Monday, December 30, 2013

"Have You Revisited Mary and Martha?" from "Arise"


 Have You Revisited Mary and Martha?
Mary Stromer Hanson is a recent graduate of Denver Seminary with an MA in NT biblical studies. She is a longtime member of CBE and active in the Denver chapter. She is the author of The New Perspective on Mary and Martha: Do Not Preach Mary and Martha Again Until You Read This! and Bold Girls Speak: Girls of the Bible Come Alive both published by Wipf and Stock.

Have you revisited Mary and Martha lately (Luke 10:38–42)? You remember their house where Martha is “over busy” making preparations for Jesus’ arrival, and Mary ignores the obvious need to help her sister, preferring to listen at the feet of Jesus. In desperation, Martha appeals to Jesus, the male authority in the house, to get her sister’s priorities in line with the cultural expectations for women. Martha appears to be reprimanded by Jesus while Mary is vindicated. Many times, this story is interpreted as presenting one sister upheld at the expense of the other, preferring women who do not complain.
Mary and Martha’s story has traditionally been interpreted to honor Mary’s listening over Martha’s service. However, could the sisters have a new lesson to teach? Many new possibilities are uncovered in The New Perspective on Mary and Martha. Martha received Jesus and his gospel by utilizing her gift of hospitality by providing food and hospitality for the sake of Jesus and his work on earth. However, most importantly, she received Jesus as her savior. Both Martha and her sister Mary were known as “sitters at the feet,” and informed disciples. Martha was indeed burdened with many duties, but her worries were over issues much larger than her duties as a hostess that day. The questions often occur: “Why doesn’t Martha just talk to Mary herself? Why doesn’t Mary defend herself?” or “Why is Mary silent?”
Contrary to many interpretations of this passage, Martha is not necessarily in the kitchen, because the Greek text gives no indication of a meal being served, and Mary is not even in the house. Mary does not have a speaking part because Mary is not there! She is gone! This is the point: Martha claims to want her sister to come home because she needs help with her “much service.” The word used for “service” in Greek is diakonia, which is the same word often translated as the work of a deacon. Why does Martha implore Jesus, “Tell her therefore, that she may give me a hand?” Jesus, of course, knows where Mary is. She is following him by evangelizing in towns and villages across Galilee, as described in Luke 8:1–2. She may also very well be one of the seventy sent out in pairs to preach in the towns that Jesus intended to go (Luke 10:1). Indeed, Martha may want her sister home to help her with her duties as a deacon (diakonia), or maybe she just wants her sister home with her!
Martha is still the sister who needs an “attitude adjustment,” but now her worries are much more than getting a meal prepared on time. Her sister has heard the call to follow Jesus in the countryside among strangers and dangers. Jesus informs Martha that Mary has chosen “good,” and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42). Martha’s weakness is that she wants her sister securely with her. Who cannot identify with wanting loved ones nearby? Luke 10:38–42 becomes a much bigger lesson about giving not only ourselves, but also allowing our loved ones to follow a different call of Jesus. It reinforces many lessons of Luke about new family ties, discipleship, and trust.
Why do we continue putting ourselves into “Mary” and “Martha” boxes? The Spirit may be calling us into a different direction. This text is not asking, “Are you a Martha” or “Are you a Mary?” The appropriate question is: “Are you a Jesus-follower?”

Spoons as Distress Signals

A charity in Britain called Freedom Charity is helping girls forced into overseas marriage by advising them to put a spoon in their underwear. The rationale for this unlikely advice is that the spoon will set off metal detectors at the airport and the girls will be searched. The search will be a safe place where the girl can tell airport security that she is being forced to marry. British authorities manage over 1,500 forced-marriage cases a year, with perhaps a third of the cases affecting girls under 16. Freedom Charity has also produced an app to assist those have or may be forced into marriage or other forms of abuse. Click here for the full story.

Would you like to read past columns? Click here to begin browsing the Arise archives.

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T A K E  A C T I O N
Mimi Haddad | Why Gender Hierarchy is at Odds with Christian Faith and How it Leads to Abuse: A Quest for Biblical Justice for Men and Women
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CBE's YouTube channel is featuring lectures on the topic of abuse from past conferences. If you can't view the video in this email, watch it on YouTube.


20% off The New Perspective on Mary and Martha
Did you enjoy Mary Stromer Hanson's column? Buy The New Perspective on Mary and Martha for 20% off, this week only! Shop at CBE's bookstore. Additional member discounts do not apply


Fullness in Christ Fellowship Conference
CBE president Mimi Haddad will be a keynote speaker at the "Renewing Gender Relations, Living out the Fullness in Christ" conference in San Francisco. The conference runs from November 1–3 and is sponsored by Fullness in Christ Fellowship.

To find out more about this and other events, 
visit our event page.

G I V E  T O  T H E  M A X

On Thursday, November 14, CBE will be participating in Minnesota's Give to the Max Day. By donating on November 14, you help CBE be entered into hourly drawings for extra prize money as we compete with other Minnesota nonprofits. More information coming soon!

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