Canon Wendy Robins
Isaiah 42:1-9 John 12. 1–11
In the name of God, creator, redeemer, sustainer
Richard II stands, regally, on the balcony looking down on his Lords who are each accusing the other of treason and a fight is agreed in order to try to resolve the matter. Staged with grandeur and pace the Globe all female, women of colour, production was breath-taking as we considered the impact on and nuances of the staging of the Shakespearean story caused by the gender and ethnicity of the cast,
It was brilliant but as I sat there watching it yesterday it was not that upon which I found myself focussed upon. I could not help but wonder how the actor who played Richard II and co-directed the production balanced her career and her faith. Anjoh Adouh has been a Reader here in the Diocese of Southwark for the last ten years and she is also known, along with her husband, as a political activist in her local constituency – also in this Diocese: a busy woman.
Then, having just listened to the passion of Christ here at the Cathedral I was also struck by the similarity of the divisions told of in that powerful and poignant story and in that of the play.
So too, in our Gospel reading today. Here is the familiar picture of Martha serving a meal to all those present and the contrast with Mary, doing the seemingly less practical and washing Jesus’ feet with incredibly costly nard. (And with her hair which really doesn’t make much sense to me!) And as she does so she sparks a row. Judas Iscariot, who would betray Jesus, complains that the nard could have been sold and the money used for the poor and yet this act, which prefigures Jesus’ kingship, was also one of hospitality and love. Jesus, rebukes Judas saying that they will always have the poor but that they will not always have him.
This story and the story of the passion yesterday shows tension between people in their reaction to Jesus. People want different things to happen in different ways and how is the decision made. (This is true in Richard II too.)
Our lives also show tension and the need for balances and choices. How much should we be a Martha? How much a Mary? How do we balance the demands of our everyday lives and the demands of our faith? When do we stand for the poor land when do we leave that work to spend time in contemplation and with God?
In this Holy Week may I urge you, as I urge myself, to take the time to reflect and consider how best to ensure your life is balanced so that we have time for our faith. Time to work out what God would have us do and how God would have us act. I am so much more a Martha than I am a Mary but I know that my life needs better balance. I need to be more of a Mary in order to have the time to learn more about God and learn to be more the person that God would have me be.
Just as in the story of Jesus’ passion or of Jesus’ visit to Lazarus’ house there are always competing demands on our times and energy. This time of the Christian year as we move through Holy Week contemplating Jesus’ death and resurrection is a good time to seek to re-balance the ever-competing demands on our lives. We need to consider all areas so that we might have the time and space to give thanks to God for all that God has done and to learn more about God’s will for us and how best to serve the God whom we love.