A reflection Luke 10:38-42 for Proper 11C
I happen to love making pies from scratch, crust and all.
I don’t remember how I learned to make pie crust. I think my mother taught me once, but back then I found the process tedious. Years later when I wanted to make a pie I had to use my “Joy of Cooking” to teach myself again. In those days, some 25 years ago, I always used lard for the crust, which makes it very flavorful and flaky, but is incredibly unhealthy.
Around the fourth of July I was watching Martha Stewart make pies crusts on her show – berry pies – and that got me thinking about a fresh blueberry pie. Mindful of Martha Stewarts’ instructions, as I began to make my pie crust I chilled the shortening, the flour, the water, and the bowl and the utensils for mixing the dough.
Once everything was well chilled I began the slow and arduous process of cutting the shortening into the flour, the really old fashioned way, using two table knives. A friend of mine was over and she asked why I didn’t just mix the flour and shortening with my fingers? Oh, I said, the heat from the fingers would make everything too warm and it wouldn’t mix correctly, the pie crust would be mushy. So I continued cutting the shortening and flour until the combined ingredients were about the size of peas. Add water, mix and form a ball, and then put it back in the refrigerator until chilled again.
The next step is to roll out the pie crust. And here is where I encountered a bit of a problem. I didn’t have a rolling pin. I mean I DO have one, but at the moment its packed away and in storage....a minor detail I’d forgotten when I started to make this pie crust.
How to roll out a pie crust without a rolling pin? I suppose I could have put the crust back in the fridge and run out to buy another rolling pin. But I didn’t want to take the time, the berries were mixed with sugar and cornstarch, the oven was lit. So I had to improvise with what I had on hand.
After considering a couple of options I remembered that I had a Rubbermaid one quart container that was tall and cylinder shaped like a rolling a pin. I thought that would work. And, while it was a bit light and lacked the density of a rolling pin, it did manage to roll the crust out well enough. In the end I had to do a little smushing of the crust to even it out in the pie tin. As I filled the crust with blueberries and baked it I worried that it would be a disaster. But I have to say it was actually one of the better pie crusts I’ve ever made. Emeril Lagasse would call it a “Love thing” the labor of love that goes into making our food from scratch.
Making a pie crust, or any labor of love food from scratch, is definitely a Martha-like activity. In our Gospel this morning we hear the familiar story in Luke of Martha entertaining Jesus and his companions, working herself into a tizzy. She becomes frustrated with her sister Mary who instead of helping Martha, prefers to sit and listen to Jesus teaching. It’s unclear why Martha doesn’t just call Mary aside and say something to her; the story tells us that Martha complains to Jesus about her sister. In response Jesus tells Martha to leave Mary alone, let her listen. As we hear it today it almost sounds as if Jesus is chiding Martha, but that’s not exactly the case. Remember, Jesus talks and teaches in parables, which always have layers of meaning beyond the details of the story. One way we know that Jesus is not chiding Martha but pointing us to see a deeper meaning in the story is when we put this one in the context of the stories that come before and after it in the Gospel of Luke.
Just before this story we have our reading from last Sunday about the Good Samaritan, the man who was beaten and left on the side of the road to die, but was helped by a stranger passing by. And next week we have the story of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray and talking about the ministry that comes out of prayer. Combined with today’s readings we realize that we are in the midst of some serious teaching. Jesus is teaching us how to be disciples, how to listen to Jesus, how to follow Jesus’ teachings, and how to be like Jesus, how to be his hands and heart in the world.
The story of Martha complaining about Mary is meant to help us see that being in a relationship with God and becoming a disciple of Jesus is a both/and process – we need to be able to both listen and do. At first this may not be apparent, for it seems as if Jesus is saying that what Mary is doing it better than what Martha is doing. But we know from many other sources in scripture, including the story of the Good Samaritan that we heard last week, that Jesus places a high value on hospitality, on care for others, and that is what Martha is doing. We now know that Jesus also places a high value on listening and learning and growing into discipleship and that this process includes both men and women. This reading clearly indicates that Jesus supports the women who become his followers. They in fact become quite diligent disciples, think of the women who follow him to the cross and then go to the tomb to care for his broken and crucified body, the women who first see the resurrected Jesus.
Let’s go back, for just a minute, to Martha’s complaining. Even as we know that Jesus places a high value on hospitality, what are we to make of Martha’s complaint in this reading? I think the point Jesus makes is that we are to care for others and offer gracious hospitality but not get anxious about it. We are not to work ourselves into such a frenzy doing and caring that we lose sight of Jesus, of God, of the people around us, and of what it means to love as God does. In other words we need to care for others as Martha does but with the spirit of Mary – a mindful listening caring spirit. In a world of overwhelming problems: oil spills, weather disasters, economic failure, two wars overseas, civil wars and famine devastating countries around the globe, it’s hard to not become overwhelmed and worked into a tizzy.
Being mindful and intentional as we care for others will be affirmed in our reading next week when we hear about Jesus going off to pray, taking time out from doing in order to regroup, listen, and move out in a mindful way. The teachings last week, this week, and next affirm that discipleship is a process that includes both listening and doing. Discipleship is about living into the charge to love God, love self, and love others. You might say, as we are practicing the art of discipleship, of balancing listening with doing, that it is as “simple” as apple pie, because it’s a love-thing.