My Dear Pastor,
For pastors, the week after Easter is typically like one long, tired-out Monday. An extended whew!
This year, I suspect, we add a different kind of weary to the mix. Ironically, “sheltering in place” is tiring. Deeply tiring. Most of the time we’re meant to be with someone, to go somewhere, to accomplish something. And now all that is a lot harder. It’s as if we’re all wound up and then … nothing. Our emotional and spiritual muscles are tense and tired. A timely poem by John Milton ends, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Well, even those who stand and wait get weary.
Luke writes, “Martha was distracted by her many tasks.” Literally, “to be pulled away.” It’s a strange thing to say, but we’re pulled away these days, not so much by our many tasks, as our few. “Martha, Martha,” Jesus said, “you are worried and upset about many things.” Disquieted is also a good translation. Isn’t that the truth! Nothing but silence yet we feel dis-quieted, unsettled, restless even when we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
Mary is our model, sitting there “at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said.” She “made the right choice.” That, as you know, is easier said than done. As I mentioned in a previous letter, God led Israel into the wilderness “to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart.” If ever there was a wilderness time meant to humble us, this is it. Our helpless feeling jabs its bony finger toward the floor at Jesus’ feet. Our loneliness and restlessness usher us down front to the humility rug.
At Jesus’ feet, we not only learn; we rest. Jesus’ teaching and even his silence reorients us, quiets us, takes the pressure off. Sometimes I imagine pulling back the flap and entering the Tent of Meeting where the very atmosphere is love.
Some years ago I was sitting at my desk working on a sermon about this very text, Luke 10:38-42. It was a busy Friday and, as you know, a sermon doesn’t just fall out of the sky. It was 5 pm and I needed to get a little further.
“Why don’t you just come and sit with me a little while before you go home,” Jesus whispered.
“I’d love to, Jesus, but I have to get this done. Sunday’s coming, you know.”
“No, really,” Jesus said, “just move over to this other chair and sit with me.”
I don’t know how else to put it except that he nagged me. In a nice way. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with Jesus. It’s just that I had so much to do … to serve him. “OK, OK,” I said finally, “But I have to get home pretty soon for dinner.”
I moved to the chair in the corner, by the little table with the basin and towel I kept as a reminder for me to be a servant. I’d never thought of it as a reminder that Jesus wants to serve me. Over the table I had a framed verse that says, “Be silent and know that I am God.” But you can be silent, and still be working like a madman on the inside. So I sat there with my Bible open to this story. I closed my eyes, and tried to shake out all the worry and upset that was clogging my heart and just be with Jesus. I didn’t pray about anything. I finally let Jesus serve my dis-quieted soul. And I rested.
There’s room there at Jesus’ feet for you, too.
Be ye glad!