9th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 11) LSB #’s 388, 730
Text – Luke 10:40
Martha was torn between all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Jesus & asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
TELL HER TO HELP ME!
How many of you have spent time working in a situation where you had to go it all alone? If the project is long it’s easy to become discouraged. Despair & hopelessness will hound your thoughts & nip at the heels of your emotions. Bitterness sets in as you think how unfair it is that you have to do all the work by yourself & others are not expected to help.
In the Gospel reading we find Martha in exactly that sort of situation. She can’t believe that Jesus is allowing Mary to just sit there & listen. There’s work to be done & I shouldn’t have to do it all alone. After all, work produces results. Listening to someone speak is just a way of avoiding your responsibilities. PAUSE
Does sitting still, listening to a sermon make you anxious to get home & get to the real business of life? Do you feel like the time you spend here is merely loafing? Do you feel unimportant because you aren’t accomplishing anything worthwhile?
In 2001 I met one of my friends at the Youth Gathering & he was stressed out because he wasn’t getting any real work done through being in New Orleans. I felt sorry for him, because I was having a great time. Listening to the speakers at the Gathering was inspiring, my spiritual life was being blessed, & on numerous occasions I had to wipe the tears from my eyes.
But my buddy Paul he wears the same shoes that Martha does. He doesn’t feel good about himself unless he’s working. For him, it takes priority over everything, even over listening to the Word of God himself. He has since resigned from the ministry. It’s common to find people who struggle with the art of listening, whether that’s listening to other people or listening to the Word of God. In New Orleans, the four young men who were with me heard some tremendous speakers on exceptionally relevant topics. And yet, if you weren’t there, it’s difficult to listen, isn’t it, when I speak of the incredible spiritual messages we heard?
There are so many distractions in our lives. We’re torn between so many competing interests. Will all of you be like Martha, too distracted to pay attention? Too busy working even to care? Do you really have more important things to do than listen to what your Lord & Savior is attempting to teach you?
“Tell her to help me!” But answering, Jesus says to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried & upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” Worried & upset about many things – we’ve all had days like that, haven’t we? Maybe that’s even the story of your life.
Do you remember the parable of the sower? “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life & the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making the word unfruitful.” Martha was suffering from that illness. The worries of her life were choking out the Word of God & making it unfruitful.
She wasn’t listening because her faith was weak. And her faith was weak because she had not been listening. Our faith also can be choked out by the worries of this life. Jesus calls us to trust in Him to take care of us & all the situations that we sinfully worry about.
At the Youth Gathering we were challenged to take our hearts off of the things of this world, & to set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated on the higher ground. Where is your heart today? Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Is your treasure the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of this broken & sinful world?
The importance of that point was brought home very powerfully on Sunday morning as we learned of a 15 year old boy who died of a heart attack at his hotel the 1st evening of the Gathering. He & others in his youth group got impatient waiting for the elevator. Running up the stairs instead aggravated an unknown heart condition & it killed him. Yet, tragic as that was, he is now on permanent higher ground. The things of this world no longer entangle him. They can no longer drag him down. He has been lifted up by God to his heavenly home.
His heart was set on Christ. Is yours? Do you have the same priorities as Mary or as Martha? You see, there was nothing wrong with Martha’s concern about preparing a meal for her Savior. The problem was she had placed that as a higher priority than the feeding of her own soul. Mary had chosen what is better, & it would not be taken from her.
Like my friend Paul, who was worried that he should be working rather than attending the Gathering, it can feel safer for us to be busy than to be listening to what Jesus has to say. Martha was almost frantic with her efforts to serve & she wasn’t receiving the peace Jesus was offering. Mary had found that peace. Martha was torn between the distractions of this world.
Those distractions become dangerous, even deadly, when they draw us away from hearing, learning & studying God’s Word. Those are the better things of this life & they can never be taken from us. Your home, your cottage, your job, your health, even your family, all of those things you may worry about can be taken from you in this life.
Only your faith in Christ cannot be taken, & that’s because our Heavenly Father has promised that no one can take us out of His protective hand. Suffering & tragedy will come into our lives, that’s a given. The family & friends of the boy who died at the Youth Gathering endured grief that we would never wish upon anyone.
Yet they have hope because of the Words & promises of God, that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in midst of the greatest of our trials & suffering, His Holy Spirit is ever present, strengthening us when we would certainly fail. He’s encouraging us when we see no reason for hope. He comforts us when we find no peace. In the frantic busyness of our lives, God calls to us in Psalm 46, “Be still & know that I am God.” That’s a lesson Mary had learned & she was practicing it as she sat at the feet of Jesus to hear His teaching. Before the new version of the hymnal came out, the Introit for this morning stated:
“Teach me your way, O Lord, & I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. For great is Your love toward me; You have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”
God’s Word speaks as if you have already died & been resurrected. In a very real sense that is already your reality. It’s just that with our physical eyes we cannot yet see that reality. At this moment our resurrection already exists only in a different dimension. It exists in that dimension where Christ now lives with all the saints who have gone on before us.
Your resurrection exists in that dimension where Christ comes to each of you personally in the bread & the wine of Holy Communion. Through the Lord’s Supper you enter into that dimension as you commune with Christ through the reception of His body & blood, both of which He has given for the remission of all of your sins.
In that Holy Supper, you already exist as the children of God resurrected from the dead. Eternal life is yours even now in the mystery of God’s grace. We certainly cannot understand that mystery now, yet it has been revealed to us through the power of His Word – the very Word that Mary was so intent upon listening to, even at the risk of offending her sister.
Martha’s wrong headed priorities, of work over listening to the Word of God, had caused her to treat her sister with a self-righteous attitude: “Lord, tell her to help me!” What Jesus Christ really wants us to tell, is the good news of how He has worked peace & healing in each of our lives. We do not live in a hopeless world even when it seems as if we are working all alone. The only true God wants you to take time out to rest & to listen to His Word. We are not His slaves, but His children. He didn’t create us to spend our entire lives frantically torn between all the things necessary to live in this world. He created us in order to be in relationship with Him as His dearly loved children. He sent His Son not to be served, but to serve you.
That is tremendous news which you will find no where else in this life. The day you come to understand that is the day that telling others about Jesus Christ becomes a privilege & not a chore; it becomes a blessing, not a burden. Jesus has carried your burdens. He’s taken your worries upon Himself & He died with them.
As you come to understand that glorious news, you also will long to sit at the feet of Jesus & hear it over & over again. The obsessive compulsive need to work, in order to make yourself worthy, will subside. Like Mary, you will gladly choose what is better, & it will never be taken from you. Amen.
While shepherds kept their watching O’er silent flocks by night, behold, throughout the heavens there shone a holy light. The shepherds feared & trembled when lo, above the earth rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior’s birth. Down in a lonely manger the humble Christ was born; & God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn. Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills & everywhere; go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!
Pastor Dean R. Poellet