Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mary and Martha Revisited

I blogged about the story of Mary and Martha almost 4 years ago, and at the time, I wrote about Mary and Martha representing the balance between inward and outward activity. I had a somewhat different view of that story during the recent NCYM-C bible study. If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is in Luke 10:38-42 and goes like this:

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

  But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NLTse)

The theme of the bible study was "The Bible as a Compass", since the overall theme of the yearly meeting was "Which Way Now?" and Brent Bill (author of "The Sacred Compass") was the plenary speaker on 6th-day evening. In the bible study, we looked at various passages in the bible according to 5 different categories. The first two categories were something like "Ideals, Goals, Highest Aspirations" and "Distractions, Detours, and Dead-Ends". I brought up the story of Mary and Martha as straddling those two categories - Mary was fulfilling her highest aspirations by sitting at the feet of Jesus and being taught, while Martha was distracted.

When I said "Martha was distracted", one very dear Friend turned to me and pleaded Martha's case saying "she was busy". If one looks at the story as balancing inward vs. outward action then my simple characterization of Martha as "distracted" would be rather unfair. But I think instead that Martha serves as a warning to not let our busyness get in the way of our listening to the teaching of the Inward Christ. That isn't to say that action is a bad thing, but that it should come as a result of the leadings of the Spirit - and that we shouldn't mistake "doing something" for "doing what we are meant to do".

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Fourth Trip to NCYM-C

This was the fourth time attending the annual gathering of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative). I originally wrote "visiting" in the previous sentence, but we certainly don't feel like visitors, we are always treated like family members. As I mentioned previously, we had to come home early, so we missed a number of exciting happenings, such as the consideration of Davidson Friend Meeting for membership, the choosing of a new clerk, Brent Bill's plenary address, and the closing worship.

Before we left home, I had remarked that while I was initially so overjoyed at the freedom of being around other Quakers who embrace their Christianity so openly, I am finding that what really makes the difference for me is the intentionality of this group. I noticed this particularly in the ministry offered during the many worship opportunities.

Friends, as a religious group, seem to be more active than a lot of groups. I know that Friends at NCYM-C are involved in many causes - Earth care, peacemaking, social concerns. The intentionality comes into play in that these causes don't tend to dominate worship. It isn't just that these Friends understand that the actions come as a result of the leadings of the Holy Spirit, but that they understand that worship is the place where we corporately deepen our relationship to God so that we are able to respond faithfully to whatever it is we are called to do. Much of the ministry is centered around our faithfulness to God, around hearing what we are being asked to do, and very little to do with what someone heard on NPR yesterday, or about particular bills coming up in Congress. Yes, people have those concerns, but they are willing to lay them aside until the time comes to take them up again. You get the sense that the reason these people are here together is not because they have found people who share common concerns and ideals. They are here to commune with God together, not as individuals, but as one body united in and through God.

Coming home early was extremely difficult, it is as if I can feel the yearly meeting going on, and I have an overwhelming longing to be there. I hope it will pass when the meeting concludes tomorrow. I do still feel a peaceful calm that is very sweet. I also came home with a great quote, courtesy of Jeff Ginsberg (via her husband Eric) "Are you listening, or are you just waiting to speak?"

Home Early From NCYM-C

Ceal and I had to come back early from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative). We brought two of our granddaughters with us this year - Christina and Samantha. Last weekend, three of Samantha's friends were in a car wreck. One of them, Patrick, was in a coma. Initially the doctors seemed pretty optimistic about his recovery, but thursday night Samantha got word that Patrick's brain wasn't functioning and that they were going to take him off life support. She felt she needed to be back here, so we left after lunch on friday. Within a few minutes of getting home, Samantha was already heading up the street to check on one of the others who was in the wreck and was taking it very hard.

I wrote last year about the tender nurturing we received at NCYM-C when we learned of the death of one of the teens from the SAYF program. That same nurturing enveloped Samantha and Christina this year within minutes. Many people in the cafeteria saw Samantha crying in my arms and came to help, getting them some food to go, and then coming back with us to the dorm. Mary Miller sat and talked with them while I went to find Ceal. She also checked on them from time to time. There were many others providing support in various ways.

I know this is insignificant compared to the pain Patrick's family and friends are going through, but it was heartbreaking to wake up this morning and not be at NCYM-C. I want to cry.