It is February in the Midwest and today the ground is sprinkled with a fresh powder of new fallen snow; it is as if God the great confectioner decided to sift sugar to cover the trees and grass. Cold, snowy days are days when sofas should become altars and the world should be viewed from the warmth of our homes. There should be some sort of moratorium on days like this so that we could just opt out of the whole “get up and go” that is the signature of our culture. These should be the days to enjoy a second cup of coffee and read a good book, to snuggle with your children or hold your cat in your lap.
It would be lovely to slow down, to lean into the rest, the lullaby creation softly carols that is winter. Instead, we wrap and bundle and rush about as if we could defy the cold temperatures and hazardous roads not to mention the ill tempers and still no cure for the common cold.
I am reminded of the homily my dear friend and colleague gave yesterday in which he urged us to give thanks that our God is slow; slow to anger, abounding in love, proved most profound and true in the revelation of Jesus. As best we can glean from scripture, Jesus’ public ministry lasted only about three years yet he never rushed about or ran anywhere. Though he had important work, an eternal agenda, he rose with the sun and slept by the moon, he enjoyed long, deep conversations and reclining to share food and drink with friends. When the crowds became too much, he rowed away to a quiet place on the other side of the Sea to pray and wait so that when he encountered every needy soul he was fully present and devoted to the moment before him.
I am recalling the encounter Jesus had with Martha (the one I take after) and Mary (the one I want to be when I grow up, though her piety does grate on the nerves!) Martha, all busy and preoccupied with the wine and the bread and the salted fish and the one thousand other things she needed to do before Jesus’ and his friends arrived, was such a frantic mess that she almost missed the blessing of the divine presence in her midst. When Martha asked Jesus to insist that Mary help her in the kitchen, Jesus rebuffed Martha and said, “You have so many merimnao—anxious cares…only one thing matters and Mary has chosen well.”
Anxious cares—all those matters we believe we must address, appointments we have to keep, responsibilities we must bear, words that must be spoken, worries that we cannot let go, concerns that consume us and rob our joy until life is a whirl of regret and ingratitude. Mary, for her part, had excused herself from the women’s work of the kitchen, had decided that it would all keep and situated herself in the male space of the living room, perched and expectant leaning forward that her soul might be refreshed by just a drop of wisdom offered by her Rabbi and Lord. Jesus said it was Mary’s posture that was right, that it is in kneeling before and hearing Jesus that we find our power.
Praying that we all find Mary moments to know this slowness of God in Christ Jesus and even in the bleak mid-winter we would find rest and renewal and rebirth.