Only One Thing!

July 21, 2019

Luke 10:38-42

As a child, I could not wait until Christmas break came upon us. It meant that Christmas was usually less than a week away and the excitement that built up in my family home was almost uncontainable. At least among myself and my younger siblings. The excitement that my parents exuded would at times be present in raised voices because of the anticipation of getting everything ready to host Christmas Eve. Four of my older siblings would return home with their families and the house would nearly be bursting at the seams.

My mother had to get her Martha on, at least a week or two before Christmas Eve. The amount of Christmas treats that she made was incredible. She would plan for dinner on Christmas Eve, which usually consisted of ham and various sides topped with all those wonderful treats that she would make. Over the years, as nieces and nephews were born, and then they began having their own children, Christmas Eve became a good type of chaos. Unless you were my parents because it could easily become overwhelming.

I could see my mother and Martha agreeing on the hecticness of having a houseful of people. Martha’s anxiousness that appears in Luke’s gospel could be expected as she wants to make sure everything is right for Jesus and his disciples. We have no idea how many people came into their home. I am sure that it was Jesus and at least the twelve closest disciples, but nothing rules out that this group could have contained the seventy that Jesus had sent out earlier to share the peace of God and cure the sick. It is the hospitality that Martha is showing now that he had told the disciples to look for.

Mary and Martha have chosen to be hospitable in their own ways and sometimes the better part is to pause and listen to the Lord.

It is not hard to find a sermon that puts Martha in a bad light. She appears to be self-obsessed because she must do all of the work while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. Mary has stepped out of the norm as she chooses to listen to Jesus and his teachings. Much like the Samaritan last week that stopped to help the stranger, which in Jesus’ time would have been viewed as counter-cultural, Mary chooses to sit at the feet of a male teacher. This was nearly unheard of in first century Israel and if the right person had seen it could have possibly got Mary in trouble.

Jesus’ teachings and actions move well beyond expected norms. Martha is uncomfortable with Mary’s actions and raises her concern to Jesus. She is anxious and wants help. Jesus does not necessarily tell Martha that she is wrong, but let’s her know that Mary is in the right place at the right time. She has chosen the better part. She has released any concerns that she may have so that she can fully turn her attention to their guest, Jesus. We do not hear Martha’s response, but I would like to believe that she began to fully understand what Jesus was talking about in this moment. Martha was serving where she felt called to serve at that time and so was Mary. We each have our own calling that connects us to the body of Christ.

I must admit it is easy to forget that. It is easy to forget that everything we do affects those around us. It is easy to forget that our own actions have consequences, either good or bad. It is easy to get caught up in the anxiousness of making sure our checklists are completed. It is easy for us to get caught up in our work (even if it is the work of the church), in school, with finances, in our relationships, in our time management, in the events of the world, and even in our aging. In all those things, are we preaching the gospel, or is Jesus just an afterthought?

The better part of this is to pause and sit at the feet of Jesus. To listen to his teachings and be fully present to his word. This is the kingdom of God that has came into Martha’s home and Mary has chosen the better part for her of sitting and listening. Perhaps Martha has even chosen the better part for herself if what she is doing is a proclamation of God. For her to project her expectations upon Mary is not what Jesus expects in the kingdom.

We are each called to serve the Lord in various ways and sometimes we must break out of the barriers that fence us in. The Good Samaritan visibly showed this last week by loving his neighbor and caring for his wounds. Mary shows her love for God by sitting at Jesus’ feet and hanging on his every word. While Martha gets caught up in her anxiousness, her act of doing may be the best way that she can express her love for God. The Samaritan and Mary have both broke through the fence of the norms of their day.

Hopefully, we can point to times in our own lives where we have welcomed God into our midst in our lives and the lives of those around us. Jesus helps us break through the barriers that fence us in and welcomes us and walks with us in love. To love others as we love God requires us to break through those barriers. Jesus sets us free! It has happened many times throughout the last couple of centuries as we have confronted the evils of slavery, racism, sexism and homophobia. Not to say that we have fully came to a full reconciliation of any of these, but we have made our voices be heard as we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus sets us free to open our hearts, minds, and souls to embrace all of God’s beautiful creation.

Jesus also sets us free so that we can love the strangers and refugees among us. Jesus sets us free to love our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and atheist neighbors. In that freedom we are given the chance to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his words. The words that bring us closer to him and our lives in the kingdom.

So, let us continue to be hospitable and embrace all of God’s creation with love and compassion. Let us listen to Jesus for what is the better part in our lives.

Let us pray. Loving God, you walk with us and in that we can be empowered as faithful witnesses. We give thanks for the faithful witness of those that have gone before us, those in our midst, and those that will follow. May we be bold in proclaiming your good news and share your love beyond all boundaries. Amen.

Are You Listening?


Luke 10:38-42

Grace and peace to you from the Triune God.

As we packed up our campsite last weekend we discussed what we were going to do for lunch since it was about noon and we were starting to get quite hungry. We decided that we would stop at McDonald’s in Gaylord on our way home. This sounded like a great idea and when we pulled into the parking lot I noticed a tour bus on the other side of the lot. Come to find out, it was a group of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts on their way to Mackinac Island to serve as guides. The line in that McDonald’s wrapped around the dining room. Needless to say we decided that our hunger would have to wait until we came to the next McDonald’s.

The employees were doing as much as they could and as fast as they could, it was just that they were overwhelmed by this influx of customers. For any of you that have worked in the restaurant business or retail, you can relate to how frustrating and nerve-wracking this can be. I bring this up because I believe that Martha could have related to the McDonald’s employees that we encountered that day. If you recall a couple of weeks ago, Jesus was traveling with the 70 he had called to go out and serve after they returned to him. At this point in the gospel, it makes sense that they are still with him and when over 70 people show up at your home after traveling, they are most likely quite hungry. Martha does what comes natural to her and that is to provide hospitality to those that have showed up on her doorstep. It is no wonder that she gets upset that Mary is not in the kitchen helping her prepare food for all of their guests to eat. Instead, can you believe it, Mary is at the feet of Jesus learning from him. Yet, could this be seen as a form of hospitality as well?

Martha is so distracted with the water she is boiling, vegetables she is preparing, bread that needs to be baked, that she has overlooked the possibilities of the moment in front of her. As she brings her concerns to Jesus, she seems to be more concerned about getting her job done then hearing what Jesus has to say in his teachings.

How often do we find ourselves in the same situation? A situation where we put blinders on and forget about everything else around us. Now, I am not saying that to be focused and intentional in our actions is a bad thing. What can lead us down the wrong road is not paying attention to our surroundings and breathing in the life of those people around us. Not knowing what it is that motivates them and what touches their hearts. Not only being with them in times that we celebrate, but also being with them in their darkest of days. Allowing ourselves to be present in a way that allows us to connect with community and build relationship.

There are times that we are called into action. Called by circumstances that happen around us. Called to be God’s hands and feet in this world that at times seems to be falling apart The good Samaritan was called into action in last weeks gospel in helping the half-dead man along the roadside. The continued violence that we have been experiencing in our own country, leaves us wondering where God is in all of this and how we are called to act upon it.  We hear of violence happening in other countries, where just this past Thursday a truck driver drove through a group of people gathered to celebrate Bastille Day in Nice, France killing 84 and injuring hundreds more. We witness groups, like Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, being vocal and wanting their voices to be heard. We have rhetoric going back and forth between political parties as we are  getting closer and closer to election season. There are so many voices at times we wonder who it is that we should truly listen to.

As we hear of all of this violence, I have to admit, part of me wonders if it truly is any worse than say 50 or 100 years ago, or if the way we communicate today through social media, hearing news instantaneously, just makes it appear worse. One thing is for sure though, and that is that we are not loving our sisters and brothers as we should. While there are times to be called into action and stand beside our brothers and sisters in protest, there are also times that we may just have to shut-up and listen.

This is the route that Mary takes as Martha and her welcome Jesus into their home. She sits at the feet of Jesus listening and breathing in all that he has to say. She is not distracted by those things that can wait. She knows where God is calling her to be at the time and that is sitting and listening.

It is in Jesus’ reassurance to Martha, and his loving guidance, that there is only need of one thing. That one thing is to be in relationship with Jesus and for Mary at this time it is sitting and listening and for Martha it may very well be preparing food and serving others. How can we follow Mary’s example in the midst of everything that is happening around us? We need to be able to listen and not be quick to judge. This goes for those on either side of a debate. Once we listen, and pray for God’s guidance, then and only then should we act and raise our voices to be heard.

As you attempt to decipher the news from the past couple of weeks may you sit in silence and listen. Listen to your sisters and brothers that have been affected and pray for them and pray for God to guide you in the right direction. For as Jesus says this morning, we are only in need of one thing. Christ has given up his life for us and shown us what it means to live into a new creation. May we take his example and let it guide our lives as we listen.