One of my favorite images of worship in the entire Bible takes place in the New Testament, when two women show two ways to worship their Lord. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus visits two sisters, Mary and Martha, in their home.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”Luke 10:38-39
This scene is used throughout Christian literature to model our own response to Jesus. Often, the two women are set against one another, with Mary shown to be the more worshipful of the two. In fact, Mary became well-known in Christianity for her humility and her attentive heart. One of the most prominent images of Mary is this scene, where she knelt at Jesus’s feet and learned directly from him. Mary’s method of worshiping the Christ is an example for readers today, as well; when we encounter Jesus, the most natural reaction is to draw near to him and pay close attention to his revelation.
Next to Mary, Martha tends to get a negative reputation. After welcoming Jesus into her home, Martha spent much of Jesus’s visit completing housekeeping tasks around her house. She followed the traditional expectation of her culture, preparing food and straightening up messes, maybe filling her guests’s water glasses or chatting with the wallflowers who seemed left out. She grew bitter with this apparent unfairness; her sister sat while Martha busied herself about the room. I imagine hosts at speeches, who spend much of an event preparing and introducing the guest of honor to an audience, then rush backstage to monitor and troubleshoot any issues, allowing the event to continue smoothly. Often, these hosts end up missing out on the content of the speech because of how busy they found themselves behind the scenes. Anyone who’s been in that situation may be able to relate to the frustrations and FOMO inherent in the task.
As a similar Type A personality, I relate to Martha, and I’ve learned to recognize her actions as a type of worship similar to her sister’s. The scripture states that Martha was the family member who “opened her door” to Jesus; she recognized the greatness of Jesus and invited him into her home. Had Martha not been so willing to welcome Jesus, many followers (including Mary) may have lost the chance to learn from him. Martha’s hospitality and her servant’s heart created an environment where her peers were comfortable enough to pay complete attention to Jesus’s message. We also have a responsibility to contribute to settings where fellow believers learn about God’s goodness; this could involve hosting get-togethers like small groups, preventing stumbling blocks for our peers, meeting needs for neighbors, and listening to each other’s personal experiences with Jesus.
How do you worship the Lord — are you constantly at Jesus’s feet waiting for his words to become evident? Or do you busy yourself with creating safe spaces and relationships for others to discover his words and bring them to life?