The Way of Transformation Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (7.17.16) In the 13th century there was Sufi mystic and poet called Rumi. He once said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” What Rumi is telling us is that spirituality should transform us. […]
The Way of Transformation
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (7.17.16)
In the 13th century there was Sufi mystic and poet called Rumi. He once said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
What Rumi is telling us is that spirituality should transform us.
Sometimes we think religion is meant to comfort us – and it is.
Sometimes we think religion is meant to challenge us – and it is.
Sometimes we think religion is meant to help us form loving communities so that we never have to celebrate our joys or face our difficulties alone – and it is.
But what we sometimes forget is that religion’s primary mission is to help us transform our lives into all they are meant to be.
Transformation doesn’t happen in a magic moment, though the journey can certainly begin with a moment of decision. Transformation happens as we develop disciplines that help form and reform us into our best possible selves.
We usually hear today’s gospel reading as a contrast between Mary and Martha, with Mary getting a thumbs up and Martha getting a finger wag. But that isn’t a completely fair reading of the text.
Mary represents study and prayer.
Martha represents work and sharing.
Mary is spending time with Jesus, listening to his teachings, contemplating spiritual lessons, feeling joy and gratitude. And Jesus says she has the better part, but he doesn’t say that Martha is wrong.
Martha has the right idea. She wants to do good work. She wants to be generous: Come eat at my house, Jesus. Let me serve you. Let me cook for you. Let me share my food with you, my time, my home, my hospitality.
Who could take issue with Martha’s work ethic or generosity?
Martha’s problem is that her work isn’t centered in prayer. Of course, work can be prayer, if we intend for it to be so. But too often, we just get busy and forget that our effort is in service to a larger, nobler goal. We forget we are offering our efforts to serve God by serving others.
Martha’s desire to be helpful and generous is wonderful, and it will be more effective if she makes it part of worship rather than a chore she resents doing.
Mary has the better part because she is fueling up with study and prayer that will then allow her to work and share in a way that is worship, that will be transformative in her own life.
Martha is doing what Mary will be doing, but she forgets to start out by doing what Mary is doing.
Pray – Study – Work – Share…that’s the formula for transformation.
Mary has the better part, but not the only good part…Mary’s part is what will make Martha’s part more successful.
Pray – Study – Work – Share.
If you want to transform the world, start by transforming yourself.
We can’t erase racism, xenophobia, misogyny, Heterosexism, or poverty from the world…but we can transform our own consciousness, and that can help us do more that will make more of a difference over time. If spirituality isn’t transforming us, helping us be better, helping us have more hope and joy, then we need a tune up.
Pray – Study – Work – Share…that’s how we give ourselves a tune up.
When we pray more, and study more, we will get less exhausted from our work, and more generous with our sharing.
We will keep our optimism fueled and we won’t give in to disappointment as frequently.
We need you Martha, but to make sure that you don’t burn out or get bitter, we need you to do what Mary is doing, also. We need you prayed up. We need you constantly learning. And from that spiritually centered place, we need you to share time, talent, and treasure. Your effort will make more of a difference when you understand it as being central to your spiritual life.
I want us to be a transformational church…yes, doing our part to improve the world, but realizing that means to be constantly renewing and improving ourselves. And as we become more of what we are meant to be, we have more of our divine nature to share with the world.
We need study and prayer, as Mary shows, and then, when we work and share like Martha, our deeds will make a bigger difference.
When we come to worship, we aren’t just hearing good music or comforting words or spending quality time with friends…we are doing all of that, but we are also allowing personal transformation to take place.
When I ask you to pray daily, to read positive, spiritual literature, to take classes here at the church, those are invitations to develop disciplines that will help each of us grow in grace so that we can be a positive power in this world.
When we are called to volunteer, to vote, to spend intentionally, and to be generous with our offerings, we aren’t just being asked to stay busy…we are being asked to make our lives a prayer, the sort of prayer that will enable us to be the presence of Christ in the world.
Mary and Martha…they aren’t opposites; they together are the full picture. Pray, study, work, share…that is the formula that can transforms our lives, and transformed lives is what can transform the world. This is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016
I am willing and ready to be my best.
I wish to enjoy communion with God.
I want to express divine qualities in my life.
Let it be so!