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About the author: Stan is a pastor to pastors, a writer, a lover of Malawi, and a ZPC attender and choir member. He and his wife, Mary, have three grown children and seven grandchildren. Stan serves as the parish associate for ZPC.

Today's Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

This morning I have the delight of looking out upon a lush, green lawn; spring-green leaves of maples and oaks; and the radiance of irises in full bloom. Among these moves a fresh breeze, promising warmth; and above all, a sky sparkling deep and blue. Furthermore, I have the pleasure of watching several starlings, robins, finches, and even hummingbirds eating their second, or maybe their third breakfasts. 

This day holds much beauty and opportunity for me—ah, a hummingbird just returned. 

But as I behold this morn, I know that beyond my sight is a pandemic world, that looks very different from an assisted-living and/or nursing home window; from an empty classroom in India; and from a desolate marketplace in Uganda. Likewise, beyond my view lies the aftermath of demonstrations and destruction; of despair and fear amid broken glass and burned wreckage; of hope puddled in grimy gutters. 

In the light of these worlds, the irony for me this morning stems from an anticipated conversation, in which two sisters, Martha and Mary, might figure (Luke 10:38-42). Very likely you know this account: Martha appeared as “vexed,” “distracted,” and “overcome by great service”; and Jesus affirmed her vexation: she was “concerned and troubled about many things.” Although motivated to serve, her distractions prevented her from focusing upon the important and the essential: time with him.
As I thought of Martha’s distraction, I gave further attention, as perhaps never before, to the Greek word, περισπάω (perispaó), which we translate as “vexed” or “distracted.” Without question, either of these words is an accurate translation, but in classical Greek, this verb also describes the action of an army diverting energies and efforts to counter an enemy’s flanking movements. Instead of centering upon its primary objective, the army begins to turn about, backing up and in upon itself: great confusion and loss is probable.

Martha was vexed. Apparently she forgot about the nature and meaning of her hospitality: her focus was to be upon Jesus and providing for his needs. I wonder: Might he have wanted her, for a moment, to sit with him, to be present for him? 

Upon this day, I realize that I too can be distracted: I can allow beautiful surroundings, or riot and pandemic concerns to divert me from what I am to do and to be. Apart from asking: “Lord, what would you have of me today?” most anything or anyone can turn me about, in, and upon myself. 

Posted by Stan Johnson with