Martha and Mary, Pentecost 9

July 21, 2013

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”    Luke 10: 38-42

Martha, or as we say in Boston, Maatha, is one of my favorite characters in the Gospels. We in the church are so like her. We are the grunts, cook the food for the coffee hour and the community meals, set up tables and chairs, clean, repair, and weed the garden.  We are the ones who make things work.

In the Enneagram we are the two’s: people who serve. And it is good and necessary we do or nothing would happen. Or would it?

There is a dark side to the two’s. We want to be thanked, and recognized and heaven forfend if you do not show appreciation.  Another aspect of the dark side is resentment of Mary. Mary is not a slave to duty. She is free to step out of the servant role long enough to pay attention to what is trying to break through the ordinary tasks of living.

For all of us Maatha’s who are “worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”

Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Now if we Maatha’s could only get past our annoyance, we might have the space to figure out what that better part is. Hmmm.

A little fun

To Dance before the Lord:

Perry Cox was an old timer by then. He was the celebrant that morning at the Church of the Ascension on Atlantic Avenue the eastern most street west of Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk. A man entered the church that Sunday, stood in the front of the church as the rest of the congregation watched. Perry continued the liturgy. The man began to remove his clothing. Article by article fell to the floor at his feet. Perry kept his concentration. Down to his skivvies, Perry gave the sign to two of the Church’s unofficial bouncers, the organ and the choir burst out in a hearty rendition of  “He who would Valiant Be ‘gainst all disaster…”. And the man was gracefully escorted from the church, his clothing gathered up by a third parishioner. I ascended the pulpit for the sermon. Said a prayer for guidance and commented,

“Now that I have your attention.” The congregation laughed.


Abby; July 15, Life goes on

Abby continued:photo 8

It’s been seven weeks now.

Easy answers

I refused decades ago.

Maybe some insights;

The body weeps only four minutes.

After that the body

Steadies and calms.

After anger and the break

Of punched dry wall,

The body says enough

And quiets and resolves

We think that the story

Goes on and on.

It does, and yet—

The anger, fear, grief and joy

The body says,

Lasts for four minutes.

Maybe five,

Maybe three.

And Life goes on.

The Constant replay of the story

Of our loss or abuse or our

First kiss.

Cannot bind us to its

Tragedy or comedy.

There is a as the Nina Simone song says:

“A New day, a new world, and I’m feeling good.”

Or, at least,  better.

For those who follow this blog it’s founded on the ideas that stories may help inform the Sunday texts that those of you in the field have to bring to life. It’s been hard these last weeks to read the texts of miraculous healings and resurrections. While there are many miraculous healings and they happen everyday in the hospitals and churches and among families and nations,  the other reality is that we lose our loved ones, including our children to illness, drugs, and violence.

One thing those who live with loss learn is that while life has seemed to end for them, for their hopes and expectations, life goes on.

The heroes in my family were and are the women who found a future after my father was killed in WW II. He was 22, younger than Abby. My grandmother and mother both had a world that they expected would go on.  It came to a shattered end when the news arrived at our front door a month after his death. I was five weeks old. A neighbor who was a teenager at the time came to the house that day. She said it was bedlam. I think in my infant body I remember that day with fear and sorrow and the tears are never far away.

And yet the women had to carry on, somehow, placing one emotional step after the other.

And  they had to find out what to do with a five week old infant. Life may tear out the heart and leave one bereft and besieged, and life goes on.


When the clearing appeared
The words found the page.
Like an inner wash
When the mud caked heart
Is purified by tears.
The body transparent
Every organ attuned
Breathes, Beats,
as it


(written about six weeks after the death of my niece Abigail at age 29)

When Abby died,

When she died

Took an overdose

To stem the pain

She cried out like

Jesus from the cross.*

When she slipped off

Into a drugged dream

Her silken red hair

On the pillow

Skin tight

And translucent blue.

We asked, “Why?”

We await the answers

Her struggle is over

We are left these days

With questions

And sorrow.

*(in her journal Abby had written out by hand the verses to a song by a heavy metal group that used the image of the nails on the cross.)

(Written today)

And the simple reality

That Life goes on

Sleep in sleeplessness,



Hammered fist against the wall


Fix the meal


Water tomatoes

Try to care about anything

Or anyone

Or you.

And those bright moments when

There is a memory

Of a small curious face

Who reached out

And you took her in your arms


Loved her.