Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eight Sunday after Pentecost, July 22 2007, Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Martha was distracted…” now there’s a phrase we can relate to. Finally here’s a person in the bible that we can really understand. Martha… we might even say, this is a woman after our own hearts. Distracted… there was a lot to be distracted about. Jesus had come to her house. She had “opened her home to him.” He was an honored guest and that meant a lot of preparation… like food. We don’t know how many had come with Jesus, but if his disciples are there that’s at least 13. That’s a lot of food. That’s a lot of beds. Decisions about who was going to sleep where… “Let’s see I’ll put Jesus in my room and I’ll sleep on the couch. Peter, James and John can sleep in the big bedroom, and Andrew…. You get the idea there was simply a lot of things that needed to be done. Martha, the text says, was distracted. She was being pulled around the house, concerning the many things of serving her guests. Martha was busy… she was busy with things of life… she was busy with the things that needed to be done.

And that is where we can relate to Martha. Life is busy. There are a lot of things to do.
  • Didn’t we say that we were going to slow down and not do so many things this summer?
  • After the corn is planted there will be more time.
  • As soon as we’re done processing this order I’ll be able to spend more time at home. You know, they are a very important customer.
  • I know I said I’d help you, but the tractor is still broken down. I’ve been trying to get to it for weeks now and it still isn’t finished.
  • What do you mean this new order is bigger than the last one. I can’t keep working overtime!
  • Mom, did you forget I had to be at the fair today… I’m supposed to work serving at the food booth.
  • Honey, I’d really like to eat at the table tonight, when was the last time we sat together at the table for a meal.
  • No, I can’t go to Sioux Falls again… I’ve already gone three times this week and I still didn’t get all the shopping done.
  • “Hello Joe, this is John, I’m serving on the nominating committee at Church. I know your already serving as a Sunday school teacher, but …
A thousand things… pulling us a thousand different directions and it never seems to stop. Back and forth, to school, to work, back home, to church…

That’s why we can relate to Martha, she too was being pulled back and forth… to the kitchen to check on the food, to the bedrooms to check on the beds. Peter’s drink is empty, “Does Jesus really look comfortable. There is so much to do… how am I going to get it all done! So many places to be at once… so much running around to make sure everything is ready. And everyone is comfortable.”

Well at first reading we might get the idea that there was something wrong with what Martha was doing. Because, after all, Jesus does give her a mild rebuke. But the truth of the matter is that she was doing a good thing. Especially as far as the culture was concerned. You see, if guest come to your house you have to make sure they are comfortable. You have to take care of them… Look at all the trouble Abraham went through when he had visitors. He got his wife to cook three individual loaves of bread from the best flour they had in the house. He ran to his herd and picked the finest young tender calf he could find. He gave his guests curds and milk. Milk doesn’t keep long in the desert without refrigeration. Abraham went to a lot of trouble to take care of his guests. It was a good thing to do. Martha wants to serve Jesus out of her love for him. He has come to her house. She has invited him in. She wants him to be comfortable. It is a good thing for Martha to want to serve Jesus.

But… there is a very strong contrast in this reading today. Look at the text again. Before we are even told how busy Martha is, we are told about Martha’s sister, Mary. What is Mary doing? That’s right she is sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he has to say. Really the English translation doesn’t really convey what Luke is trying to say. He’s building a strong contrast between Mary and Martha. Mary was sitting there, he says, and she kept on listening, in spite of what you are going to read next, she was intently sitting at Jesus feet hanging on every word he said. In spite of all that was going on around her she was not distracted. Mary too, is motivated by her love for Jesus. She sits at his feet listening to him. She is being served by Jesus.

Well, the contrast doesn’t make Martha very happy. I imagine she too would have like to be able to sit at Jesus feet listening to him. But there were things that needed to be done. “Doesn’t Mary see that I am busy… doesn’t she know I need help… Why doesn’t Jesus tell her to help me?”

But Jesus makes the point very clear. “Martha, Martha, what you are doing is a good thing. I know you love me, but you are being distracted by many things that there will be time for later. Right now I have come to your house. Right now I am saying things I want you to hear. Right now I am here to serve you. That is the one thing you can’t live without. That is the one thing that is needful. See Mary has chosen to be served by me, I won’t take that away from her.”
A different Gospel writer put it this way, “… the he Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20:28) In the midst of Martha’s busy life, Jesus Christ came to serve her. In the midst of our busy lives, Jesus Christ has come to serve us. He has come to give us the one thing that we need most. Jesus Christ comes to serve… remember how he healed the man with the withered hand, how he restored sight to the blind. Remember too how he said to Jairus’s daughter, “Talitha Kum!” and life returned to her cold dead body. Jesus Christ comes to serve… he served us beyond all our ability to serve ourselves. When we deserved death because of our selfish will to live our lives without God. Jesus Christ served us by dying for us. When we deserved God’s wrath and punishment for our rejection of God’s control of our lives, Jesus Christ served us by enduring that wrath and punishment. When we deserved to die and stay dead, Jesus Christ served us by rising from the death and breaking its hold on us forever.

But that isn’t all… Jesus Christ is here right now to serve us again. We began our worship in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He promises to be with us “when ever 2 or three are gathered in his name.” We began by coming before God bearing our sins. “We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed.” Have mercy on us, serve us Lord Jesus we say. And he answers with forgiveness. He comes to his table here both host and food, to again serve us with forgiveness of sins. He regularly comes to serve us here, and we come to be served. Jesus knows the one thing needful and he comes here to bring it to us, week after week.

Well, this is great! Aren’t we all Marys here? Aren’t we all sitting at Jesus feet listening to his word. Aren’t we all going to come to the Lord’s Table now two times a month!? Aren’t we here today because we know that we need what Jesus offers? That’s where Martha comes in. We are so easily distracted. Life is so distracting it invades our thoughts even here. Let’s face it there are a lot of things that have to happen just so we can gather together here for worship. There is a lot of service going on. There’s ushers, elders, the alter guild, and musicians all serving Jesus. The communion ware needs to be set up. The offering has to be counted… There are parents getting their kids up and ready. All of these things are necessary, all of these things are good, all of these things are done because we want to serve Jesus. Jesus has come to this house and we want to serve him. Our minds can be pulled back and forth with all the preparation… in it all we are sometimes distracted from the one thing that’s needed. We sometimes forget that the reason we are here is because Jesus is here, and he brings the gifts he has won by his life, death and resurrection.

Clear your mind. Jesus is here. Sit at his feet he has gifts to give you. See and listen, taste and feel Jesus is here. He is saying to you right now, “My Child; My Child; I am here today. I know that you love me… don’t be distracted by all these many things. Right now I am saying things I want you to hear. This is my body given for you… This is my blood… I forgive you all your sins. It is the one thing you can’t live without, it is the one thing that you need.” Amen.

The Peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus . Amen.

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