What Will I Learn Today?

Luke 10:38-42 – The 9th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, July 17, 2016

“One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

Long before Lycra . . .
Long before Lycra . . .

“Good morning!” the helmeted babe said as she sped by me.

Her blonde hair spilled from the underside of the slick, plastic headgear. With legs pumping the pedals, and her shoulders bent over the handlebars, she settled in ahead of me. I kept pace. We were moving north on a flat Fresno street, our bikes in the middle of a generously wide designated bike path.

I admired the view. Here’s the truth. I’m a happily married guy. But I have base, primal, male, heterosexual instincts. And so, for long seconds, I stared at the young lady in front of me, admiring the way high-tech Lycra helps bike shorts snugly fit her body. Spandex forever, I say!

Then, something deeper than Lycra-spawned-lust scratched at an itch in my primitive brain. How dare that cornstalk slender, proclaimer of cheery greetings, youngish female pass me! How dare she casually relegate me to second place! I dug deeper and increased my speed, committing myself to providing Ms. Good Morning with a view of my XXL-sized, Lycra-stretching lumpy derriere.

Competition trumped lust. I huffed and puffed and put a good city block between our two bikes. Take that you uppity blonde biker! Gray-haired old guys rule! Continue reading →

In The Tombs

John 11:1-45  – The 5th Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, April 6, 2014

“Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:39)

Jesus had left for Ephraim with his disciples.

Mary was tending to Lazarus, by his bed while he slept. (And ate and slept and ate a little more.)

Caravaggio's "The Raising of Lazarus."
Caravaggio’s “The Raising of Lazarus.”

The crowds had dispersed. So many of our neighbors, along with the curious and suspicious, had traveled from the tomb to our home. They’d asked questions, whispered and schemed. There were those that loudly boasted they’d now follow Jesus to heaven or hell or Jerusalem or wherever he led. There were those already exaggerating my brother’s rebirth, telling of Jesus’ casting magical spells or seeing bolts of lightning before the rock at the tomb was removed or hearing angelic mutterings. And there were those who silently watched, never joining in the backslapping and cheering. They skulked away after they’d witnessed Lazarus emerging from the darkness. I knew they despised my brother and resented Jesus. I knew where this last group would go. They may have been close-mouthed here in Bethany, but a few hours later—mark my words—they’d conspire with the priests in the Temple or the Roman soldiers . . . and more likely both.

There was no safe place. Not in Bethany. Not anywhere.

But there was one place where I could be alone. I needed to think. Needed to pray. Needed to ask for forgiveness.

And so I’d returned to my brother’s tomb. Now empty, the hordes gone, and with this long, disturbing, divine day coming to a close. I reassured Mary I’d return before dark. Tonight, I’d stay by Lazarus’ side and give my sister a chance to rest.

In the cool shadow of the tomb’s threshold, its wide opening like a mouth forming a shout, I recalled the last days.

I told everyone, especially when the night of the third day came, that the stench from the tomb was a dead animal. A rat. A mole. A bird dragged inside by a feral cat. The stench was not my brother Lazarus. Continue reading →

Is There An Easy Answer?

Luke 10:25-37 – The 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 21, 2013

“‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things…’” (Luke 10:41)

Walden Pond
Walden Pond

Luke 10:38-42 is one of those gospel neighborhoods where I readily say, “I laughed, I cried!”

Ah, Mary and Martha.

Between Martha’s bustling and Mary’s attentive listening, it’s clear Jesus preferred Mary’s perspective. But take a secret ballot in church on Sunday morning, or even in your local mall on Saturday afternoon, and see who wins the popularity contest. I’ll wager that Martha the hard worker may lose the popular vote . . . but not by much. After all, don’t we need the Marthas of the world?

I’ve read that Henry David Thoreau, during his Walden Pond sojourn, used the same dishes and utensils, meal after meal, day after day. And why make his bed if he’ll hop back in a few hours later? From his Walden . . .

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.


A sign near the site of Thoreau's cabin...
A sign near the site of Thoreau’s cabin…

But multi-tasking Martha accomplished things, from a three-course meal through a properly set table to a well-dusted living room. And don’t forget, the Lukan passage had Martha welcoming Jesus. Where was Mary? Dabbing on make-up? Finishing a chapter in her romance novel on her Kindle? I have to admit, I’ve sometimes imagined that Jesus’ reply to Martha—“you are worried and distracted by many things”—came only after she set the food before him and asked if he wanted red or white wine with his meal.

Please, give me a roomful of Marthas.

And yet . . . maybe not. Continue reading →