This morning we considered triangles.
Particularly those that occur when two people in disagreement appeal to a third person for support.
Specifically the one that occurred when hospitable but anxiety-ridden Martha appealed to Jesus to command Mary to leave her learning and come and help her. Jesus took Mary’s side – she had chosen the better thing and it would not be taken from her. See Luke 10:38-42. Classic triangle! Hearers have been taking sides ever since!
Those with Martha assert that she is left with all the hard work of many things. There is no help and little sympathy from the Lord on whom she had lavished such exuberant hospitality. Besides, practical down-to-earth service is necessary for the function of any enterprise.
Supporters of Mary endorse her breaking of the traditional domestic role of ceding the boon of learning and discipleship to the males of the human species. She receives the best of what Jesus has to offer and Martha can too.
Those with Jesus note how often he refused to play the arbitrator when difficult propositions were put to him. His habit was to answer a question with a question or a request for judgement with a parable. It is evident that he used this strategy, not to avoid engagement, but to draw listeners to fresh and Kingdom-inviting ways to see their situations. To chide Martha, a faithful supporter, in the way he did, seems atypical and puzzling.
Triangles can be unsettling. They can also be unifying.
Within the Christian tradition, the triangle describing the perfect union of Father, Son and Holy Spirit stands out. Ironically, it is a relationship into which all are invited.
Relationships are also a journey. The drama in the Bethany household of the two sisters can be recast as a necessary journey of the pathways to Gospel wholeness described in the Quadratos work of Alexander Shaia. Martha is on the second pathway marked by struggle through overwhelming anxiety about many things. It is typical for encounters with the divine on this pathway to be terse and confronting, but ultimately healing. Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, is on the third pathway of peace and joy, savouring union with her Teacher. Both sisters, however, are called to be on Luke’s road of costly ministry, the fourth pathway of mature service, the overriding theme for discipleship in Luke’s gospel.
Triangles are meant to be transcended!