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Martha and Mary


‘Unauthorised version’ by U.A. Fanthorpe

Of course he meant it kindly. I know that.
I know Josh—as well as anyone can know
The Son of God. All the same, he slipped up
Over this one. After all, a Son is only a son
When you come to think about it. And this
Was between sisters. Marty and me,
We understand each other. For instance, when Lazzie died,
We didn’t need to spell it out between us,
Just knew how to fix the scenario
So Josh could do his bit—raising Lazzie, I mean,
From the dead. He has his own way of doing things,
Has to muddle people first, so then the miracle
Comes as a miracle. If he’d just walked in
When Lazzie was iII, and said OK, Lazzie,
You’re off the sick list now — that’d have lacked impact.
But all this weeping, and groaning, and moving of stones,
And praying in public, and Mart saying I believe, etcetera,
Then Lazarus, come forth! and out comes Lazzie
In his shroud. Well, even a halfwit could see
Something out of the ordinary was going on.
But this was just ordinary. A lot of company,
A lot of hungry men, not many helpers,
And Mart had a go at me in front of Josh,
Saying I’m all on my own out there. Can’t you
Tell that sister of mine to take her finger out,
And lend a hand? Well, the thing about men is,
They don’t realise how temperamental good cooks are.
And Mart is very good. Believe you me.
She was just blowing her top. No harm in it.
I knew that. But then Josh gives her
This monumental dressing-down, and really,
It wasn’t fair. The trouble with theology is, it features
Too much miraculous catering. Those ravens feeding Elijah,
For instance. I ask you! They’d have been far more likely
To eat him. And all those heaven-sent fast-food take-aways—
Quail, and manna, and that. And Josh himself
The famous fish-butty picnic, and that miraculous
Draught of fishes. What poor old Mart could have done with
Was a miraculous draught of coffee and sandwiches
Instead of a ticking-off. And the men weren’t much help.
Not a thank you among them, and never a thought
Of help with the washing-up.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I love Josh,
Wonder, admire, believe. He knows I do.
But to give Marty such a rocket
As if she was a Pharisee, or that sort of type,
The ones he has it in for. It wasn’t right.
Still, Josh himself, as I said—well, he is only
The Son of God, not the Daughter; so how could he know?
And when it comes to the truth, I’m Marty’s sister.
I was there; I heard what was said, and
I knew what was meant. The men will write it up later
From their angle, of course. But this is me, Mary,
Setting the record straight.

‘Unauthorised version’, From U.A. Fanthorpe, Collected Poems 1978-2003, (Calstock, Cornwall: Peterloo Poets, 2005)
H/T Colin Gibson on Dunedin Methodist

image source

for the young and young-at-heart on Martha & Mary Sunday
for the young and young-at-heart on Martha & Mary Sunday

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5 thoughts on “Martha and Mary”

  1. It’s not long since I had a bit of a ‘discussion’ with my own pastor about this story. In his sermon he had once again put Martha in the wrong, and Mary in the right – which of course the story does – or seems to. But any person reading this story always puzzles me about the way in which Jesus speaks to Martha. It wasn’t as if she was an unspiritual person (as Colin Gibson’s talk reminds us), and being down to earth about the situation in hand was hardly the end of the world. So why did Jesus get so sharp with her? It’s always puzzled me.
    What I’m trying to say is I really appreciate this poem (and Gibson’s comments). Thanks for putting it online, Bosco.

  2. A gentleman at my church explained to me that Mary was a radical. In Jesus day women simply did not converse with men about anything theological. For Mary to sit and listen and be part of a religious discussion meant she really believed that the truth will set you free. Jesus was not scolding Martha, we was inviting her to that same equality and freedom…the better part.

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