For Cryin’ Out Loud

How many times have I sat with a group of women, Bibles open to Luke 10, as criticism of Martha zings around the room?

Martha’s too busy.
She’s caught up in the wrong thing.
She’s obviously Type A.
Clearly she’s a fussbudget busybody.
She’s overly dramatic.
She’s causing a scene.
Does she think she needs to prepare six courses? Hasn’t she heard of a one-pot meal? How about a sheet pan dinner?

Poor Martha! Every once in a while a woman seated around the circle will eke out a timid comment in her defense: who among us hasn’t acted like Martha at least once? Who truly feels qualified to cast these stones?

Mary gets the honor, while Martha gets vilified. I think we might be missing the point.

I think Martha lost sight of Jesus.

Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. She made Him and His traveling entourage feel comfortable. Hospitality was a BIG big deal back then, way more so than these days. Dirt floors and mud walls might have made housecleaning less of an obvious burden (or moreso?), but inviting at least thirteen hungry travelers into your home meant you probably had to slaughter a goat or two. To skin it, clean it, cook it, how long would that take? (asks the vegetarian…) Plus the side dishes: I imagine tabbouleh and unleavened bread, eggs and nuts and fruit, cheese and wine.spice-370114_1920

I’m getting better, but I used to turn into a whirling dervish before hosting a dinner party. Except way less graceful. I have a soft spot for Martha.

No, I don’t think it’s Martha’s hospitality that got her in trouble. She worked that gift in spades (go, girl!). The key is in her question. Interrupting the party beyond the kitchen, Martha cried:

“Master, don’t you care…?”

Martha forgot who Jesus was. If God = love and Jesus = God, then Jesus = love. Okay, I’m willing to concede that maybe Martha didn’t know Jesus well enough yet. Maybe the if/then hadn’t been made clear.

And yet: I believe Mary’s stillness at Jesus’ feet and Martha’s busyness in the kitchen were separated by only one thing. Mary was attentive to Jesus and Martha was attentive to her preparations.

Can we do whatever we’re doing and still be attentive to Jesus? I sure hope so! I’ve pretty much built my life and faith on paying attention to God while I also do business. In Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey claims that real, undignified life is the classroom for holiness. “If you can’t find God while you’re changing diapers or serving food or hanging out with your friends, you won’t find God at the worship service or the spiritual retreat or the regimented daily quiet time or the mission field” (p117).

If Martha had taken off her apron and plunked herself down next to Mary, she still might have missed Jesus. She needed to focus her heart, not her hands.

Martha’s cry recalled for me Mark 4, the disciples in the boat when the storm came up. Jesus was sleeping, which might have been a good tip off that God was not going to sink them. But their fisherman training got the best of them. They’d seen storms and this one seemed bad in the worst way.rembrandt_christ_in_the_storm_on_the_lake_of_galilee

They cried: “Teacher, don’t you care…?”

Of course He does. Jesus loved them. Jesus loves us.

Jesus loves us in the boat. In the kitchen. In the green pastures and the dark valleys, wherever He leads us He also loves us. Psalm 31:7 promises, “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care…”

Thinking about Martha’s cry, the disciples’ cry, brought to mind the phrase, “for cryin’ out loud.” I did an online search and each site that popped up confirmed the same origin for the phrase. While consistently an expression of frustration or exasperation, its origin comes from the phrase, “for Christ’s sake.”

Which made me laugh: crying out to Christ, in frustration and fear, for Christ’s sake? That seems appropriate. We call out to Christ–maybe with the wrong motives, sure, but still–we cry out to Him and He draws us near for His own sake. Because He loves us.

Wild Child in Bow Tie

Dapper!

Dapper!

Teen wore a bow tie for his Confirmation.

He chose to participate in Confirmation, a five-month process for high school students during which they met monthly with their leader and peers for teaching/study and with a one-to-one adult mentor to discuss life and faith. At the end they publicly professed their faith in Jesus Christ through a written and presented personal statement of faith, received baptism if they hadn’t previously, and became full members of the church. And then were honored with a celebratory meal and a verbal blessing from their parents while a packed Fellowship Hall watched.

We were thrilled he wanted to participate, although we didn’t push it. We even suggested he wait a year. He chose to forge ahead.

And then he chose to wear not just a shirt and tie but a three-piece suit + bow tie!

He didn’t have anything nicer than a shirt and tie so Guy took him shopping the night before. Then he showered and, wearing only his boxer shorts, he carried every piece of nice clothing from his closet to my bed. While I watched he tried different combinations before settling on the fanciest. He felt good. He looked good. He couldn’t suppress the satisfied smirk on his face as he examined himself in the full-length mirror.

Meanwhile I wavered between incredulous laughter and teary eyes. What happened to my Little Elf? Who is this Gorgeous Giant in fine clothing?

We have never made a big deal about our kids being pastor’s kids. A parent’s occupation certainly influences family life, but why should pastor’s kids in particular feel pressure to define themselves by or against parental occupation? Why has the church allowed this stigmatization of pastor’s families?

Thankfully Tween doesn’t feel that pressure, though Teen always has.

He literally crawled under pews to avoid the burn of judgmental laser beam stares his Pastor’s Kid Radar told him were aimed his direction, which of course backfired and drew even more negative attention. As he read from his faith statement during the worship service, “Every week I either impressed my Sunday school teachers with my knowledge on God or annoyed them to the point that they emailed my parents about my bad behavior. I was a wild child.” That bit of stinging truth got a hearty congregational laugh.

He was a good-hearted wild child, but yes, he was wild.

Still is, sometimes. He’s not perfect, as none of us are. He is impulsive, energetic, passionate, and sometimes takes sharp turns into the wrong lane.

But still, look at him up there on the chancel, that dressed-up good-looking young man, owning his faith as his own, no longer hiding under pews but standing up for Jesus because Jesus first stood up for him. Watch out, world, as Jesus starts to do His work through that impulsive, energetic, passionate child of His!

As each confirmant’s name was called, as they walked across the chancel to receive their new Bible with gold-trimmed pages and red letters, the pastor said, “Welcome!”

Twenty-five confirmants. Twenty-five welcomes.

Regardless of Teen’s behavior, and sometimes despite the consequential pain and conflict we managed as a family and as a church family, Teen has been welcomed.

Isn’t that the church’s job? To welcome in the name of Jesus not just those who sit quietly and behave properly in the pew but also those who don’t? Those who wiggle, or better yet dance, because they can’t sit still. Those who talk during prayer. Those who don’t feel like they’re good enough or deserve to belong. Those who act like they don’t want to be there, because maybe they truly don’t. Yes, all of them.

Jesus calls us to love, not just the one anothers we like, but the world for which He died. Every person He created and called by name. No matter how unruly or annoying they might be. No matter how inconvenient loving them might be.

I am grateful that Teen was given a fresh start each time he showed up. That for every person who wrote him off, enough others cared about him and hung in there with him so that he kept coming. So that as a high school kid, Confirmation felt like his next logical step, not one coerced by zealous parents but a choice he made willingly for his life and his faith.

Thank you, Church, for welcoming a wild child in bow tie.