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


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.

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