Few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Everybody I know says they need just one thing. Really what they mean is they need just one thing more. — Rich Mullins
Reflection: One Thing Needed
By John Tillman
The Church’s anticipatory season of Advent doesn’t officially begin until December 2nd this year, but our cultural and commercial anticipation of Christmas is in full swing. Parties are being planned. Trees are going up. Lights are being strung.
Christmas is coming.
For some, Christmas seems more ominous than celebratory—like a massive to-do list with an inflexible deadline. With all of the cultural expectations of Christmas, it’s no wonder people push “starting Christmas” earlier and earlier in the year.
If Christmas is about having the perfect meal, with the perfect side-dishes, the perfect guests, the perfect gifts, the perfect decor, the perfect tree, and the perfect decorations, increasing the production timeline makes a lot of sense. But even starting in October, as some do, that’s a lot of perfection for imperfect people to manage in a broken world. It’s a perfect mix for holiday depression and anxiety rather than the peace, comfort, and joy that should be experienced at Christmas.
Martha, the detail oriented disciple, often gets a hard time from preachers who focus on jokes about how uptight she is. We often preach on Martha’s scolding of Jesus about her sister and too rarely preach about Martha’s open declaration that Jesus was the Messiah.
If Martha, in today’s passage is scattered and distracted, the Martha who greets Jesus after her brother’s death is focused with clarity on the “one thing” needed. Martha’s declaration was no trivial thing. Nearby were those who were already plotting Christ’s death and would next be plotting the death of her soon-to-be resurrected brother. Her confession was at the risk of her life.
The one thing that is needed, the better portion that Mary chose and Martha learned to choose under pain of death, is to place ourselves at all costs in the presence of Jesus, our Lord.
Mary and Martha aren’t stereotypes for us to sort ourselves into and excuse our tendencies. We can’t say, “Well, I’m a Mary,” and ignore details. We can’t say, “Well, I’m a Martha,” and ignore relationships. To do so is to dehumanize these women into parables to make us feel better about ourselves.
These female disciples’ each are immature in their own way when we first meet them. But in their final appearances in scripture, they abandon all for Christ, risking financial security, risking reputation, risking their lives to honor him. They show us, perhaps more clearly than other disciples, what it means to find in Christ, our “one thing.”
Prayer: Request for Presence
Protect me, O God for I take refuge in you. I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other,” — Psalm 16:1
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Confessing Christ, Full Grown
It is more difficult to stand before a man who, by inaction, allowed your brother to die and call that man the Messiah, as Martha did.
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Mary of Bethany’s anointing of Christ on his last trip to Jerusalem is intimately connected to the gospel—Christ said that it would be.
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