Pentecost 9 – July 16 & 17, 2016
As we heard last weekend, the expert in the law asked two wrong questions: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbor?” In answering, Jesus gave us the two RIGHT questions: “What has Jesus done for our salvation?” & “How can I be a neighbor?” This weekend, we see Martha and Mary were “good neighbors” / “Good Samaritans!” Jesus had no home of His own – although He fed the 5,000 with a little boy’s lunch – most of the time He and His disciples needed to eat. Martha and Mary knew of their “need that they could help fill.”
So… wouldn’t we expect that Martha is to be praised? She is the one who DOES something when she sees her “neighbors” in need! Martha’s middle name could have been “hospitality!” Each of the 3 times we read about her in Holy Scripture (here, John 11 and 12) she is busy welcoming or serving.
At first glance, doesn’t Mary seem like the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan who DIDN’T DO anything? I can certainly relate to Martha – “Don’t just sit there, DO something!”
But Jesus has a much greater lesson as we read, “As Jesus and His disciples were on their way … Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (v.38-42)
Martha’s desire was NOT wrong – just misdirected. She loved Jesus and wanted to give Him her very best! But she was “distracted” – literally “pulled or dragged away” from Jesus and WHAT HE CAME TO BRING by all her “preparations” that she wanted to make. Jesus said she was “worried and upset about many things” – because of this she almost MISSED OUT on “the Very Best” of Jesus “divine hospitality” at her house!
The same is true with Abraham (in OT reading) – Genesis 18, Abraham welcomed the “three men” as his special guests. Although Abraham prepared a very special meal for The Lord, it is obvious that The LORD came NOT TO BE SERVED A MEAL BY THEM, BUT TO GIVE THEM “THE GIFT” of a child. Through faith, Abraham received the “gift” of Isaac (the “son of the covenant promise”); which pointed to “The gift” of THE Son of the covenant promise – Jesus Christ– some 2000 years later.
How often is your life so hectic that when time for worship came, you rushed to get to church but you had so many “distractions” going through your mind that you left the worship service wondering why you even came? Because you were “worried and upset about many things”, you didn’t receive the “divine hospitality” God so freely gives; you didn’t “hear” the “gifts” of God that He gave through the hymns, the liturgy, the Scripture readings, the sermon, the prayers and especially, The Lord’s Supper? It’s not just to Martha, to whom the Lord speaks these LOVING words of CORRECTION, but to all of us who are often “distracted,” “worried and upset about many things:” (insert your name) “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Remember the White Rabbit in the story of Alice in Wonderland? He ran around saying, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date, no time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late.” His entire life was driven by “the tyranny of the urgent.” Our world is filled with “busy people.” “Movers and shakers” is a term given to people who get a lot of activity done, but often end up “worried and upset,” “distracted by their many preparations.” It is not surprising that these people are often unhappy, anxious, stressed-out and troubled.
God would remind them also, “One thing is needed” – what Mary chose – to quality time, at Jesus’ feet to listen and to receive His “divine hospitality” – the “gift” of His Word.
Today’s Scripture readings are NOT JUST about Abraham & Sarah, Martha & Mary; like all of Scripture, they are about Jesus! The promise of a child to Abraham & Sarah; the blessings that Mary received that day; were not because of what they did; IT WAS WHAT JESUS DID AND CONTINUES TO DO that transforms the ordinary times and places to the very special blessed events! Some would encourage us to “be more like Abraham” “be more like Mary” – that’s ridiculous. (Oh, how much would NOT get done if we didn’t have so many “Martha’s” in our church – thank God also for Martha’s!) Jesus commended Mary for making the right choice, but she acted in response to Jesus presence. When Martha was doing good deeds, Jesus RE-DIRECTED her priorities to that of FIRST RECEIVING “the one thing needed” that He came to give. Mary and Martha were blessed because Jesus is the Blessing and they were with Him!
God’s Word and His Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) are “the one thing needed” / the “divine hospitality” that Jesus desires to bless us with in our daily lives. And what a blessing that in places all over the world, not just on Sundays, but every day of the week, the Word of God is read and studied and shared! JESUS is the one thing needed – what is better – that will not be taken away from His dear children.
God’s blessings with the “one thing needed” each day this week – and see you in worship the coming weekend!