Newsletter Archives

The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form to subscribe.

July 2019 Newsletter (Year C)

Pastor Bruce Benson

Martha and Mary

The interesting sisters Martha and Mary show up for church this July. Luke's Gospel describes the two of them entertaining Jesus in their home. The entire story requires only a handful of verses, but there is a lot going on in just a few words. Martha, you might remember, is described as being "distracted by her many tasks." Think about the oddness of that for a moment. Don't you usually think distraction happens in the opposite way? That is, we are distracted from our many tasks, not by them. Common sense tells us that our many tasks are what we are supposed to be doing, not what distracts us. Is there maybe a hint of a smile, or a twinkle in the eye when Jesus says, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things"? 

The story is rich with possibilities. On the one hand, there are indeed times when busyness is a distraction from more important matters that call for our attention. Grief and conflict are prime examples. Staying busy is a common strategy for avoiding our sorrows or conflicts. In the short term that can be a helpful strategy, in the long term not so much. Busy hand-work and head-work can distract us from heart-work we need to do. Every parent, for example, has experienced times when it is better to press the "pause" button on adult business in order to attend to important children's business. Sorry, Martha, Jesus has a point.

On the other hand, if diligent Martha was busy preparing dinner while her sister sat in the shade of an olive tree, attentive to Jesus but oblivious to her chores, well, it seems unfair to scold Martha for being distracted. She was simply being attentive to her guest in a different way. She was preparing his meal.

These different ways of hearing the story suggest that we need both Marys and Marthas. So does every church. So does every community. There are times when what we need most from each other is not the doing of tasks and chores, it is sitting together, being taken seriously as a person. Life is dishearteningly lonely without Marys in the world. But just as surely there are times when it is a great and wonderful gift to have a Martha: someone to prepare a meal, push a wheelchair, clean up a flooded home, or do a hundred other tasks that are not distractions, but meaningful ways to honor and serve someone. 

Sing For Joy welcomes and needs both Marys and Marthas too. If nobody was ever still enough to listen, Sing For Joy would be a waste of time. It is intended to encourage you to take at least a moment to be Mary. Yet, if performing musicians refused to focus on their task at hand, if they did not practice, practice, practice, there would be no music to be shared each week. Be Mary as you listen, but give thanks for Martha musicians too!

Peace be with you,

Bruce Benson

Pastor Bruce Benson

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Lanterns in Boe Chapel

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