Martha and Mary of Bethany — 15 years later, a dialogue

Later, in the garden — fifteen years later

Someone online asked for a dialogue sermon featuring Martha and Mary in Luke 10 and others counseled watching out for the potential stereotypes. This morning I was walking around the federal building hoping that ICE, like Jericho, would come tumbling down, and those seven circuits were just long enough for these two women to appear before me and ask me to tell this story. It’s not long enough for a sermon — it’s just a small “third” reading putting John’s gospel into the mix. Funny thing — I had to listen to the women first but then do some work. Both of those are good parts. Neither one is better.

(Two elderly women sit down on chairs and set down their trowels. By each chair is a full wine glass. Not necessary to have first century clothing or props.)

Martha: Your flowers are beautiful, Mary.

Mary: Your vegetables are delicious, Martha.

Martha: The wine we make together is the best.

Mary: The wine we drink together, two sisters under one roof, is, indeed, the very best.
(they lift glasses and drink)

Martha: You know, Mary, that story still follows us — all these fifteen years later. I am forever the “do-er,” the worker … and the cranky one, the impatient one, the trying-to-be- pretentious-one, the bossy one.

Mary: Well …?

Martha: Never mind!

Mary: And me? I am the mousy one, the slacker, the navel-gazer, the teacher’s pet — yep, story doesn’t work so well for me either.

Martha: Do you think that is all anyone will remember about us?

Mary: Surely not. John tells the story of you going out into the road to meet Jesus when he came after Lazarus’ death and, in the midst of the threat from Jerusalem only five miles away, you called Jesus the “Christ, the Child of God, the One for whom we wait.” No one else spoke with such faith, during Jesus’ life. Your faith is born of heart-searching, not doing the dishes.

Martha: And you are not just noted for listening and weeping, but you poured perfume on his feet, just when Lazarus’ miracle had made us already notorious, already targets. That’s no meditative self-enlightenment — that’s risky, that’s troublemaking pure and simple.

Mary: (remembering) Maybe drying his feet with my hair was a little over the top, huh?

Martha: It certainly got Judas all twisted up. He had a “vision” of spilling money.

Mary: What a look on his face! And on yours Marty, … how proud you were.

Martha: Jesus did love us both so much, didn’t he, Mary?

Mary: That’s what they wrote. And, I guess it was true, though I also think he loved everyone.

Martha: … even Judas, walking out our door that Sunday night — the dinner after the palms in the road and trashing the temple. I will never forget the anger and tears in his eyes.

But I will tell you what’s even more important — to me, at least.

Mary: More important than Jesus loving us?

Martha: Yes. More important than Jesus loving us, is how much we loved him.

Mary: I do hope they remember that. Meanwhile, is it going to be forever that I will be remembered as too lazy to get up and chop basil?

Martha: (laughing) As long as I am remembered as a whiner … and a great cook.

Mary: I just hope no one remembers my cooking!

Martha: Trust me they won’t. Or my long prayers.

Mary: You mean, “Dear God, bless dinner. Amen?”

Martha: Yes, that one.

Mary: There is one story they won’t remember unless we tell them.

Martha: Which story is that?

Mary: Well, everyone down the centuries will remember the joy on your face and mine and the folks we called in to roll the stone and good friends who unbound him, when our brother Lazarus was raised from death. That’s public.

Martha: Yes, but they won’t know, unless we tell the private story, that the same look of joy was on Lazarus’ face just before he died again, the second time …

Mary: … yes, when he knew he was “coming forth” to his real home.

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11 Responses to Martha and Mary of Bethany — 15 years later, a dialogue

  1. Jessica McArdle says:

    I always appreciate your dialogues, Maren. The ending of this exchange between Mary and Martha was completely unexpected – a memorable twist on an enduring theme.

  2. Linda Grund-Clampit says:

    Wow! So beautiful. Thank you for the listening, the work, and the sharing.

  3. Robert Grabill says:

    Hi, Maren – Sitting here on the Madison Porch at Spirit Lodge in the midst of 20 elementary campers, pondering my sermon this Sunday on the text from Luke. May I have permission to incorporate this amazing reflection?

  4. Diane Wendorf says:

    I love this. Have shared it with our prayer team…mostly women…who are taking on the service Sunday as I head to Pilgrim Lodge to council Sr. Hi Boys!

  5. Pingback: Martha and Mary in the Garden – First Christian Church

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  7. Pingback: Sermon: Distracted or Disaster | Church of the Holy Cross Sermon: Distracted or Disaster | God's still speaking from Hilo

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