Seeking “The Better Thing”
In our age of ever-increasing responsibilities and expectations, focusing on one task and seeing it through to completion can be a challenge. However, in this Lenten season that cultivates simplicity, we also have an opportunity to achieve some focus in our lives that can bring deeper satisfaction for our souls. This comes by making wise choices about where to spend up our time and energy.
When I reflect on my life’s tendency toward over-work, I return to the familiar story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Mary and Martha are sisters who live in the town of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. Mary was close to Jesus and was often among his disciples, while her sister Martha was occupied with the care and upkeep of their home. Luke remembers how, in one of Jesus’ visits, Martha was busy preparing the meal while Mary sat with the Lord, listening to his teachings. Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping with the hospitality. Jesus’ response confronts us all: “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Here, Jesus is pointing out the significance of a relationship with him, his teachings and his presence. More broadly, he points to our tendency to be spread so thin, we find little joy or satisfaction in anything we do. With the demands of work and life pulling us in all directions, it is easy to find ourselves in so many things, we become overwhelmed. When we are no longer able to keep up with the demands we’ve over-committed to, we can easily become exhausted and lose our motivation. We may also experience feelings of hopelessness, irritability and even guilt of not being able to keep up with our responsibilities.
The COVID experience was a time for many to take a deep look at the unsatisfying ways our lives were being parceled out in the world. I’m not surprised to find that many, if not most, who are returning to church are doing so with a more selective and careful attitude. More than ever before, we come to church (virtually or in-person) with high expectations. It’s not about just seeking a good thing, it’s about locating that better thing.
The good news is that Jesus is present in so many ways at Yates. In my own journey, I have been surprised by the joy I’ve experienced by trying a few new things (music in my case) that have given me so much joy and allow me to be more fully present to God in worship. My encouragement to you is to find a few places to dig deeply, commit whole-heartedly and experience the fullness of joy in the love of God and neighbor that is found there.
Whether it is by involving yourself in Sunday worship leadership in music or choir, or leading and learning in a discipleship group, volunteering and serving our community on mission or offering your leadership elsewhere in church life, you will be shaped by the joy of having good work to do with and for Jesus. This newsletter is filled with opportunities for you to share of yourself, your time, your resources and then discover the wonderful ways Jesus meets us in our work and our rest.
As we make our way toward Easter and all the promises of resurrection, I pray that God will continue to meet us in these gracious ways. The Easter stories are filled with surprises: surprise encounters, new insights, unmerited second-chances and so much more. The church is a place to discover the deep truth of that better thing Jesus tells Martha to seek, that thing that cannot be taken away. It is the gift of his own presence, companionship and love. May it be so for you!
Grace and Peace,