Text: Luke 10:38-42; cf. Col. 1:21-29,
Gospel & Epistle for Proper 11, Year C
Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Col 1:2.)
Imagine for a moment you have an important guest coming to your house for dinner. How busy do you think you’d be preparing for it? You would scrub, polish, plan a nice menu, go shopping, maybe bake a special dessert. You’d be busy for days before preparing for the big day when the guest of honour finally showed up. And when He did, you’d be just as busy as before, stirring pots, making sauces, dressing the salad, warming the bread. Now you know what happens when you get whipped into this kind of frenzy, don’t you? I’m sure it’s happened to you. You get so wound up in preparations, you get so absorbed in your seven course meal and fancy dessert, you are so obsessed over how clean the bathrooms are and how scrubbed the floor is, that you actually spend very little time with guest of honour; You’re busy in the kitchen, and your guests are left to be entertained by other family members.
Distracted from Jesus’ Word
That’s what happened to Martha. Martha was distracted with much serving. It happens. It’s normal to want to impress your guests, and doubly so when your guest is the Lord Jesus. Martha had welcomed Jesus into her home. She wanted to put on a world class feast for the Lord. Was it good for her to prepare a meal for Jesus? Of course! Nevertheless, she allowed this good thing to distract her from the main thing. Martha was so overly concerned about the preparations that she became side-tracked and missed out being with Jesus. Martha is dragged away from Jesus words by her own desire to do the right thing.
Don’t we often find ourselves in Martha’s shoes? Concerned and anxious about so many things that we have no time to hear and learn Jesus’ Word? Distracted by this, fretting about that. The example of Martha makes a pointed question to each and everyone of us: what is it in my life which is distracting me from Jesus’ Words? What is it that would threaten to drag me away from gathering with God’s People to hear and learn his Word?
The busy hustle-and-bustle of our daily life and vocations can easily become a distraction. When you’ve got a full day ahead of you it can be hard to remember to make time for God’s Word, for prayer and bible reading. You’ve got to get to work, run errands, make it to appointments, cook a meal, take care of the kids, and before you know it, the day is done. The day is over and on days like that it is so easy to forget about taking time for God’s Word. And that’s the problem: there will always be one more thing that needs to get done, one more appointment to make. Doesn’t it seem like something always gets in the way? Sometimes we may even think, “Wow, I should really read my Bible today. I should really try to go to that Bible Study at Church.” Then, in a flash, the day’s gone and you still didn’t read the Bible or get to that study. The daily cares of life can distract us and drag us away from God’s Word.
Like Martha, we can let many things get between us and Jesus. In a very real way, we can starve to death spiritually because we’ve been so focused on the daily cares of life, so focused on ourselves, that we can fail to take the time to be nourished ourselves. We can let many good things get ahead of the one important thing.
While Martha is stuck preparing the food, Jesus is sitting in the living room with her sister Mary sitting at His feet, taking in his Word. That’s when Martha finally snaps. She slams her spoon down on the counter and storms out of the kitchen. And whom does she lash out at? Not her sister! No. Her Lord Jesus! She starts judging God! “Don’t you care? Don’t you care that I’m in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove while she just sits there? How about cutting the chit chat and telling her to get her lazy rear end in the kitchen to help me!” Her reaction shouldn’t surprise us when we read what St. Paul points out in our epistle lesson. He wrote that we once were “alienated and hostile in mind.” (Col. 1:21). Frustration, anger, complaining, pointing the finger, accusing, at war with God and each other; that’s the result of our sin and our preoccupation with ourselves.
Jesus’ Word is What is Necessary
Where did Martha go wrong? Martha was convinced that Jesus was her guest. She was the one who needed to serve Jesus. But that was where she was wrong. Jesus was not the guest, he was the host Martha thought that she needed to go all out to serve Jesus, but she failed to she that Jesus was there in her home to serve her. Jesus was there to bring his message of “peace.” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28). And notice how Jesus corrects Martha. He does not correct her with an angry word. He doesn’t belittle or berate her. Jesus, gently, kindly, patiently corrects her and point her towards the one thing which is necessary. What he rebukes is not her work, but her fretting and worrying. This is Jesus our Lord, who treats us gently even when we completely miss the point. This is Jesus our God who speaks “peace” to our troubled and anxious hearts. He doesn’t push her away, but points her towards what is truly necessary.
Jesus’ Word is the one thing that is necessary. God created the universe and all that there is by the mere power of his Word. (Gen. 1). The universe is upheld and sustained by the power of God’s Word. (Heb. 1:3). And it is God’s Word which brings to you the benefits of Jesus death on the cross. St. Paul in our Epistle says that Christ, through his bloody death has reconciled us to God. We are familiar with ‘reconciliation’. When two family members who have fallen out and are having a quarrel, like Mary and Martha, are finally brought together again, putting the past behind them, that is reconciliation. And it’s like that between humanity and God, only more so. But Christ, who was in the closest relationship with the Father, willingly endured in his flesh upon the Cross, all the dire consequences of our enmity and hostility towards God. Upon the Cross, Christ our Lord was busy with much serving. He gave his life as a ransom, for you.
Now, Christ our Lord has sent pastors who are chosen by him to announce his Word of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation to you. Through the preaching of the Gospel and through the Word attached to water, bread, and wine, through these means you are reconciled to God. You are declared to be holy, blameless, and above reproach. Through his Word he keeps you stable and steadfast to life everlasting. And God’s Word will not be taken away from us. In this fast paced world which seems to be ever changing, Jesus gives to us his unchanging, sure and certain Word. That is what is most important. The one thing needful is the blessed, saving, soul-satisfying Word of Christ. Martha was missing out on receiving the life-giving Word of Jesus. Like Mary, we show Jesus true hospitality when we sit at his feet and hear his Word.
When we pray for dinner, sometimes we say, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…” But on Sunday morning in the Divine Service Jesus is not our guest. You are not here today to serve Jesus. Jesus is the one who is among us as the one who serves. (Lk. 22:27). Jesus comes among us through his Word and serves us by bringing the riches of the Gospel to us. To worship is to sit with Mary, to rest in Jesus, to hear His Word and receive his gifts. It’s a busy world out there. But there is rest and refreshment in Jesus, and in hearing His Word you receive strength to do what your calling demands, not in bitterness but in joy, not to please God but in thanksgiving that you are pleasing to God already through Christ. There are many things to keep you busy; but one thing is needful, necessary, indispensable, that one thing is hearing Jesus’ Word of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. That is the better portion. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. (Phil. 4:7)