Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Martha, Martha

I stood outside the darkened side entrance of the church. Rrrrrrrrring the doorbell belted. I wondered if anyone upstairs would hear me. After a second try, Bill came scurrying down the steps to let me in."I just saw your truck go by when I was lookin out the window upstairs," he informed me.

"Thanks for coming down to let me in. I wasn't sure anyone heard me ringing the bell," I replied. By 5:45 p.m. the doors are locked as to deter people from coming just for the food. It was now 6:20 p.m. and I had just come from work to help out with tonight's serving. Bill and I climbed the steps to the second floor to be greeted by guitars and maracas playing amongst a unison of voices singing Your Love is Amazing. Bill sat back down while I passed into the kitchen to help out."Hi,Leigh," Don greeted me.

"How's it going?" I asked followed by, "What can I do?" For the moment there wasn't much happening. The food was ready to be served, but the service had not yet commenced. Through the kitchen door's window I could see leaders gathering around Bill to place their hands and pray for him. Everyone bowed in agreement. The kitchen workers began to grab the clear plastic pitchers of water and red fruity Kool-Aid ready to serve. Once the praying ceased we followed one by one with two pitchers for each table. Upon returning to the kitchen I headed over to the rectangular, steel counter across from the ovens to start serving.

Shredded Barbeque Chicken atop a soft sesame seed bun with crispy, golden tater tots and green beans on the side. I began to split the buns open and place each one on a plate to get a head start. Moments later, Bob returned the tray to load up. Bun. Plate. Shredded Barbeque chicken. Pass. Next. Three or four trayfuls later it was time to grab my own plate and eat.

I sat down next to an older woman with white hair slicked back and gathered in a bun. "How's it goin', Mary?" I inquired.

"Alright," she answered half heartedly.

"Yeah, it's pretty gray out there today," I replied. Mary continued to eat and engaged no further. Across from me Bill rambled on about the Mets and the Yankees to a few others while the middle aged woman, Diane, sat next to him. My friend, Mark sat next to me and began to engage in conversation with the rather oversized man sitting across from him. James was his name. He'd spent four years down in Fort Worth, Texas and began to share about his experiences there.

I wasn't even half way finished with my meal when out came a fellow servant with the dessert tray. Next, helpers were ready to start fixing seconds for people and then meals to go. I scarfed down the rest of my meal and headed into the kitchen to see what else needed to be done. Shortly afterwards a whirlwind of counter wipers, scrubbers, sweepers, dumpers and so forth plunged into action from every direction. Mary was just finishing her icecream when someone grabbed the pitchers and carried them off to the kitchen. Some of our guests had rushed out while a few lingered at the tables to finish eating or chatting while others worked around them. When I glanced up at the clock it was only 7 p.m. Less than 45 minutes prior to I had entered this very same room with people singing and playing music. Now it was clean up time. How long did they get to eat? How long did I eat? I suddenly felt a great welling up of somberness rising within. It was as if I was back at work following a routine of get 'em in and then out.

They came. They listened. They sang. Some stared. Some prayed. We ate. We all hurried up and rushed on our way. I stood at a loss for words. Why? Why the rush? Oh, Martha why?

Pastor asked me if I would take Diane home. "Sure, no problem," I volunteered. Diane never drives. Tonight, for the first time, I found out why. She matter of factly explained how she failed her driver's test three times. She continued with telling me her reflexes are too slow and that she takes medication for Epilepsy. I've seen her in church for at least two or three years now and never knew this. Why? I am challenged to question what is truly the meaning and purpose of the "Bread of Life". What is LIFE?

When I gather for a meal with some of my dearest friends, we relish our time together. We share. We empathize. We laugh and giggle. We partake of great food both physically and emotionally. We relect and we digest. We are anything BUT rushed. The sun passes from over our heads to setting in the far west by the time we are done.

Tonight I heard, "Martha, Martha you are worried about many things, but Mary has chosen the better." and I wished everyone and everything would just STOP. I wish I knew why we are always in a rush. I wish we could linger and commune more deeply.

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