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Three older ladies are sitting around a table playing bridge and bragging about their sons. â€œMy Freddie,â€ said Margaret, â€œEveryone should be so lucky to have a son like my Freddie. Once a week he brings me a huge bouquet of flowers, heâ€™s constantly bringing me out to restaurants to eat, if I so much as hint that I want something the next morning itâ€™s on my doorstep.â€Â
â€œThatâ€™s very nice about your Freddie,â€ says Gertrude. â€œBut with all due respect, when I think about the way my Sammy takes care of me, it just canâ€™t compare. Every morning as soon as I wake up he greets me with bacon and freshly brewed coffee. Every lunch he comes over and cooks me a gourmet lunch, and every supper he brings me to his house for supper, he truly treats me like a queen.â€Â
â€œWell,â€ says Edith, â€œI donâ€™t want to make any of you feel bad or anything, but wait until you hear about my Harry, twice a week he pays someone $200 an hour just so he can lie on their couch and talk to them, and who do you think he talks about at those prices?â€ asks Barbara. â€œIâ€™ll tell you who he speaks about! All he talks about is me!â€
We look at Jesus and we see the man who went about doing good things. We see someone who spent himself for others. This is what we take from Christ: Christian faith means taking care of others and not ourselves. Itâ€™s a hard not to see it this way. So many never think of caring for themselves. Instead they keep going and going.Â
But do you know how Jesus felt inside? Do we not assume that he was like us, worn out, overwhelmed, and hanging on by a thread?Â
Or we think Christ did all those good things but he wasnâ€™t like us. We donâ€™t say this or actively think it but perhaps we look at Christ as a super hero, a comic super hero, with special powers. Thereâ€™s the famous story when Jesus was in a crowd and a woman had been bleeding for twelve years got up to him close enough to touch the hem of his coat and the power that came from it healed her. We believe either he had a magic cloak, which would be cool, but didnâ€™t; or he had super hero-like powers to heal.Â
The thing is with superheroes, they donâ€™t have to recharge their powers. Theyâ€™re theirs, whenever they need them. They also usually get an awesome looking costume to go along with it.Â
Jesus had neither this type of superpower nor costume.
Being human, fully human, and not from Krypton or bitten by a radioactive spider, means power overflowed from Christ because he knew how to resupply his strength. He took care of his own supply of power so well that it could overflow to others.Â
When he went a way to a quiet place, when he left for a mountain, when he got up earlier than others, to pray and to be with God his Father, Christ was refilling himself with supernatural power. Christ took care of himself first, so he could have ample capability to take care of others.
That isnâ€™t us, at least not most of us.Â
Listen to this. I did the math; itâ€™s simple. If you took five minutes a week to focus on taking care of yourself, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, mindfulness training, prayer focused on your sense of security or serenity, if you took five minutes a week over the year you would spend 260 minutes or four hours and 20 minutes. Over a ten-year period, you would spend some 43 hours taking care of yourself. Thatâ€™s a lot when you talk about only 5 minutes a week. That would have some impact.
Now do the math on five minutes a day. It becomes huge. Over 30 hours a year. Five minutes a day over a year provides you the same amount of time as taking a weekend retreat once during that year, but with no traveling and free of charge.
Find a place. Find the time. Give yourself the gift. Take for yourself five minutes. Stay quiet. Breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale through your mouth. Say Jesusâ€™ name slowly. Let your thoughts go. Tell yourself, â€œI am lovable.â€ Google five-minute meditations. Theyâ€™re there.Â
We get overwhelmed by suffering, chaos, defeats, pain, disagreements, fears, doubts, opposition, humiliation, shame. We let these take up so much of our energy when we try to organize them, or hide them, or dispute against them, or fear them. We focus on them to overcome them. But we donâ€™t. They tell us when to sit, and we sit. They tell us to stand, and we stand. They tell us to walk, and we walk. They tell us to run, and we flee.
Christ clearly had some way of knowing when he needed to take care of himself. Self-care, though not in his vocabulary, was in his scheduling.Â
What about you? Do you have a way to realize youâ€™re overcooked? How about when youâ€™re on edge and worry all the time, feel compressed and squeezed from all angles? Perhaps thatâ€™s just you, and you let it go.Â
Or youâ€™re lacking inspiration, feel burned out, and no longer have the energy to try something different or accept someone different. Is that just how youâ€™ve always been?
Or youâ€™re easily frustrated. You find yourself snapping for no reason. Youâ€™re surprised at your own capacity for frustration, and you can see the wrong people are taking the hit. Is that just something others are going to have to live with when it comes to you?Â
Or you rely on caffeine, painkillers, or alcohol to get you through your day. This is something that will pass, you believe.
But these are all poor coping strategies. Theyâ€™re non-coping strategies. Theyâ€™re like adding pain on top of pain, weight on top of weight. Ignorance is not bliss. Get in touch with yourself to take care of yourself. Seriously, weâ€™re not good at this.Â
Weâ€™re not machines. Weâ€™re not made of metal and switches. We donâ€™t rust. We wear out. Weâ€™re wearing ourselves down and out. This is how we donâ€™t take care of ourselves.
You need to learn to breathe, so you can learn again youâ€™re a body.Â
I know this sounds strange, and perhaps even Eastern, as in Eastern religion, but it shouldnâ€™t be strange. Itâ€™s our religion, too. I will prove it.Â
What two things does Genesis 2 tell us God did to create Adam? He took earth and formed it into a body. The second thing Yahweh did was what? He breathed into that body to give it life. In the Bible, the body and the breath are Godâ€™s gifts to us. In fact, they are us.Â
When we lose our body, our sense of being a physical, tiring, earthly, wonderful body, and when we forget about our breathâ€”our spiritual, life-giving, divine, powerful breathâ€”then we no longer remember the God who gave us these.Â
Find your breath. You may have lost it. The first and simplest way of taking care of yourself is to decide to breathe. Breathe deeply, in and out. Let other things and thoughts go. Remember you are a body and have a body. Say to it, â€œHello, body. Iâ€™m home. Iâ€™m going to take care of you.â€Â
Listen to both. Follow them instead of making them catch up to you. Learn how to relieve the tensions in your body. Recognize feelings of joy. Allow yourself to be nourished by refreshing elements of happiness you feel. God speaks to you through them and because of them.Â
In our Gospel story, Marthaâ€™s outlook on life was quite different from Maryâ€™s. Itâ€™s possible that Martha was older and that her age figured into her
personality and perspective. Marthaâ€™s words and actions depict her as practical and efficient. Nothing is wrong with being practical and efficient if it doesnâ€™t interfere with the more important things in life.Â
Martha appears to be the leader and the more hospitable and social of the two: â€œNow it happened as they went that he entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.â€ It was Martha who invited Jesus to their home.
Â â€œAnd she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesusâ€™ feet and heard what he was saying.â€ It was Mary who sat at Jesusâ€™ feet, listening to him talk. If one were to read no further, one could assume Mary may have been a little lazy, leaving the needs of hospitality and hostess to her courteous and kind sister.
Thatâ€™s right! â€œLazy,â€ think all our constantly serving women in this church.
Our story continues. â€œBut Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached him and said, â€˜Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.â€™ And Jesus answered and said to her, â€˜Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her.â€™â€Â
Now I know there are plenty of women here who do the serving in this church, and Iâ€™m quite sure at home. And there are men, of course.
This story must feel a bit like a double-edged sword: On the one hand, it feels uncomfortable because Jesus sided with Mary, who just sits there, while Martha, who is trying her best to get a meal ready for a dozen or so men, gets a loving rebuke. On the other hand, even the hardest working person wants to know she has divine justification any time she is finally willing to let someone else do the work while she takes the day or night off.
The most pressing need in Marthaâ€™s eyes was that of preparing a meal for Jesus and his disciples. Mary saw this situation differently. She decided this was a unique opportunity she wouldnâ€™t pass up. The men would just have to wait.
Jesus wanted Martha to know she didnâ€™t have to do what she thought she had to do. He was giving her, and you, permission to stop, sit, listen, grow. Each of us should take him up on that permission.
Youâ€™re not a machine. More importantly, you have Godâ€™s breath in you, waiting to be listened to. You have Godâ€™s beloved body, waiting to be
respected. Take care of yourself. Love yourself. Nourish your heart, mind, spirit, soul, and body. Let Godâ€™s will and grace flow in you, and in that way it can flow out of you.
Very few of us have superhuman abilities, though too many want to believe they have them. Michael Jordan may have been the one. He is known for his almost inhuman energy level, and it showed up on the basketball court often.Â
Jordan didn’t hesitate when asked what he considered to be the best of his many great games. “This would have to be it,” Jordan said after scoring a career-high 69 points and leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-113 overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1990. “Everything seemed to fall and I found myself in a great rhythm.” Jordan made 23 of 27 field goal attempts and 21 of 23 foul shots. He grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds, had six assists and four steals.
What a game! But the point of this story comes next. Bullsâ€™ rookie forward Stacey King, who scored one point during the game, was also interviewed that night. When asked how he would remember this night, he quipped, “I’ll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined to score 70 points.”Â
See, even if someone else scores 69 times more points than you do, you can still find a way to feel good about your contribution. Stacey King didnâ€™t need to be superhuman to see he was part of the team.
You don’t have to wait to start feeling good about yourself. You shouldnâ€™t wait to start taking care of yourself. Do things that build you up. Give yourself those five or more minutes a day. Call your mom or dad, if possible. Apologize. Adjust your expectations. Clear your desk. Let someone else decide on something. Believe again how loved you are.
The Lord seeks not to overwhelm us but to fill us. Let yourself be empowered first, so you can empower as well.
Can the church say Amen?