Advent Midweek 2 LSB #’s 338, 696:1-4, 862
Text – Luke 10:38
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
PRAYING, COME LORD JESUS, TO HIM WHO COMES TO
LEAD US IN DAILY LIFE
“Oh, man! How many days until Christmas? I don’t see how I’m going to be ready! Can’t you do more to help? Do I have to do all of the shopping myself?”
“No, I can’t make it to church. I have to get that this project done for work. Plus, I have to get to the store. They are open on Sundays & if I get there early, I can beat the crowds.”
“What? Join you for devotions this morning? Are you kidding! I don’t have time! How can you take time for that when we have so much to do around the house?”
Am I being too cynical by suggesting that we have made such comments? Perhaps, but there are many cares & things that upset us, & sometimes they are worse during the so-called hap-happiest time of the year.
On top of the usual pressures, like job stress, monthly bills, struggles with relationships; there are now the holiday pressures of extra events, presents to buy, & gatherings to plan. Who would have thought that activities which are meant to be focused on Christ, could be so stressful? Well, it was true for Martha. Jesus was actually at her house.
Should not that have been a joyous time? But Martha was concerned about getting things ready for Jesus & she was stressed out. Jesus had come to be a guest in her home & she was not meeting her expectations for hosting Him. So she cries out in frustration. She’s actually annoyed with Jesus, the one she was supposed to be hosting:
“Don’t you care,” she says, “that my sister has left me to serve alone?” She demands of her Lord, “Tell her to help me!” But what was Mary doing? She was in her home listening to the words of Jesus. Martha was not able to do that right away. Her heart was sealed up with cares & worries that were resisting the word of God.
This past Sunday we heard Jesus telling the parable of the Sower. It described obstacles to our hearing the word of God, obstacles to receiving the “one thing needed.” We call them the unholy trinity – the devil, the world, & our sinful nature. Jesus reminded us that constantly Satan is working to snatch away the word of God, as a bird gobbles up a seed before it can take root.
Today we are facing another planting problem described in the parable. Jesus said, “A sower went out to sow.” Some of the seeds “fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil. Immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.” (Matthew 13:5-6 ESV)
This planting problem was caused by rocky ground with shallow soil. He said this is what happens when the word of God fails to penetrate into your heart. It does not develop deep roots to sustain us under the scorching heat of pressure or persecution.
If this can happen with one of Jesus’ close personal friends, like Martha, who dearly loved Him & wanted to serve Him, then it can be a challenge for any of us on any given day. Replying to Martha’s outburst, Jesus gives her something that she really needs. He lovingly speaks a word of law to gently rebuke her & redirect her attention to the “one thing needed.”
“Martha, Martha, you are worried & upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part & it will not be taken from her.” In other words, “Stop. Be still, & listen.” Yet into these words of law, Jesus also weaved words of gospel hope.
He talks of the “one thing needed” & the “better part.” We can observe that Jesus was giving her hope in Himself through His words. After all, “the one thing needed” is His dying & rising to save sinners. The “better part” is the hope of eternal life that Christ came to bring. Martha doesn’t know it but she will be facing some scorching stress & pressing persecution in the days ahead. Her brother Lazarus will die. Her dear friend Jesus will be crucified.
Through encounters like this God’s Word broke up the hard ground of her heart & put down deep gospel roots. After Lazarus died she confessed faith in the “one thing needed,” the resurrection of her Lord, Jesus Christ. Then, with a much smaller degree of anxiety in a much worse situation, she confidently confessed:
“I know that Lazarus will rise again on the last day,” & “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.” (Jn 11:27) It would not be long before the basis for that hope was realized as God’s plan of salvation took final shape.
Once He raised Lazarus from the dead, His opponents came to the house in Bethany looking for Jesus to crucify Him. Eventually, they would be successful. However, it was revealed as Jesus rose from the dead that all of this was God’s plan to provide the “one thing needed” to save sinners. Today, that leads us to desire “the better part” as well.
It is a “better part” than the expressions of the holiday stress that I shared earlier. The better part involves a word of repentance & faith to focus on the “one thing needed.” As I shared last Sunday, a function of our Advent sermons this season is to encourage the practice of daily household devotions.
Just as Jesus came to the home of Mary, Martha & Lazarus, we desire that He come to be present with us. He does so by His word. That is why we are encouraging one another with the practice of daily devotions. The 1st priority is simply to invest time daily in the word of God, moving from Martha’s frantic & misguided activity to Mary’s focused listening.
Whatever helps you develop a habit or routine to do that, do that! Then, the 2nd goal for daily devotions is to let the word of God address us as Jesus did Martha, calling for repentance & faith in “the one thing needed.” In service to that goal I’ll share a way that is simple yet reliable for carrying out devotions. Other approaches are good, too. This is just one way to do so. It is the plan for morning & evening prayer in Luther’s Small Catechism.
This plan provides a word of law from the Ten Commandments. Besides giving God’s guidance, this also breaks up your heart in repentance as you recognize your sin. The catechism then presents the Apostles’ Creed as a summary of the saving gospel. Those words plant in our heart the “one thing needed” for life & salvation.
The final part is the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus teaches us to talk with God in ways that strengthen us to face the daily realities of life. Those realities include the stresses of the holidays & much worse, as was true for Martha.
Last Sunday, I suggested you envision a scenario where members of a family, be it a household of one, two, three or more sat down for a short 15-minute daily devotion. Think of it as being like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. Now, add to that vision someone who has something distressing going on in life – a character like Martha.
But because the daily devotion is now a habit, this person & their stress encounter Jesus & His word. That word will redirect you to the one thing needed to find hope in the promises of God’s Son, those confessed by Martha at the grave of Lazarus.
What could have been a bad day, what could have led to being scorched by despair, now handles the heat. There are roots laid down by the word of God, so that even the hottest of stresses cannot cause this life to whither but rather to flourish. Therefore, we continue to pray daily “Come Lord, Jesus” & deliver to us the “one thing needed.” Amen.
Grant me strength to do with ready heart & willing whatever You command, my calling here fulfilling; that I do what I should while trusting You to bless the outcome for my good, for You must give success. Amen. LSB 696:2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet