I believe Martha’s gotten a bad rap as far as Bible characters go. The most quoted reference about Martha is where Jesus gently admonishes her concerning this good woman’s frustration at not receiving help from her sister, Mary, in serving their guests. This story recorded in Luke 10:40-41 has become, for many, the defining image of this woman, a worrier, a person consumed with tasks, and a disciple not attuned to spiritual things like her sister, Mary.
Martha was probably the older of the two because she is always mentioned first when referring to the sisters and Luke says that Martha welcomed Jesus into “her” house – a note identifying her as the woman of that home (a likelihood that her mother was dead and she had charge of the house in caring for her brother, Lazarus, sister, Mary, and possibly her father, Simon (Mark 14:3-9). In addition to this John said that Jesus loved Martha and her sister (John 11:5); the community shared in her sorrow (John 11:19); was the first to approach Jesus concerning her brother (John 11:20); confessed that she believed Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:27); and was at her usual place serving guests when Jesus and the resurrected Lazarus ate at her house (John 12:1-2).
I mention all of this to show that Martha was a valuable and beloved disciple within Jesus’ circle of ministry despite her failure to grasp what was truly important at times.
We have many “Martha” types in this congregation. Godly people who serve quietly in so many ways. They prepare and serve food at funerals and keep the building functioning, they teach children, balance the books, visit the sick, greet the visitors, prepare communion, mail our Bibles, lock the doors, send cards, and find the time to organize activities all the while maintaining families and careers. They rarely receive accolades or recognition but without the Martha’s, this congregation would sputter to a stop.
So thank you, Martha. Thank you for all you do in all your quiet ways. Maybe you get a little stressed at times and miss out on what’s important because you’re focused on what is urgent; but as the Bible says, “Jesus loved Martha,”…and we do too.