I openly admit that I am anal retentive. I have always been someone who fulfills my obligations and will work hard to do so. In school, I would work all day and most of the night writing papers and reading for my classes, working several jobs to fulfill my financial obligations, and driving hundreds of miles just to fulfill my family obligations. My father would regularly lecture me about “burning my candle at both ends” saying that eventually it would take its toll. He was right, although I would never have admitted it at that age, my father knew more than me.
Someone in a class I took once told me that I reminded them of Martha from today’s scriptures because I would always worry about fulfilling my obligations and getting the details right. I was so focused that for a time I felt lost. I was distracted. Sometimes we all get distracted. There are times in my life where I just can’t seem to focus on anything and everything feels overwhelming. It is in these times that I know I am distracted, so caught up in the little details that I lose sight of the bigger picture of what I was trying to do and the true meaning of life. When distracted, life just seems like a chore and the joy seems to slowly fade away.
Spiritually, we get distracted too. When life gets in the way of God’s word, we are distracted. When chores and obligations take priority over the work of the Holy, we risk becoming distracted. We are all Marthas at some point in our lives. And we are all Marys, at other points focused on soaking up as much knowledge as we can about Christ. The Jews of Amos’ time in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah entered into trading agreements with the Phoenicians becoming wildly wealthy in the process. The Northern Kingdom became known for merchants and trade. We know from historical records like the book of Amos that the merchants had become like their government: corrupt. They put their desire to make money first in life at the expense of other peoples. Peoples like Amos, who were poor and couldn’t afford the quickly inflating prices for life sustaining goods sending many who could not pay into slavery for their debts.
Amos uses tough language to impart God’s reaction to the distraction of Israel. Israel cared only for money and had lost track of caring for the needs of other people. They lost sight, like Martha later would, of what was important in life. It isn’t the rules, the chores, the profits, or the societal expectations that should dictate to us how we interact with one another. We should strive to improve the lives of others around us. We should strive to help others in addition to all the other work that we do. Amos is not saying that they can’t make money. God just calls them to do so with honesty, without taking advantage of people, without padding their pockets.
The people were so corrupt, so lost, that they would lose everything. They would experience destruction like they had never experienced before. I think sometimes when we are distracted in life, when our chores or desires become the focus of life, and then we too begin to lose ourselves, and our sight of God. We give so much to everything else in life that there is nothing left for us to give to God, to give to the well-being of others, and to learning about our God’s presence in the world.
I still occasionally need to remind myself to take time for God. It happens when my days are lived, sun up to sun down, for checking off items on my to-do list. Items like the laundry, cleaning, weeding, bathing the dog, paying bills, and going grocery shopping. Sometimes I forget that life isn’t really about all these. These are chores that help make life better but they are not the source of happiness. They give no direction, and they do not fill the emptiness that we all feel sometimes. Only God give us life. Only God fills the emptiness. Only God gives us the direction to do the work that truly matters. The work that breeds life in a world that seems to be exploding in pain. The work that gives comfort, hope, and care in a world where Britain contemplates the results of Brexit, where hundreds die in a day in the internal struggles of the Sudan, and here at home where we continually have of mass shootings, questions around race and all the definitions that divide instead of unite, creating an environment hate, fear, and violence.
There needs to be a focus on living honest, open, and prayerful lives in the light God. Let’s not forget the words of Christ to Martha when he said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her”. We are called to refocus our hearts, our lives upon the work that will deepen our relationships and broaden our understanding of God. The works that will help us discover God’s depth of concern and love for humanity. The work to makes us feel fulfilled. So this week ask yourselves, have you been feeling burned out, worn down, or over burdened by the monotony of the chores of life? Then rededicate yourselves to God’s work and discover meaning in life again, new depth to human relations, and allows for God to fill the emptiness that we all feel at times in this complex and worrisome world.
 Luke 10: 41-42, RSV.
(Based on Amos 8: 1-12 and Luke 10: 38-42)