Lent Devotions: OT Prophets… Mary and Martha’s predicament

March 20, 2017

Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). 

By Rev. Ellen Baxter

Luke 10:38-42

It’s 11:15 – PM – the second semester of an M.Div. degree at SFTS. The class, OT Prophets. The professor, Bob Coote.  The assignment, a tiny 1-2 page paper – not much, really, in comparison to other classes – a few words about what was gleaned from reading some article – an article that might as well have been printed in Hebrew for all I had gotten out of it.  Reflecting for a few moments about how Professor Coote actually did read aloud in English from Hebrew, translating as he read – well, that did nothing to inspire confidence as I faced a blank page.

Like many papers, this one had waited until the day was almost done.  Meals were prepared and eaten. Everyone else’s homework was done.  Stories were read. Kisses were planted, blankets tucked.  Our apartment silent, finally.  The silence contrasted sharply with the roar in my head – all the details of my day had nothing in common with 2,000+ year old prophets.  I couldn’t switch gears – it was too late.

In truth, I was intimidated by this particular professor.  He was just really smart. Something I was not feeling in that moment. What if he noticed?

Finally – a tear on my cheek – I threw in the towel, sent the email.  “Professor Coote.  I am so sorry.  I can’t find the words to write this paper. I don’t know what to do. So, I wanted to let you know.”

THIS is the story that God reminded me of, as I thought about Martha and Mary’s plight.

Martha, the disciple, trying to complete it all.  She will sit down – just as soon as she’s done. 

Meanwhile, details mount, perspective becomes fuzzy, resentment builds. 

And, Mary? She just plopped down – for what she deserved and craved.  So many messages…

...That our call to serve must hold its perspective through prayer and the teaching of Christ – lest we become lost in fuzzy details – lest resentment and anger begin to guide our principles and relationships, our love for one another.

...That Mary, along with all women, men, persons of color, LGBTQ, immigrants.... well, just all of us! – is welcome at Christ’s feet.

...That we are all at risk of putting someone else, even a sister, in a different box.

It’s 11:20PM.  An email pops up on my screen. 

“Ellen, take your time.  Don’t worry about the paper until the thoughts come to you.  Remember and enjoy the reason you are here....... Bob Coote”

And, I wept.

Rev. Ellen Baxter is director of admissions at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.​ She graduated from the seminary in 2006 with a master in divinty.

...That Mary, along with all women, men, persons of color, LGBTQ, immigrants.... well, just all of us! – is welcome at Christ’s feet.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • Mass Incarceration: A Major Cause of Hunger

    Mass incarceration has far-reaching effects in the United States. It poses a significant barrier to ending U.S. hunger and poverty by 2030—a goal the United States adopted in 2015. But the connection is not always obvious.

  • Advancing Nutrition through Food Aid Reform

    The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance that includes nutritious food for pregnant women and young children is both a life-and-death matter for individuals and an economic imperative for countries.

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.


  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...

  • Health Care Is a Hunger Issue

    Learn more about the principles that Bread for the World supports regarding health reform.