heavyweight Division ($100/month) which includes individual coaching, along with software subscriptions to both Buzzious and Streamout, allowing you both to publish an unlimited number of quality blogs and to livestream.
  3. Super-Heavyweight division ($400/month) includes all of the above plus me training with you one-on-one – at The Fight Lab and at Binacrombi Bush Camp

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email
Scroll to Top