Text: Luke 10:38-42
Grace mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.
Don't just sit there, do something! We've all been told that before. Usually it's mom and dad telling their children to remove their lazy summer behinds from the couch, turn the TV off, stop complaining about how bored you are, and do something.
The story of Mary and Martha seems simple. Martha is indignant that Mary is sitting with Jesus and not helping her in the kitchen. Then Martha complains to Jesus, expecting Him to send Mary to help out. But there's a surprise ending – Jesus is always throwing curve balls – always eating with tax collectors and sinners, always forgiving prostitutes who fall at his feet, always preaching about the unlikely Samaritans showing unlikely mercy to others. Instead of scolding Mary for her indolence, He rewards her and admonishes hard-working Martha. But this story isn't really about Martha, or Mary – it's about Jesus, but we can't get ahead of ourselves yet…
Because Jesus is coming over to Mary and Martha's for dinner. What hospitality, what a host – enough to put Martha Stewart to shame.
So, you don't get out the Dixie cups, the paper plates that crack when you load them up with too much food, the plastic forks that break in your chicken. No that won't do for the Lord. You don't just get out the 99 cent frozen pizzas and dilled pickles in little plastic individual cups for Jesus. Even Grandma's china isn't good enough. So much to do.
Vacuum. Dust. Sweep. Wax. Polish. Repeat. Cook the meal. Pour the wine. Grill the steak to perfection. Mash the potatoes to perfect fluffiness, slice the artisan bread, top the salad with walnuts and cranberries and those pre-packaged crumbles of blue cheese. Martha's running around makes the chicken without a head look silly. But she thinks she's doing her best to serve the Lord.
My, won't Jesus be impressed with all her hard work?! "I do it all for you Jesus! I'm giving you my all, unlike someone over there, just sitting like a lupus. Lord, why don't you tell her to do something, don't just sit there. but, to Jesus be the glory. It's all for you Lord!"
This is what we do – we pull a Martha, believing our highest form of worship is to serve Jesus. To give Him our best efforts. To give Him our lives.
We're busy people. Living life in the fast lane, the rat race, the daily grind – whatever you call it, it's crazy, running here and there. Camp-outs and cookouts. Boy scouts and Girl scouts. Sports and Leisure. We spend more time in the car during a week than anything else. Then there's work to be done, quotas to be met, bills to be paid, household chores to finish, and then you get up tomorrow and press the repeat button. Yes, we are busy people.
And our congregations are no different. There is always work to be done, and always too few people to do it. Programs to run; property to care for; bills to pay, meetings to go to and on and on. The work piles up so much that it overshadows worship. Say it ain't so. Worship always comes first in the Christian congregation. It's why God gathers a congregation in the first place, so that we can sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His Word. Any work that takes the place of worship, no matter how honorable or important it might otherwise be, is idolatry. When we're so busy we can't pause to hear God's Word, we can hardly turn around and ask God to bless what we're so busy doing.
Our old sinful nature loves anxiousness and busyness – do this, do that. Do is a Law word. Do is a command. Now, there's a place for the Law; but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the Law gets us anywhere closer to Jesus. The Law is but a mirror bright, to bring the inbred sin to light that lurks within our nature.
This is why Jesus' words seem rather shocking, offensive, even outrageous: Jesus is the real host. He's the one giving. He's the one doing everything for you. He's the one serving, dishing up His daily forgiveness for undeserving sinners. He's the one pardoning the unpardonable, eating and dining with sinners, declaring them saints by His gracious promise.
Martha, Martha. You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary – Me. Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest, an everlasting Sabbath. Thankfully, what Jesus says you need to do – He goes out and does it for you. Last week the Good Samaritan – be merciful, go and do likewise. Sounds like Law. It is, but then Jesus goes out and does it for you – now that's Gospel. Sweet, for you, nothing deserved, no merit of your own, Gospel. Jesus is the one thing necessary. And all that we need His hand provides from the dinner table to the His own table – it's all gifted to you in Jesus' Name. Jesus did not simply teach divine truth, He is truth. He did not just teach how to live, He is Life. He is hospitality for hard-hearted sinners. He is always giving of Himself.
Which always upsets our old sinful nature who is never content to Let God be God and Let Jesus do what Jesus does best: give and give and give. But Martha did all that work! And Mary just sat on her rear. How scandalous! All the meetings, all the programs, all the fundraisers all to the glory of God and Jesus doesn't even care?! We are hurt, maybe even offended by Jesus who doesn't seem to care at all about our good works for Him, how we've toiled for Him. Our old Adam stands insulted that our good works count for nothing before Him. We're so blinded by sin that we don't even know what the good portion is, even if we could choose it.
This is how we miss out on the one thing that's most needful: Jesus and His Word – His teaching, His forgiveness. His body and blood. Mary simply sits and listens. But this is not yet the Good News. The Gospel is not, Mary chose the better part…now you go do likewise! Go get Mary faith. No, that's Jesus + works. That kind of preaching is popular, but it only kills faith. Whenever you have Jesus and, or Jesus but, you're right back in the Law, right back in the curse, right back in the kitchen with Martha.
You've heard it said that God loves a cheerful giver. Well, it's true He does. Serving others is good, but it's not the Gospel. You commit no sin when you do good for others. But it is better, actually, best to receive. Jesus loves a cheerful receiver. Here's another shocker, you don't come to church to love God. Worship isn't about you or me. Thankfully, worship is all about Jesus and His gifts being poured out for you.
And today, you've been brought to the feet of Jesus not because you did anything spectacular or live a really busy productive life like Martha, not because you are super pious like Mary but because Jesus has taught you, brought you here, sat you here by His feet to receive His gifts and then He keeps on gifting you everything He has to give: His life, His death, His resurrection, His baptism, His Absolution, His Supper.
All of this Christ has done for you. He forgives your sins; He opens heaven for you; His Word is preached to you; your sin, your death and the devil's temptations are conquered, buried at the bottom of the font – all before lunch! Jesus is the better part – take eat, it's Him. You are forgiven; it's Him. You are baptized; it's Him. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many, for you.
He is your rest. He lived the perfect life you run around so busily trying to accomplish – in your stead. He was crucified, died and was buried…and on the third day He rested from all His labors so that He could give you an eternal rest from all of yours. Jesus lives to give Himself for us even in spite of the busy, anxious, sinful mess we call daily life.
It's Sunday morning and you are forgiven.
You are brought to the feet of Jesus, not because you're more like Mary than Martha, but because Jesus has done everything necessary for you, for your salvation. He is your good – no your best – portion. He has chosen you. And you will not be taken away from Him. So don't just do something – sit there, at the feet of Jesus.
Nothing have I, Christ, to offer, You alone, my highest good. Nothing have I, Lord, to proffer but your crimson colored blood.
Your death on the cross has death wholly defeated and thereby my righteousness fully completed; salvation's white raiments I there did obtain, and in them in glory with You I shall reign. (LSB 536:4)
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.