Male Marthas

I’m told that we’re still officially (who are the officials, and who officially made them official?) in the Easter Season — presumably this lasts until Pentecost, or therebouts.  This decreed season if of no concern to me.  I live in a private world of rather undesired oscillation between a) the theological reality that, ever since Jesus’ rising, the human race has been in a perpetual, eternal “Easter Season,” and resultant, ever-inspiring Kingdom call; and b) the human condition that sees me surviving and proceeding as though none of that had ever happened.

All the above is mere confessional prelude to the sharing of the following “Eastery” words, although the succeeding thoughts will similarly have nothing directly to do with Easter or resurrection.

Mary, Mary, don’t you worry.
Jesus is not dead.
He’s opened wide the gates of heaven just as He said.
Mary, Mary, don’t you worry.
You haven’t been misled.
Jesus is risen from the dead.

– as sung by GLAD – Bob Kauflin

[Although I first learned this song from GLAD, a group I came to trust and enjoy and benefit from, I choose to distance myself from the trend of paying homage to performing “artists” (who often aren’t artists at all) above the creators of the material the performers are supposedly being artistic with]

Anyway, Mary.  I know, it wasn’t the same Mary.  The one about whom those words were written was not the one who had sat at Jesus’ feet.  I just wanted to share the words above.  It was another Mary — the one from Bethany, a couple miles in the direction of the hill of the now-ancient olive trees — whose sister had attended to the serving stuff while Mary adoringly soaked up the character and teachings of her friend and Lord.

We all sort-of want to be Marys.  [That’s right:  no apostrophe there.  It’s a plural, not a possessive.]  But more of us are Marthas, I figure.  And it’s not always the women in the kitchen who qualify for the label.  I know of several graduate students who make great Marthas, for instance.  And a couple of college staff members I know are serving-Marthas-beyond-belief.

I’m struck by the memory of certain “male Marthas” in churches.  These are the guys who are always standing around attending to stuff while Bible classes and worship are going on.  They monitor the parking, they greet visitors and hold doors for people and “ush.”  They ring bells to signify that Bible classes are over.  They count money and answer the phone.  They collect the attendance records from Bible classes.  They do all sorts of things, presumably because someone has to do them.  But they never seem to be involved in serving OR eating the meat, the substance.  This lack of apparent involvement in the core of what’s going on has most often kept me from much Martha-dom, whether in the church sphere or any other.  (Are college committees places for those who are “called” to be Marthas?)

If I could see the relationship of, say, an hour of paper folding to the spiritual growth of a Bible class, I would gladly fold paper for an hour.  And if I really believed “fellowship meals” had much to do with koinonia, I would scrub pots every Wednesday night after the meal.  Since I did, at the time, believe strongly in the value of adding new songs to our church’s repertoire, I spent countless hours — maybe 90% of the total time required — putting together songbook supplements.  But often, I have had to turn the other way when encountering a Martha:  it seemed to me that that person was quite likely just disinterested in the core of what was going on and was trying, shallowly and desperately, to do something to contribute, all the while drying up spiritually.  Although a part of me respected the “servant heart,” it has often seemed to me that these male Marthas were avoiding deeper involvement and/or was simply apathetic about the real reason for being there at church.”  Perhaps I’m being a little sexist here.  The female Marthas just seemed to be doing things that really mattered, I guess, whereas the male ones seemed to be avoiding what mattered, but it could be that I had different expectations of the males.

These days, if I believed I was contributing to something worthwhile by enrolling in the MMS (Male Martha Society), I’d probably do it.  Being active, even in a surface-level support mode, is better than being bored or turned off.

To round the bend and come full circle … who could ever be bored or turned off, given the theological reality of Jesus’ resurrection and glorification at the Father’s right hand?  Me, unfortunately.  I’m just that human.  And just that bored by the periphery that so often surrounds our meager efforts to be God’s people.  And just that turned off by traditional assumptions and outmoded methodologies and religious puppeteering.

There lies an aspect of living that I need to work on — finding Jesus again amid the haze of religion.  Even if I currently felt a call to, or a gift of, prayer, I rather think I should start in the scriptures.  More specifically, in the gospels, where Jesus is seen, and where people are seen heeding Him, or (mostly) not heeding Him.  The gospels are the place where I ought to find the power to do what’s in the letters (thank you once again, Jim Woodroof) and to continue what’s in the book of Acts. 

Two years ago, I attested to Woodroof’s writings — here and here — about the centrality of Jesus and the gospels, and I’ll do so again now, this time with more disappointment in my own lack of paying attention to the gospel accounts and to the Lord they attest to.

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