The bumper sticker has never been truer: “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.”
Spiritual wisdom says it matters enormously where and how we pay attention and what we do with our outrage. This Sunday we will read another of Luke’s classic beautiful and profound stories, this one about the sisters Martha and Mary. Jesus comes to their house as a guest and they respond in very different ways to his visit. Martha gives all her attention to the work to be done and gets outraged under the stress because her sister Mary is giving all her attention to the teaching and loving presence of Jesus.
Usually the moral drawn from this story is simplistic and dualistic–be Mary, don’t be Martha; come to church, don’t skip it to take care of your to-do list; it is better to be a cloistered contemplative than a worldly, active type of person. But Jesus was not simplistic or dualistic, he was both a contemplative and an active worker in the world, he looked at what the poor and sick were suffering from the power and wealth that ran his society and he felt outraged and worked extremely hard, even gave his life, to address social injustice and establish God’s realm of mercy and love on earth.
Jesus would say that we need to look at the world, we need to be outraged and bang some pots around and take to the streets in protest demanding change—but… but…. but we need to pay attention to the Spirit first, we need to turn entirely to Jesus, heart, mind, soul and strength, we need to strive first for the realm of God and its right ways of being, and then from that spiritually connected place of light and love turn to give our attention to the outrageous things that are destroying our civilization and our earth.
The worship service this Sunday will help us see the importance of this spiritual wisdom and help us do it. We will read the story of Mary and Martha, Luke 10:38-42, and Psalm 46 where it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We will also read from the 8th Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans where he talks about how much it matters where we put our attention and first allegiance. We will sing a beautiful Mendelssohn tune with words by Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Still, Still With Thee,” as well as “Take My Life and Let It Be” and a new hymn set to an old tune, “Like Mary, Let Me Make the Choice.” The choir will sing “Christ Before Me,” the Taizé “Ubi Caritas” and the contemplative traditional benediction, “God Be in My Head.” Pianist Annemieke McLane will play three pieces by Edvard Grieg.