My last blog entry was on fire in the gut… and to keep if from becoming a novel, I left off a couple key bits. There is fire in the gut for Christ, and there are disguises of such which can be pretty counterproductive. On the surface, it can be pretty hard to distinguish between the two, but internally… a little discernment can go a long way.
Mary and Martha
Sometime the USCCB lectionary, and the RCL line up… a couple weeks was one of those, so I heard about Mary and Martha over four services! In 15 second elevator speech summary mode, Jesus was hanging out with Mary and Martha. While Mary focused on Jesus, Martha, was so busy getting all the ducks in a row with worry and distraction, she sort of blew hospitality 101, ie focus on your guest(s). Martha also wasnt too gung ho on Mary not helping, so she asked Jesus to intervene. Jesus then explained that Martha was missing the point.
4 messages… and busy-ness
Whats cool is… I heard four very distinct messages all on the same text, albeit differing pastors varied as to how much of the other texts were included, but the Gospel lesson was very common amongst all of them.
I want to focus on BUSY-ness, as it goes back to the fire in the gut thing, but also may help us discern as to what might be trouble.
We’ve all seen the over scheduled, every day in some church activity individuals. (fwiw, I’ve been one) It may well be such folks have a zeal for Christ approaching the giants of the faith, or it may be they are so wound up with distraction (even good distractions), they end up in the same boat as Martha. Ie, they are so busy, they dont have time to stop at Jesus feet. So lets look at some scenarios that set the stage for Martha mode.
Misguided Sin Avoidance Busy-ness
No youth leader wants to ring up millstones by causing a young one to stumble… and by anti-stumbling, often times the first thing that comes to mind is sin avoidance. Ie, if you schedule enough busy type activities when running a lock-in or even summer camp, the kids will be so tired, they will fall sound asleep, and the probability of having a couple characters sneak off to raid the kitchen or worse etc when you think the group is sleeping (and you and your peers are exhausted and your guard is down) is drastically reduced. Yet, overscheduling is almost setting the stage for stumbling by encouraging Martha type behavior rather than Mary type behavior. Worse, is that such overscheduling prevents, rather than encouraging sitting at Jesus feet, and just listening to Him.
Fleeing from Temptation via Busy-ness
I tend to align with the old saying, albeit it has rather lame scriptural support, is that an idle mind is the devils workshop. Put folks at idle… and it seems bad things start to multiply. I’ll also concede, if one goes into distraction seeking mode (even church or ministry distraction mode), rather than sitting at Jesus feet… thats not cool either. Fleeing from temptation, while a good thing in and of itself, if it results in faith activity busy-ness alone and no time for Jesus is insanely counterproductive.
Pride and Competition via Busy-ness
Pride and competition can also serve to foster business, especially when measurements are involved. If competition or pride get involved, even the best intentions can end up going south pretty fast, exponentially so if Jesus is left out of the picture.
Bad Stewardship via Busy-ness
I fully believe Parkinson’s law applies to nearly any ministry context. Ie ministry needs will expand to consumer all available time plus 20%… and it can be a real killer if one isn’t careful. Granted, sometimes such is just the way things roll. If a youngster attempts suicide at 11PM… its not like you can just blow him and his family off. Same deal with tragic car accidents… yet, other situations are often the result of hosed up stewardship, either not enough resources, or not enough planning. The work of the Kingdom has to go on… but if it takes out the ministers time to sit in front of Jesus, then we have a major problem.
A possible answer?
So whats an answer… Ecclesiastes says there is a time for all seasons… and if one just adds a tiny bit of human reason, the creation of hard decks becomes a logical outcome. In simplest terms, rigorous scheduling, such that there is always time to sit at Jesus feet, works. The early apostles knew this, and they followed it to a T, just look at the scheduled prayer times called out throughout the book of Acts. In today’s society, we may think we are too busy for such rigor and discipline… and for some folks, that may well be the case… but then, how do such go about slowing down to sit at Jesus feet.