One of my flaws is that I can be anal retentive. I have always been someone who fulfills my obligations and will work hard to do so even at my own expense. 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 catches up with you. He was right, although I would never have admitted it at the time, my father knew more than me. Someone in a class I once took, 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 am so hyper focused on obligations that it all becomes 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 and the true meaning of life. When distracted, life just seems like a chore and the joy of life seems to slowly fade away. Distracted 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. The people of Amos’ socioeconomic class were ending up in debtor’s slavery with their families because they couldn’t afford the quickly inflating prices of life sustaining goods. This was a problem. Amos uses tough language to impart God’s reaction to the distracted 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 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 we can’t make money. We’re just asked to do so with honesty, without taking advantage of people. The people of 8th century BC Israel 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, 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 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, running general errands or going grocery shopping. Sometimes I forget that life isn’t really about all these tasks. 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 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 the is war, hunger, mass shootings, questions around race and all the definitions that divide instead of unite, creating an environment of 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”.1 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 that 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. For remember what Rick Warren teaches, “You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans”.2 So let us go forth into this world seeking to refocus ourselves upon that which brings us closer to God and one another.
1 Luke 10: 41-42, RSV
2 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 2002.