Cats in the Cradle was originally written in 1974 by Harry Chapin. It is about a father that is too busy for his son and keeps telling him that he will spend time with him later on. By the end of the song, the little boy grows up and is a man. The song is then reversed, with the dad asking the son to come visit and the son says,
I've long since retired, my son's moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
"I'd like to see you, if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu,
But it's sure nice talkin' to you, Dad.
It's been sure nice talkin' to you."
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.
Experts tell us that kids want to be just like their parents so we as parents need to model the behavior we want to see in them. This song demonstrates that truth.
This Sunday is Father's day, but I want to make sure that we all understand that while there are some fathers who do not care to spend time with their family, not all fathers are like that. I am fortunate to have a great dad. This message is not geared for fathers in particular, it is for everyone one of us who are busy and need to be reminded of the importance of being there for those we love.
In Luke's gospel, we find a story of Jesus coming to visit Martha and Mary. The text is found in Luke 10:38-42. It says,
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
This is a short story, but it has so much stuff in it. In this passage, Jesus is traveling towards Jerusalem and stops by to visit a lady named Martha. She has a sister named Mary. Luke tells us first that Mary is sitting at the Lord's feet, listening to him. Luke tells us that Martha had a lot of tasks to do and was distracted. The TNIV says she was distracted by all the preparations she had to do.
We read that Martha was a little upset because she sees her sister listening to Jesus, but not making preparation for him. In other words, she is not being hospitable. Martha then points this problem out to Jesus. Jesus then does something the reader should not expect. He tells Martha that Mary is actually doing what is correct while Martha is distracted and worried about many things. He tells her that only one thing is necessary and Mary is doing it.
Priority One: Sitting at the Feet of Jesus
One of the shows that she likes and somehow got me hooked on is Samantha Who. In the episode just before Thanksgiving, Samantha's best friend Dena is having relationship problems with her boyfriend. There relationship had begun well, but as of late; he was working all of the time. They break up and then Dena's boyfriend finds her in the movie theater to explain his actions.
He tells her that, quote, "I have not been neglecting you, I have just been taking you for granted." In the show, he explains that this is a good thing because he feels comfortable enough with her to take her for granted. I asked Melanie If I could use that excuse and she said no. Oh well.
Oftentimes when we look at this story we say that this is a story about doing verses being. We read this story and conclude that we must spend time with Jesus before we can serve Jesus. I think this is part of the story, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
To understand the importance of where this passage is located can help us better understand the message that Luke wants us to get from the passage. In this chapter, Jesus has already sent out seventy of his followers in hopes that when they arrive, people will be hospitable to them. If they don't welcome them, they are in essence rejecting God. Then Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan who showed hospitality to the injured man. Now Jesus tells a story of Martha, who is busy in preparation for Jesus. She is doing what she is supposed to and being hospitable to Jesus. The way the story is set up, Martha would be the one who is doing what she is supposed to do and following through to be a good host.
It is also helpful to understand what Mary is actually doing and why Martha is actually so upset about. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him. This does not mean that she was just sitting at his feet like a puppy dog, she was listening to him and learning. This is what a student would do if a rabbi was teaching. They would say they "sat at ones" feet. Mary was actually acting as one of Jesus' male disciples and learning to follow him.
The reason Martha was so upset was because Mary was acting outside of her role as a female. Women would have been making all the preparations while the men listened to Jesus teach. Mary was acting outside her role as a female, thus upsetting Martha.
If we put all of this together, Jesus wants our hospitably to lead to discipleship. In other words, inviting someone in and showing hospitality should then lead to us growing closer to God.
Jesus says that in the end, only one thing is necessary. This does not mean that all the work Martha is doing is not important. After all, someone has to do it. Jesus just said that Mary was doing the one that that was necessary.
Taking Those You Love For Granted
We often presume on our relationships, whether it be with God, our spouse, our children, our parents, or our friends. When we do this, we can take these relationships for granted. This passage is primarily about sitting at the feet of Jesus and growing in faith, but it also points to a truth in our other relationships. Outside of our relationship with God, our relationships with our family are the most important thing and we cannot take those for granted.
When I was a chaplain at St. Joseph hospital in Lexington, one of my patients was the former governor of Kentucky. He ended up dying while in the hospital, but I will never forget my visits with him. He had so many stories to tell of his travels and all the things he had done. I will never forget one thing he told me during one of our visits. He said, "Brian, I have traveled all over the world. I have eaten with kings and queens, foreign dictators and the president. But, I would give all that up in a second to know that I could spend more time with my wife and kids."
After reflecting on these words and the advice of many pastors, I have come to realize that while people regret not spending time with their family, I have never heard anyone say they regret spending time with those they love.
Jesus in this text is asking us to simply show up. We need to spend time with him and with those he has entrusted us with. While my preaching is important, I will never have a greater influence on anyone like I do Caleb and Melanie. He has given them to me as a gift and now he is asking me to show up. The same is true for you and those in your life. Jesus is just asking you to show up in their lives.