Mary Moment

Luke 10:38-42 

Have you ever had a Mary Moment? I have. 
It happened one Sunday morning as I pulled up to church. It had been a challenging Sunday to make it there – The church was an hour commute from my home, and I had to get the kids out of the house and off to church with my husband before leaving. I was teaching adult education before worship, so I had to be there an hour early. I’d left dishes in the sink, and I was pretty sure the bed would still be unmade when I got home.
And on top of it all – it was Mother’s Day. I had been thinking to myself, why am I doing all of this? I’d felt harried and disgruntled, feeling like I was wearing too many hats as Mom, preacher, teacher. 


But, as I pulled into the parking spot, the sun on the leaves of the tree in front of me caught my eye. It had rained, and the droplets of water sparkled like diamonds in the sunlight. And then a wave of gratitude washed over me, for amazing the confluence of events that brought me to that moment: 

  • being born in the era when women could be pastors 
  • being able to be a mom 
  • having a supportive spouse who juggled his work as church musician and dad not only on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. 

And I thought: I am so blessed. I have everything I could possibly desire. 


It was what I call a Mary Moment – I came into Jesus’ presence in that moment, and it offered me what I couldn’t find in the busyness of my morning – perspective, gratitude, peace, contentment, joy. 


That’s what being in Jesus’ presence is like, and it’s what Mary experiences in our Gospel lesson today. She is drawn to Jesus, stopped in the midst of the work of welcoming guests into her home. As she sits down at Jesus’ feet, she steps outside the role assigned to her by birth. Women’s work was to provide hospitality, to attend to the needs of others. But, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet as a disciple. She comes into Jesus’ presence fully and wholeheartedly. I imagine it must have been something like what I experienced in the parking lot. 
Jesus calls Mary’s moment ‘the better part.’   

I think if you can recall such moments of gratitude and contentment, you know it is true. Being with Jesus offers us a view of where we belong, our place in community. Being with Jesus brings into focus our identity as loved and cherished and the use of our gifts. 


So much of the time, however, we are like Martha in this story — caught up in the ‘shoulds’ of our lives. 

Martha was doing what she was supposed to be doing as a woman in the household. She knew her place and the importance of her work; it was her way to express love for Jesus. On another day, Martha might have been perfectly content going about the hosting. But on this day, she was like I was before I drove into the parking lot: overwhelmed with work, frustrated at others, ‘worried and distracted,’ as Jesus says. 


How common is that, right? 

Worry and distraction prevents us from seeing the big picture. It prevents us from joy and contentment. 

And like Martha, it prevents us from coming into the presence of Jesus, though he is right in front of us. 


And so I find this story to be good news for me in my Mary Moments, and my Martha Moments, because Jesus affirms the necessity and goodness of spending time with him. It can be in work and activity—Martha’s work in hosting is essential, and it is ministry for Jesus and others. But the activity needs to be done in an awareness of Jesus’ presence. 

When the actions of our lives, be they at work or home or church or in the community, lead us into deeper connections with others and with God, that’s being in the presence of Jesus. That’s being aware and tuning in to the gifts of what God is doing in and through us. That’s when we are able to receive the gifts of Jesus’ presence: gratitude, joy, contentment. 


But perhaps more surprising is that Jesus affirms in this story not only our activity, but also in our stopping. Jesus sticks up for Mary sitting at his feet, doing nothing … or so it seems. Jesus correctly identifies that Mary is actually in that moment attending to the ONE thing that matters:

His presence.


She is paying attention to him, she is aware of him and is filled to overflowing. In being released from the necessity of doing, Mary is free to simply be. Her identity is not tied to work or activity, but to Jesus. 

She does not need to do anything to earn a place in Jesus’ presence. She does not need to accomplish anything to be a beloved child of God.


I think this is a deeply countercultural message, because our culture values production. We wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as if our activity justifies our place on earth. Jesus cuts through all of that. Our value is not in what we can do or accomplish. It is in what God does in and through us. And so we can stop what we are doing – 

  • We can tune into Jesus’ presence.  
  • We can participate in the better part of life with Jesus. 
  • When we do, we find the fulfillment and joy that we are looking for. 
  • We return to our activity renewed.


That Mary Moment in the parking lot has become a touchstone for me. It reminds me of the privilege of my life and what God has given me to do. But do not think that I am special in this regard, or that Mary was exceptional. Each life is sacred and precious to God. 


Your life is unique. No one else can be you or touch the people and do the things you do. You matter to God. Being with Jesus means that we live in an awareness of that reality, and experience the joy and freedom of that identity. 


In your Mary Moments and Martha Moments, may you tune into Jesus’ presence and know the joy and fulfillment of being with him. 

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