Thursday, October 17, 2013

Burton Community Church/Vashon United Methodist Church Joint Service

July 22, 2013, 6:27 PM

Burton Community Church/Vashon United Methodist Church Joint Service

with Pastor Kathy and Pastor Bruce Chittick
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Luke 10:38-42
Jesus’ thoughts soon turned to the next village. A smile played across his face as he thought of Martha and Mary and the gracious hospitality of their home. He was glad that he had sent Thomas ahead to warn the sisters of his arrival. If he knew Martha, she would not fully appreciate being taken by surprise. “She is so full of life and love,” he thought, “If she could just set her brain aside occasionally and allow her heart to have a greater voice.” But she was a good balance for her partner in ministry. Mary’s heart jumped fully into the fray. Sometimes she needed the common sense of her sister. So very much alike and yet so different were these two sisters. Both had been devoted to him and his ministry. Perhaps this was because he viewed them as capable disciples. Their resources were a nice addition. However, their talents of preaching and service set the example for many of the men. And many of the men did not particularly care for that. He tried to ensure the message of inclusion. His views were respected by his followers now; but what about after Jerusalem. What would happen to the ministry of the women, then?
As Jesus approached the house, the door was flung open. Martha stood there grinning broadly, a dishtowel thrown over her shoulder, hair pasted to her face by sweat, and smudges of flour on her nose and cheeks.
Alan Fadling in his new book, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, he talks about our cultures addiction to hurry and to busyness – how it is difficult for us to slow down – to stop – to take time to sit in silence with God or even with ourselves. Even when we appear quiet on the outside, our minds continue to race and refuse to become silent. In a recent piece entitled Busy, Tony Robinson, former pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Seattle, wrote this:
 Ever notice how "busy" is how you're supposed to be? And how, should you not be "busy," you risk being viewed as odd or insignificant?

Bruce – The other day my friend Brad, who works some as an attorney (but really prefers writing novels), shared this story.

"I was going up the elevator in my office building. Someone who I don't know well greeted me and said something about how hard he's working these days. Then he asked, 'You been busy?' expecting me to bond by telling him how hard I've working, too. Instead, I responded (honestly) 'Not particularly.' The conversation stopped and there was an embarrassing silence.
Kathy, when you and I met to talk about this service and plan this sermon, we both had just come off vacation. What was your vacation like? Were you able to get away from it all?
Kathy – We did get to play a little.  But there were a number of loose ends that I couldn’t tie up before we left on Monday.  So most of the way to Oregon, I was answering texts and calls from the office—all important.  And, even though I didn’t take my laptop with me, I checked my email on my phone and my dad’s computer.  There were great retired pastors covering for me, but I wanted to at least connect with a few people by phone.  I want to be careful here to say that I’m the one who couldn’t let go of my work and admit that I’m a workaholic.  Steve can probably tell you that I often got lost in worry and planning and was not very present even on our vacation.
Bruce – It was similar for me as well. During my second week of vacation, I had to plan the service for the first Sunday I was back, work on my sermon on Sunday, and I was trying to track down a member of my church who was in the hospital. I was not sure which hospital she was in or what had happened to her. It took several phone calls to find out. All in all – my “vacation” was very busy. And then, just this past Friday, my only day off, my Facebook post read,
” So...my "day off" so far has consisted of getting my son up and off to summer day camp, starting laundry, visiting and praying with a parishioner in the hospital, working with a vendor for a meeting for my second job, starting dinner, doing more laundry, doing even more laundry....can I take a nap now...”
And that really is a typical Friday. One of my clergy friends actually commented, “The life of a pastor. Yup. Two funerals this week. No day off. But I love my calling, as I know you do, Bruce. I can see right through your post!”
I’m not saying that I don’t love my calling – and I know the life of the pastor has unexpected twists and turns, but this friend appears to support the culture of busyness with little sense of rest.  The emotion behind the post was actually more one of longing and of a bit of resentment.
If we pastors cannot set the example of a rhythm of work and rest, how do we expect the people in our pews to do that?
Kathy – It’s true.  Most clergy are terrible models when it comes to setting an example of a rhythm of work and rest.  Do you remember when we were seminary students, the school required us to have eight days of retreat every year?  Eight days!  We had to document that we had taken all eight days.  My commitment to the first church that I served was that I would worship twice each month where I was not leading worship and that I would take eight days of retreat each year so that I could be spiritually grounded and fed—to prevent running on empty.   I kept that commitment for several years, but I cannot tell you when my last retreat day was.  I remember my spiritual director making me cross off two days on my calendar before I left her office to create space for retreat—and those days were glorious.  It think that must have been in 2009 or 10.  William C. Martin observes in his book, The Art of Pastoring,
One of the first things I look at when I begin spiritual direction with a pastor is his or her daily planner.  It reveals volumes about the pastor’s spiritual condition, values, fears, and ambitions.  It tells me who their bosses are, who their lover is, and how much value they place on their soul.  If you’re working more than 50 hours a week, you’re not doing it for God no matter how eloquent your rationalizations.
Take a long, prayerful, meditative look at your calendar.  Who are you trying to impress?  God?  Give me a break.  The congregation?  Possibly.  Yourself?  Bingo!
Now cut some big chunks out of each week for family, rest, meditation, prayer, and flower sniffing.  When you’ve done that we’ll talk more about the path to God.
That’s true for all of us, not just clergy.  I can so easily identify with Martha.
Once she directed the servants to bring wine, figs and olives for her guests, Martha gathered up Mary and returned to the kitchen. Much still needed to be done before the evening was over. She heard Jesus begin to speak to those gathered. The tone of the voice drew her. However, this group would never feed themselves. Mary paused near the door as she heard familiar, freeing words. Slowly, she found herself moving back to him until she was sitting at his feet, her heart swelling at his life giving words.)
Bruce – And this is how I imagine Martha reacting to Mary’s absence from the kitchen: Martha knew that she could not retrieve Mary to the kitchen without disturbing everyone. Her sense of duty to her guests prevented her from doing that. She tersely turned around and returned to her duties. As she heard Jesus’ voice, laughter and questions being called out, she became more and more tense. She felt her jaw clench and other muscles tighten. She could sense her heart beating loudly. The servants eyed her warily as she charged about the kitchen, seeing to every detail. Once again, she passed the door. This time Mary’s delighted laughter brought her up short. “That’s it!” she thought, her anger erupting. She charged into the courtyard. ”Lord, do you not care that Mary has left me with all this work to do?”
I can imagine this, because this is me at every holiday dinner we have at our house. There are usually 14 or 15 people in our small house. After dinner, Russ is great about being with the guests and enjoying their company. All I can see is the dirty dishes and the messy kitchen. I cannot relax and enjoy the company because I just see all that needs to be done.
Kathy – I know what you mean.  I am sometimes so engrossed in what I’m doing in the office that I don’t notice when someone comes in.  I’m so busy with last minute details on a Sunday morning, wanting everything to go well in worship that I walk past people without speaking.  I long to keep a holy Sabbath.  I want to sit at Jesus’ feet to simply listen, not just on Sunday, but every day.  It’s my choice whether I’m busy with activity or centered in compassion and grace.  I choose to overwork because I’m worried that everything won’t get done—it’s the weight of responsibility.  One of our members told me just this week that he had three meetings to attend that day—and he’s retired!  I think our churches are as addicted to busyness as we clergy are, often confusing busyness and program with ministry.  It’s true that there is work to be done, a lot of work sometimes, but we miss out on the joy and peace that could be ours by being still and listening; by allowing the Holy Spirit to feed us and tend our spirits.  That’s what I long for.  
Bruce – Let’s reimagine how it might have been.
Jesus looked at Martha. He saw the pain in her expression. He could almost see the lists of tasks in her mind. Jesus knew it was not easy to host his crowd. He had felt confident that Martha would want to and would be able to provide. He calmly looked into her eyes. “Martha, my beloved friend, you are allowing your perception of our needs to prevent you from blessing us with the gift or your presence. Mary sensed this was particularly important and was led to remain here with me. Please sit with us for a while. I must be away again tomorrow and do not know if I might return. Martha stared at him for several seconds. The rest looked on curiously. Finally, Martha nodded slightly. Peter stood and gave her his chair. Jesus took the cool jug of wine from the nearby tray and poured a glass full, handing it to Martha, “Now then, where were we…ah, yes… God’s kingdom is not about military and political might. God’s love comes to those ignored by the powers and radically breathes life giving spirit into their world…”

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