Reflection July 21, 2019 by Rev Sunny Kim
Colossians 1:15-28/ Psalm 52 / Luke 10:38-42
Choosing the Better Part
Today, let us start with the topic of multitasking. Have you heard the rumor that women are good at multitasking and men are bad? I used to agree with it and rather prided myself for being good at multitasking. I would say things like, “In high school, I studied while listening to rock music,” not realizing that is why I didn’t get better grades! But now that I am older and wiser, I think multitasking is a myth; a delusion. Here’s exhibit A; have you seen in a comedy, someone pouring tea or coffee into a cup, then they hear something shocking and freeze, letting the cup overflow and the hot liquid pouring onto the lap? With some simple things, it might be possible to do two things at the same time perfectly, but not all tasks are so simple. Exhibit B is my personal story. I have no artistic talent whatsoever, but I find knitting very relaxing. Since I have no talent and only know how to knit and purl, I knit simple scarves. It seems like such a simple and repetitive activity that I tend to watch something while knitting. Then I miss a stitch, lose track, and ruin the whole scarf because I don’t know how to fix it. I had a lady named Donna who would come to my rescue and undo the damage I had done. I am proof that the ability to multitask is a myth. Focusing on something needs focus.
Today, we met someone who couldn’t focus on one important thing. Sicamous, meet Martha; Martha, meet Sicamous. What Martha was doing in today’s story is normal; it was expected of the host to prepare food for the guests and show good hospitality. Mary, who was in her older sister’s house was expected to help with chores; it was what Mary did that was out of the ordinary, not what Martha did. But Jesus rebuked Martha. What for? For not getting her priority right; not according to the society’s expectations but according to those of God’s kingdom. She was so obsessed with the social expectation for good hospitality that she took her frustration out not only at Mary but also at Jesus, her guest and friend. By rebuking Martha and praising Mary, Jesus teaches us about what our priority should be. If the Great Teacher Jesus comes to our places, our focus should be learning his wisdom; preparing food for him should not be our priority. Martha couldn’t multitask; she made the wrong choice. Mary couldn’t multitask; she made the right choice.
Learning from what Jesus taught Martha and Mary, what about us as the Body of Christ? As the Body of Christ and disciples of Jesus, our focus should be on bringing God’s reign on earth, which is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about. While we are too busy with our individual ministerial projects, sometimes, we can lose focus. We might let our preoccupation for our activities, our pride, or the differences of opinion get in our way of working together in love. We might let these things disrupt our loving relationships. I’ve known pastors, young adult group leaders, and lay leaders who did all the work by themselves, or get into arguments and conflicts with their colleagues. Martha was so preoccupied with and distracted by what she thought was important that she didn’t realize it was affecting her relationship with Jesus and her sister. The most important thing in God’s kingdom is relationship and collaboration. It is better to work together and achieve only a little than one person doing everything and achieving a lot. The latter misses the point of the gospel message.
If we have been distracted in our ministry goals, let us take this opportunity to refocus on Jesus and his kingdom message for which he lived and died. God’s kingdom is all about relationships. Establishing a healthy and right relationship is the priority in God’s kingdom. That is why we are not only taught to love and serve one another, but also to work for social justice; because social justice is about socially establishing a right relationship.
From the Book of Colossians, we learn that Christ is the cosmic reconciler between God and all of the creation. He is the firstborn of all creation, which makes him our big brother. I don’t know about you but when I was young, I idolized my big brother and followed him, both literally and metaphorically. As our big brother and head of the Church, we are to follow Jesus and everything he stood for. We are daily guided by the Holy Spirit who helps us grow in faith and transforms us into faithful and strong disciples. Only when the relationships are right and healthy can we properly function as the Body of Christ in the world. First, we should set our priorities and focus; second, we dedicate our lives to live out that priority. We should focus and dedicate. But this journey, we don’t have to take alone. Today, we proclaimed along with the Psalmist that we would trust in God’s faithfulness. Let us look to Jesus and not get distracted. In Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water, Peter also walked on water, going towards Jesus who beckoned him. He was alright at the beginning, but started sinking after his eyes got distracted by the storm and fear kicked in. Let us not take our eyes and focus off Jesus. Let us trust that the Holy Spirit will be with us always, guide and strengthen us as we strive to live as faithful disciples building God’s kingdom. And let’s get our priorities sorted out. I have the hope and ambition to make our congregation more visible and more visibly BEING the Body of Christ in our community. And in the process, it would be awesome if our congregation can grow in number too; but increasing our number should not be our priority. We should love and care for one another first. We should strive to work together with respect instead of pursuing bigger and better results while hurting our relationship with each other.
Jesus praised Mary for choosing the “better part”. For us as God’s church, the “better part” is being faithful to God’s kingdom values of compassion and justice. We shall evaluate our ministry with these criteria, not by how much money we made or how many people we brought in. Did our ministry improve our relationships while no one got hurt along the way? Did we grow together no matter how slowly? Let us choose “the better part”; let us choose to work together, no matter what we do. Let us properly focus on “the better part.”