Materials for Worship on 17th July 2022

Moira writes: The challenge coming from our gospel passage this morning is that we should strive to take time out of our busy lives and prioritise the things that bring us closer to God. As you prepare for worship this morning and light your candle, you may wish to read the short passage from Luke 10 vs 38-42 which is our set reading for today. Once again in our Christian calendar we have come around to the story of Mary and Martha.  This very short passage is, I am sure, one of the most well-known passages in the New Testament.  It tells the story of two sisters who respond in different ways to a visit from Jesus to their home.  Mary is relaxed and laid-back in her response and decides that it is more important to sit and listen to what their guest has to say, whereas Martha responds by Spring Cleaning the house and preparing food for their guest.

I have to say here that for many years I held Murder Mystery Dinner Parties for friends, and my response to having guests was that of Martha, and so I can very much empathise with her. Before each party I would set about tidying up, cleaning and polishing and working on the menu.   I searched out recipes which would correspond with the theme and looked for ‘props’ to enhance the atmosphere.   However, I hope that I also managed to respond to my guests on the night in a similar manner to Mary, joining in conversation and listening to what they had to say.

The story of Mary and Martha appears in the New Testament sandwiched between the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which was the gospel reading for last Sunday, and the Lord’s Prayer. This scene from the house of Mary and Martha occurs in everyone’s home and is repeated many times in our own lives. Especially the conflict between the inner need to make people welcome and to have time to spend in their company, and the outward need to make sure that everything in the house is in place and clean.

Often, we identify people by where they live, their family background, what religion they follow and so on.  We stereotype them and put them neatly into a box and I suppose that’s what we do in this story of Mary and Martha. The Mary’s of this world love to paint a picture of the Martha’s as being workaholic slavedrivers.   Martha is seen as a perfectionist who believes that a maximum of panic and activity is the only true test of proper preparation for guests.  Everything should be in its place, neat and tidy.  The Maratha’s of this world like to paint a picture of the Mary’s as impractical types who get drawn into a conversation and forget to keep glasses filled and food on the table.   Both are showing hospitality to their guests, one in listening and paying attention, the other in serving and caring for the needs of others.  (You could now read the O.T. passage from Genesis 18 vs 1-10a and see if you can find similarities to our gospel passage).

In our first reading we also hear of hospitality being shown to strangers.   Abraham didn’t know the three men who suddenly appeared outside his tent, but he didn’t hesitate to rush out to greet them.  This was then followed by many acts of hospitality, the washing of dusty feet, water and bread for refreshment, the tender meat from a calf prepared for a feast.  Just like Martha, Abraham and Sarah were filled with activity preparing for these unexpected guests. While Mary was focussed on Jesus, Martha was distracted by all the chores she felt she had to do with such an important guest in her house.  She was probably stressed out!  Something we can all relate to from time to time.  It was then that Martha made what looks like three mistakes.

Firstly, she abandoned her mission of hospitality and interrupted Jesus’ teaching.  “Lord,” she said, “do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” Secondly, Martha allowed circumstances and emotions to colour her faith.  Isn’t it our understanding of God’s unconditional and unfailing love that he always cares?  We should never allow ourselves to drift into doubts about God’s compassion for us.  Martha spoke before she thought about it, “Lord do you not care?”  Thirdly, Martha tried to impose her will on the Lord’s will.  “Tell her then to help me,” were the words spoken in haste to Jesus.  Here was Martha telling Jesus what she thought he should do.  Martha really needed to learn how to talk with her Lord.  Is it any wonder that the passage following this is the Lord’s Prayer? Martha prayed “my will be done” not “thy will be done,” and she thought, “my kingdom come” not “thy kingdom come.”

As Christians, gathering together in worship each week and listening to the scriptures is important, and it’s also important that there is a time for joyful singing along with quiet reflection.  Worship should be a time free from stress, not filled with stress, because our time with God reminds us that nothing is too hard for him and that we can do all things through “him who strengthens us.” Worship reminds us that God provides for his people.  We hear it all the time in scripture and in the hymns we sing each week. We shouldn’t let the worries and the cares of this world get us down, cause us stress, and make us into ‘Martha’ people.  Instead, we should strive to be more like Mary in this story. Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened with his disciples to his teaching. I wonder how often you find the time to do just that, to sit in quietness and just listen for God’s still small voice?   As disciples of Jesus, we should be asking, “what is the one thing I could be doing right now that will really matter in ten years’ time?”   The things that we do for eternity will last.   The things we do in obedience to the Word will last.   Mary recognised the one thing, the one real need in that hour that Jesus spent in her home, and she was doing it.

Martha was distracted because she had not recognised, or could not recognise, the need of that one hour when Jesus visited.   She was stressed by what she perceived as multiple needs and she was unwilling to choose among them.  I hope you can see the challenge coming from our gospel passage this morning.   To try not to become distracted by secondary needs and to prioritise.   Attending to ‘first things first’ gives life meaning and purpose and is productive.   Making ‘the main thing the main thing’ makes the Master protective of our endeavour and hard work.  Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.”   Amen.


In your prayers today, please continue to remember the people of Ukraine and all who face conflict, war and oppression.   Giving thanks for all peacemakers working in dangerous situations.

Pray for all who are struggling to feed their families.   Giving thanks to God for the generosity of those who donate to Foodbanks.

Pray for all you know who are ill at this time.   Giving thanks for all who work in the NHS and for the local doctors’ surgeries in Dunblane.

Pray for Nerys and Davie as they recover from Covid and for Nerys that she has a very happy birthday.

Finally pray for each other, giving thanks for the Christian communities of Dunblane and for our congregation.


Saint Mary and Saint Martha, beloved by Christ,

Teach us to serve by action and by adoration.

Teach us to see value in work and in contemplation.

As Christ spoke to you then, let us now hear:

before we start doing, before we start moving,

the better part is in choosing to stop at Christ’s feet,

to be with him, here.