Playing Martha

It’s been a while since I’ve actually spent time with my family, a time to laugh, to see their hearts, to enjoy a common ground with them. I didn’t realize it until this evening how much I’ve actually spent apart from them. Though we actually live in the same house, I haven’t really seen them or spoken to them at a personal level.

I have come to realize this just a couple of hours ago when my brother, cousins and I goofed around with the laptop camera. We took videos of us dancing and singing to songs we can all sing along to. It was a time of nonsense, admittedly. A time spent on practically nothing important, not on a lesson plan, not for Bible study, not for materials to be used for Sunday School. And yet, I would have to admit, after all the laughter has subsided and my cousins have already departed to go to sleep, I am left with a feeling of sadness. Has it actually been that long since I’ve last laughed with them?

I recalled a statement my father just told me recently. He said that my brothers find me a bit different. According to Papa, my brothers somehow miss the old me. And I wonder, what could they possibly miss about the old drinking and smoking Diane? Could this be it? Is it that my brothers miss the Diane they could laugh with?

Since the past year, I’ve actually decided to leave everything behind and pursue this new life with unwarranted determination. No looking back for me, no U-turns. Eyes on the goal, I would always tell myself. And indeed I’ve been walking straight since then. Sometimes, I would take wobbly steps, but still in the same direction.

After only a year and a couple of months of consistent walk, I find myself already a full-time member of the church I am attending. I’ve also joined a church ministry, alongside two formal Bible study classes. Add this up with school work and my hands are already full. Not too full, I guess, as I still have time to meet with friends once in a while for fellowship.

Luke 10:38-42
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.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This is pretty much the same scenario I find myself in now. Jesus comes and enters my life. As His presence commands, there should be change, attentiveness on the part of the host. But instead of being Mary, I was like Martha. I was so caught up in trying to impress Jesus that I started to involve myself in a lot of things. I have to be everywhere and I have to do everything. This is Jesus we are talking about here. He is the most distinguished guest I could possibly have. Everything needs to be perfect when He’s around. Worried that Jesus might disapprove, I forgot everything else that needs to be taken care of…

Paulo is not home yet.
Nevermind, Pau. He doesn’t like getting scolded anyway.

Kuya is drinking again. Do you think something is wrong with him?
I’ll talk to him some other time. I have to prepare materials for my lesson tomorrow first.

Paps left again. Don’t you think you should ask where he’s going and to bid him take care?
He’s old enough to know what He’s doing. He’ll come around some other time.

What about the others? Don’t you think you should be asking how they are faring?
Come on! I have a lot of things going on right now! Do I really have to fend off for everyone’s spiritual needs?!

If this is how I addressed things at home, then I guess, I am really Martha. Martha the worrier. I-have-to-impress-Jesus-with-outward-appearances Martha. And here I am surprised at how my family sees me.

I’ve been too busy to actually relate with them. Yes, I no longer like most of the things they indulge in, but that does not change the fact that I now have the burden of taking care of them at a deeper level. My looking after my family does not end with paying the bills and giving them birthday gifts. How many of them have I actually shared the Gospel with? Have I been praying with them, aside from praying for them? Do I act the way I feel about them?

While Jesus calls me to work for Him and to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, He did not excuse me from His second greatest commandment. Alongside loving God, I have a call to put others before me. And that includes my family.

So… Yes, the evening spent with my cousins and my older brother is definitely not in any way Christian-like. We danced and sang secular music. But it did shed some light as to the real condition of my relationship with my family. Maybe next time, I could get them involved in more significant things. Instead of drawing away from them, perhaps I could draw them towards me and where I am now.

My Adonai, forgive me for always playing Martha, when You have called me to be Mary. Forgive me for being too busy with so many things that I forget what’s really important for You. Oh, Jesus, help me be as compassionate as You are towards my family. Help me to see their needs and respond to them as You would have. Amen.

Advertisements

God is ADONAI

John 4:22 (NLT)
“You Samaritans know so little about the one you worship…”

I have come to know God as:

God the Father

Jesus: God the Son

God the Holy Spirit

Father

God

Ama

Lord

Panginoon

As I am drawn deeper into relationship with Him, I find that these names are lame attempts to label the Supreme Being behind my existence. A carefull study of the Word would reveal how much of God’s essence and identity I fail to realize by limiting Him to these names. I have often heard of “Jehovah” and “Yahweh”, and I know that Hillsong has a song entitled “Adonai”; yet, much to the grief of the Spirit, God’s truth escapes me.

And here I am claiming to love a God I don’t know. I am like the Samaritan woman Jesus encountered one day thousands of years ago. Like her, I professed to worship God, a God whose names I do not know, much less understand.

It is with this sentiment in mind that I endeavor now to discover God not only through what identifies Him, but through a deeper understanding of His identity through the various names used in the Bible in reference to Him.

Today, God is Adonai, my Lord and Master…

This name occurred in the Bible around 4oo++ times, with its first mention found in Genesis 15:2.

But Abram replied, “O Sovereign LORD, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since I don’t have a son, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth (NLT).

The term literally means “Lord” or “Master”, and is considered to be a verbal parallel to “Yahweh” and “Jehovah”. It’s singular counterpart “adon” is used to refer to men, as in master of slaves. The Greek translation for Adonai is Kurios, which bears the meaning “supreme master”

It is notable that, when translated literally, Adonai means “my lords'”, signifying both possessive and plural use.

So how is this significant now in the way I see (or know) Adonai (אֲדֹנָי)?

His mastership over me makes me His servant. And this I say to my benefit. Allow me to quote David in this:

What more can I say? You know what I am really like, Sovereign LORD (2 Samuel 7:20 NLT).

Because I am His servant, He is acquainted with the way I labor. He knows me intimately in that He is aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Adonai knows what gets me going and uses it to make me work.

Being that He is the Supreme Ruler, I can rest assured that I am safe with my Master. He will protect me from any kind of harm.

The way God uses this name in reference to Himself establishes confident ownership.

The God I am serving is Adonai – the Master and Lord of all creations.

Jesus: The Perfect Teacher (A reflection of a teacher one Sunday School day)

It would be folly to think that Sunday school is only for children. This was one realization I’ve had last October 9, when the Lord spoke powerfully to me through the lesson that Sunday. On this particular Sunday school day, I, the teacher, became the learner.

***

During the time when we (Sunday school teachers) were preparing for the lesson, the Lord revealed this topic: Jesus as a teacher. At that time, it didn’t really hit a chord. I thought that it was only fitting that we should remember Jesus as a teacher in the same month when we celebrate World Teachers Day. (By profession, I am a teacher, and you could say that I have my biases.) The particular text that occurred to me as take off point for this is found in Mark 6: 30-44 (Matthew 14:12-21 also gives a good shot to this account).

Jesus just heard from His disciples that John the Baptist was beheaded. It is not too hard to imagine the momentary grief He must have felt at having been informed of His cousin’s fate (not that He was clueless that it will happen). However, even before He could take a moment of silence to take in everything (and even before His disciples could report what they did after He sent them on their “OJT”), crowds of people gathered around Him. Jesus saw the people as sheep without shepherd. As verse 34 of Mark 6 reveals, “He had compassion on them.” Setting aside His own grief, He addressed the people’s needs first.

He preached about the Kingdom of God, healed the people from every kind of disease and illness, and freed them from demon-possession. To top off His ministry, He declares forgiveness of sins. When all’s said and done, He feeds them – all five thousand men (and thousands upon thousands of women and children) in attendance that day.

When He could’ve said, “Hey! I’ve lost a cousin here. Could I at least take a time off?” he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”

Once upon a time, this was what happened in a day in Jesus’ life. Hectic is a weak adjective to describe His schedule.

After going over the complete account, I was reminded of how I spend my own 24-hours as a teacher. I have enough time to sleep, eat, prepare for my lessons, and even surf the net. My students are less than 50, and we study in a controlled, air-conditioned environment. I’m also pretty sure that it will take a portion of my month’s wage to feed my students, so it’s definitely appreciated that I do not have to do that every day.

Jesus absolutely, undeniably, incontestably, and amazingly wins this match with Teacher Diane, or with any teacher alive or ever lived for that matter.

***

Apparently, God has more things to remind me of this day. While I was delivering the topic to the kids during the Visayan service (most of whom were kids from the Tondo outreach), the Holy Spirit brought to my mind three points about Jesus as a teacher.

First, Jesus has a perfect lesson. In teaching, mastery of the lesson is one of the foundations which one has to strengthen before one even attempts to teach. Lesson-mastery is foundational to teaching, and one cannot do away with it. The case with earthly teachers is that, we will never be experts enough of our subject matter. As always, there will be a gray area which we need to work on. This is in complete contrast with Jesus. Jesus’ subject matter is like all subjects in one; and you don’t even have to wonder if He knows what He’s doing as He is the very source of all things. Also, He did not only master His lesson; He lived it. He taught by example and He did everything He commands His disciples to follow. But most of all: Jesus did not only serve as the messenger of the Good News; He is the Good News! He preached salvation and He brought it to the people with His presence.

Second, Jesus has a perfect attendance. In a world constrained by time, attendance is very important. Given that we only have 7 days a week, one cannot afford to be absent on a weekday; and given that we are limited to 24 hours a day, one cannot be late. Ask any teacher and you would know that this is a struggle. On sick days which coincide with a weekday, what are we teachers to do? While we can think of a lot of reasons to be absent or tardy, Jesus never was. He is never late and never absent. He is always on time. For a fact, Jesus is ever-present. His is a penchant for impeccable timing, as shown in the Gospel accounts. While most teachers have strict schedules to follow, Jesus is always available.

Lastly, His is a perfect heart. The bulk of work that teachers have to carry requires that one has a heart for it. Imagine bearing the futures of hundreds of students at one time, and at some point, even their personal burdens. Add those up with the teacher’s own concerns. If a teacher does not have a heart for the task at hand, how will he or she be able to handle all these? But even then, we teachers fail, for it is not really within us to completely love without reservation. This is where Jesus scores the best points. His love for us nailed Him to the Cross and held Him there to the last moment. His love for us surpasses understanding and even death. In Jesus’ desire to save us from spiritual death and share His glory with us, He humbled himself to the point of taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7). He tolerated human weaknesses such as hunger and fatigue. Tears flooded His human eyes; and once, He even washed His disciples’ feet. All these He took on without protest so as to fulfill His role as Savior to mankind. His relentless love ensured that salvation is made available to everyone who would believe. We earthly teachers deliver our subject matter to the students in the hopes of giving them a future. Jesus executed His curriculum to ensure eternal life.

As Pastor Jeff Gatdula (the pastor for the Vesper service in my church) pointed out that same Sunday, the position was Jesus’. He is God, praised in the heavens, worshipped for His majesty. But He chose passion and took on the form of a servant. He set aside Creator-ship for creature-liness. This, together with His timing and curriculum made Jesus the greatest Teacher.

 ***

 As a self-professed Christian, this leads me back to my own profession as a licensed teacher, and to my ministry as Sunday school teacher. Am I showing passion or position? Is my heart true to what I am called to do, or do I merely want the title that comes with it? Am I being more like my exalted Principal Jesus, who lived by example? If my passion were to be graded, would it be a passing grade?

That Sunday School day led me to reassess myself and revisit my motivations for teaching. It prompted me to take a good look at my heart for my ministry and see if I am really able to carry out my task in excellence, as God calls me to do. If God were to ask me to report for a teachers’ meeting, would my testimony be that of praise, or would my account be that of my failures?

I left Cosmopolitan Church that Sunday with an even bigger burden for my ministry as a teacher. Having been reminded of what kind of Teacher I claim to follow, I was inspired and moved to do better the next time I face my students. I am not just an English teacher, the Lord implied that Sunday; I am a Christian English teacher. I carry Jesus’ name and the weight of glory that comes with it. His call requires that I faithfully work the dirt of this part of the vineyard He entrusted me no matter how rocky, thorny, or hard it appears to be. As my D3 teacher Architect Marie Grace Amistoso put it, “Welcome to the vineyard.”