Mary and Martha

I have written before about not being able to be mentally quiet during my quiet time. This distractibility is an annoying part of my personality, I think, and it reminds me of the Biblical Martha, whose story you can read here, in Luke 10:38-42.

I used to think that Martha got some bad press, so several years ago I wrote a short story about her when her brother Lazarus died. It seems to me that she, not Mary, had the greater faith at that time. Now, though, I think that it was not Mary’s faith that was the issue in the above passage. It was the fact that she let earthly concerns get in the way of her time with Jesus. Sort of like my quiet time tends to be.

This morning, I decided to try a new strategy. There are a lot of things on my mind. The possibility of a new job and a move and how to live through the next few months if that is not what happens. The fact that my older sister may be institutionalized. An honorable way to settle an apparent financial obligation. I went to the altar at church.

Our church has the practice of having the elders pray for you at the altar. I’m sure that there are other denominations that have the same practice, but this is the first Lutheran church I have been in which has done this. My husband was working and therefore not with me. Up I went alone.

I told the two elders that were there that I had a long list. That was OK, they said. There is no list to long for our Father, no burden too heavy to share. So I shared. And they prayed.

Now these men to do not know all the details of what is happening. Nor, I think do they need to. They do, however, know the person to whom they are praying. So they asked for wise council. They asked that my husband be in favor with those in authority over him. They asked for heavenly wisdom about the doctors who see my sister and a facility which would be the best for her. And I cried. I hate that!

It helped, though. It helped to have someone else pray. It felt like, at least for a little while, the burden was lifted from my shoulders. And with that little bit of rest, maybe I will be better able to deal. I think the help comes in part, from the symbolism of being at the altar. There is no better place to lay down your burdens.

When we were waiting to find out about a new job and a promotion seven years ago, one of the many things I prayed for was a church where we could be at home, a church that could be our family since we would be far away. How thankful I am that God granted that prayer, leading us to a place where we can lay down our burdens. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I believe I experienced that rest today. At the feet of Jesus, like Mary. At the altar of my church.


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February 2006
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