Getting Off the Fence Lines & Drinking Deeply

3:33 PMHeather

Yesterday, we looked at how Mary chose to stay at the feet of Jesus, while her sister Martha was anxious and troubled about many things as she was distracted with much serving.

Hmm.  The Luke 10:39-42 Scriptures make me pause because I think it's a litmus test for us, as followers of Christ.  If we are feeling anxious and troubled and distracted, then it's a rather good indicator that we have strayed from our call to stay at the feet of Jesus.

In this blog series on Sabbath living, we've been talking about moving from asking "what we are doing with our life" to asking "where we stay?"  Because where we stay dictates how we live our lives.  Are we staying in the kitchen, distracted with much serving, anxious and troubled, as Martha was?  Or are we staying at the feet of Jesus, fixing our eyes, our minds, our hearts on our Savior?

As I made this mental connection, I was startled with the findings from my research on Sabbath.  The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew shabbat, meaning to cease or desist, as we've already discussed a few days ago. 

Yesterday, we looked at where Mary chose to stay.

Look at this definition of "to stay," according the Webster's dictionary app

to stay--to spend time in a place, to endure, to stop, to halt, to cease or desist

Oh, yes. There you have it, folks.  Where you stay -- how you cease or desist -- it's how you practice Sabbath living.

The key, in other words, to learning to live on the unforced rhythms of grace is learning to cease or desist.  To STAY your mind, STAY your heart, STAY your soul on Jesus. 

Because Jesus is our Sabbath.  His yoke is easy.  His burden is light.  

His death and resurrection are meant to FREE us from legalism.  And ritual.  And tradition.  From getting burned out on religion.  From feeling distracted and troubled and anxious.  To cease striving.  To desist from consumerism faith that makes demands of Jesus in transactions of giving to and getting from him.

How about we learn to embrace our natural bents to be busy or productive and then we can learn to focus our energies on learning the sacred practice of sitting at the feet of Jesus?  There, at his feet, we learn to know him better and love him more.  We can learn to believe him for what he offers -- rest and refreshment for our souls.  We can learn, as JR Vassar says, to think truer thoughts about God.

But we must discipline ourselves, train ourselves, to sit.  To stay. 

In the middle of a busy day...in the middle of screaming toddlers...demanding work schedules...driving teenagers all over the world.  To learn to breath in prayers of asking him to help us sit at his feet with our souls and our minds.  To learn to picture ourselves resting at his feet.  Minute by minute, surrendering to him to handle all the kitchen duty.

Mary is our role model in the sacred practice of sitting at the feet of Jesus.  While we found Martha in the kitchen, we found Mary at Jesus' feet.  And it's not the only time in Scripture that we see her there.  In fact, in this series on Sabbath living, we will take a closer look at two more extraordinary instances of Mary at Jesus' feet.

The two sisters.  As I have poured over this story, I found a connection between them and a Biblical story of two brothers.  My pastor (JR Vassar) preached a sermon on these two brothers from Luke 15:11-31 a few months ago.  He made the point that we have always tended to hear this story called, "The prodigal son."

It's the story of a son who squanders away his inheritance and the older son who is terribly similar to Martha.  Like Martha, this son is caught up in a consumerism relationship.  He is making demands of what he has given up and done and earned.  He is focused on what he can get in return.  He sees his father through reciprocal transactions.  Earning and getting.  

Just as Martha came to Jesus, feeling she had earned the right to demand help from her sister.  

Both Martha and the older son acting more like dutiful servants than the beloved children they were.  Both Martha and the older son were also loved as much as their sibling.  Their attitudes didn't shape how they were loved, but it did shape how they experienced that love.

Here is a key that JR pointed out from the two sons.  The term "prodigal" in this story is actually describing the father.  Because prodigal means wastefully or recklessly extravagant or giving profusely or lavishly abundant.

When we can understand that this story of the two sons is really about the father's prodigal, reckless, lavish love...it changes everything.

The father had a reckless and lavish love for both sons.  One son ignored it until he could no longer deny his need for his father.

The other son took that love for granted as he lived out his relationship with his dad like a dutiful servant.

The word picture that JR offered is the story of ranchers in the midwest, trying to contain their herds.  Building fences proved to be cumbersome, as they required constant repair and adjustments as property lines might change.

The solution that the ranchers found was building a deep well in the middle of the land.  This drew the herds to the central location.  They stayed there, drawn to the source of life giving water.


 The story of the two sons and the two sisters shows us the legalistic do-ers.  We see dutiful servants.  Busy walking the fence line.  Staying within perimeters.  Following the rules.  

Sound familiar, anyone?  Does this sound like many western churches and many Christians?  For me, this resonates as I see how I've approached my faith for most of my life.

Then, you have the Marys.  The ones who accept and live on the grace and prodigal love of their Father, focused on learning more from him each day, drinking long and deep from the well of Living Water.

These Marys understand their need to drink deeply.  They understand that no fences are necessary.  They understand the freedom from legalism because the longer they stay at the Father's feet, the more they learn to cease and desist from striving.  And, the more they experience him, they more they experience the rest he offers.  

Sitting at the feet of Jesus, we listen to his teaching, tuned carefully to his voice amongst the background noise.  We explore the depths of his prodigal love and we respond to it.

Instead of trying to earn it. 

Blog post #7 in a series, Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.

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