Sunday, July 10, 2016

Choose Both

What do you do if you enjoy spending time in the kitchen AND in the library? The gospel reading for Proper 11C/ Ordinary 16C (Luke 10:38-42) is the familiar and overly dichotomized story of Lazarus' sisters: Martha and Mary. They are easily set against one another:
Martha was too busy for Jesus. Mary chose the better part.
Martha was overly concerned with her work in the kitchen. Mary chose the better part.
Martha was a complainer. Mary chose the better part.
Martha is the "active" life. Mary is the "contemplative" (and better) part. 

But  plenty of people have found balance between these false dichotomies. They live a faith that is both active and contemplative. One of the most succinct directives for such a life came from Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker societies that appeared in 19th-century America. Ann Lee was born in England but traveled to America with her "followers" in 1774 after suffering persecution in England. The Shakers (more accurately The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing) believed in equality of the sexes and races and believed that Ann Lee herself represented the manifestation of Christ's spirit on earth. They practiced celibacy and counted on conversions to grow their numbers. There are currently three Shakers in America.

One of the mottoes of Mother Ann Lee offers wisdom for Mary, Martha and any of us who think that following Jesus means either active or contemplative. Mother Ann's directive was "Hands to work and hearts to God." Mary and Martha should have been happy with that directive. Though not a Shaker design, one of the places to see Mother Ann's directive about hearts and hands translated into design is through the "heart in hand" cookie cutter. The cookie cutter (and its design) is probably more Pennsylvania Dutch than Shaker, but the concepts are related. And both are a good reminder about balance rather than choosing one.

For further information on the last active Shaker community (Sabbathday Lake, ME), see:  http://maineshakers.com/  For information on Shaker community museums, see: http://hancockshakervillage.org/ (Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA) and http://shakervillageky.org/ (Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY).




The cookie cutter (top) is a vintage cutter that is no longer available for sale. The bottom is a contemporary cutter, available at: http://www.salemcandleworks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=4_12&products_id=58&zenid=18cb47906160e3d8bbfdec56624fff95

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