Luke 10: 38-42
A reflection by Paul Coleman
I love to cook, particularly for other
people. Throughout the early years of my PhD studies we regularly had a house
full of post graduate students (on one occasion almost 60 people) crammed into a
three bed mid terrace house in Burley park, in this case it would pretty much always
involve a couple of huge pots of chilli. Other times it has been much more intimate,
with only a few close friends. In either case, I will happily spend hours in
the kitchen preparing food and making sure that everything is prepared.
When we rented that house in Burley it
was quite easy to do we had a big kitchen/dining area that took up the whole
back of the house. Since moving to a Leeds back-to-back house, this has become
more difficult. The kitchen and living room, while connected by a doorway, are separate
spaces and the kitchen is very small. While I can still join in with
conversation, it is more difficult to focus on both that and not burning food,
and I am more reliant on Clare to welcome and talk to people. All of these occasions
have been quite well planned out and anticipated. So, I can only imagine how it
felt for Mary and Martha to have unanticipated guests arriving for dinner. While
only Jesus is mentioned, I suspect that he brought the rest of the gang with
him. How would you cope with 13 unexpected dinner guests?
We all know that Martha was the one
preparing the food and getting upset that Mary was simply sitting and listening
to Jesus. On Sunday we heard about how unusual it was for Mary, as a woman, to
sit at the feet of a teacher, and presumably not just to listen but also to ask
questions. We often tend to focus on the learning aspect of this occasion, and
it is important. However, I wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he commended
Mary’s choice? For me this decision to spend time listening to Jesus is as much
a part of being hospitable as preparing the food was for Martha. How welcome
would Jesus have felt in the house if both of them were so busy preparing food
that neither of them made time to sit and spend time with him?
Finally, how do we respond to this?
How do we show hospitality in these times when we cannot invite people round
for dinner or in for a cup of tea? How else can we show people that we care?