A couple weeks ago one of our pastors was preaching about worship and told the story of Mary and Martha, how Martha was doing all the work while Mary just sat and listened to Jesus. I was wondering if maybe the argument wasn’t all Jesus’ fault.

Did he? … no, no, surely he didn’t. But perhaps, … no, it couldn’t be. Did Jesus arrive too early? Could Jesus have committed the unpardonable sin of being the guest that arrives early?

Have you ever had that happen? You’ve invited some people over for dinner, maybe a small party or small group meeting, and you specifically said 6:30, but at 5:55, there they are, ringing your doorbell. Panic has ensued in your lived-in, not-picked-up-yet house.

One of you accuses the other:

“You did tell them 6:30, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Even if we’d told them 6, they’re 5 minutes early. The nerve.”

What do you do? You can’t just leave them there on your porch, pretending you aren’t home yet. They hear the clamor of dishes still being washed, the vacuum being run, the frenzied parental commands barked like machine gun fire:

“Take this to your room!

“Move that!

“Pick that up!

“Wipe that off!

“Just put it in a bag!”

I don’t know about you, but something we’ve done when people were coming over is toss into a garbage bag everything that didn’t look it belonged in a living room—mostly my stuff, really. We’ll go through it later, we reason. We don’t give tours of our house, because it’s fairly small and wouldn’t be worth the hassle and also because we have to close off the room(s) we threw the garbage bags into. Uh, nothing to see in there.

Our favorite guests are those we don’t have to pick up for, those who don’t expect a three-course meal. They can drop in with little notice and we’re actually excited, instead of distressed, to have them visit. They help with the dishes. And we don’t mind if they arrive early.

I think maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at when he tried to calm down Martha.

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” —Luke 10:38-42 The Message

We don’t have to put on airs for Jesus, to make our homes look like model houses that no one lives in. In fact, Jesus harshly criticized such pretension. He just wants us to be real.

I was only kidding about the unpardonable sin. Since Jesus lived a perfect life without sin, then if he were to arrive early, it wouldn’t be a sin. He’d probably pick up your Swiffer sweeper and help. He’s sort of like Mr. Clean, specializing in disinfecting hearts. But I think he has more hair. The earring is iffy, but you never know.

3 thoughts on “Trying to clean up when guests arrive early

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