+ 9th Sunday after Pentecost – July 21, 2013 +
Series C, Proper 11: Genesis 18:1-10; Colossians 1:21-29; Luke 10:38-42
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.
Don’t just sit there; do something! We’ve all heard that before…or said it. 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 they are, go outside and do something.
The story of Mary and Martha seems simple. Mary’s is with Jesus. Martha is indignant that she’s not helping her in the kitchen. Martha complains to Jesus, expecting Him to send Mary to help out. But there’s a shocker 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 lovingly admonishes hard-working Martha. But this story isn’t really about Martha, or Mary – it’s about Jesus.
Jesus coming to Mary and Martha’s for dinner. Jesus serving us. What hospitality, what a host – enough to put Martha Stewart to shame.
So, you don’t get out the Dixie cups, paper plates that crack when you load them up with too much potato salad, or those plastic forks that break in your fried chicken. No that won’t do for the Lord. None of those 99 cent frozen pizzas or dilled pickles in little plastic individual cups. Even Grandma’s china doesn’t seem to cut it.
Oh so much to do. Vacuum. Dust. Sweep. Wax. Polish. Buff. Repeat. Cook the meal. Pour the wine. Grill the steak...just right. Mash the potatoes to perfect fluffiness, slice the artisan bread, top the salad with walnuts, cranberries and pre-packaged crumbles of feta cheese. Martha’s running around makes the chicken without a head look silly. She thinks she’s doing her best to serve the Lord.
My, won’t Jesus be impressed with all her hard work?! “It’s 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!”
We’ve all done this – we pull a Martha, believing our highest form of worship is to serve Jesus. We’re busy people here in Southern California. Living life in the 8-lane fast-lane, the rat race, the daily grind – whatever you call it, it’s crazy, running here and there. Weekend outings. Work and play. Sports or Leisure. Business or pleasure. We spend more time in the car, on the phone, emailing or texting or sitting in meetings during a week than anything else…much less sitting at the feet of Jesus. 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.
Our congregation is no different. There’s always work to be done, and always too few people to do it, we say. Programs to run; committees and boards to chair; property to care for; bills to pay, meetings that go on and on. The work piles up so much that it overshadows divine service. Say it ain’t so?! But it is. We’re all guilty here; we’ve all placed our priorities over the priorities of Christ’s word and sacraments.
Divine Service 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 and receive his gifts. 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. Repent. Worship isn’t about us serving God. That’s what much of what passes for Christian music today does. Worship is about God serving us. Divine serve us. Christ for us. That’s why we pray, praise and give thanks. Gift given and received. Amen!
It’s our old sinful nature that loves anxiousness and busyness – do this, do that. Do is always 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 a mirror that exposes our sin, not a motivator or a spiritual 5-hour energy drink.
That’s why Jesus’ words seem rather shocking, offensive, even outrageous: in the life of the Church, Jesus is the real host. He’s the one giving. He’s the one doing everything for you. He’s the dishing up His daily forgiveness for us undeserving sinners. He’s the one pardoning your unpardonable sins, eating and dining with us sinners, declaring you saints by His gracious promise. This is what Jesus does best: gives and gives and gives to you.
Redeemer, Redeemer, you are anxious and troubled about many things – perhaps giving or finances, perhaps the participation in outreach events and fellowship, perhaps you’re worried about the our church and school and the next 50 years – but this one thing is needful. Jesus Crucified and risen. He’s your good – no your best – portion.
Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you an everlasting Sabbath rest. 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.
But Martha did all that work! And Mary just sat on her rear. What a bum! All the time, treasures and talents I’ve offered...all to the glory of God…and Jesus doesn’t even care?! We’re 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. 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.
Notice too that Jesus doesn’t scold Martha for her work, but lovingly admonishes her not to be so anxious and troubled that she misses the one needful thing: Himself. That’s why Mary is praised; Mary simply sits and listens and receives.
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’s poisonous. Whenever you here “Jesus and,” or “Jesus forgives…but,” you’re right back in the kitchen with Martha.
It’s true, God loves a cheerful giver. Serving others is good, but it’s not the Gospel. God doesn’t need your good works…but your neighbor does. We give because we receive. We love because he first loved us.
So it’s also true that God also loves a cheerful receiver. That’s why, 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 washed you clean in Baptism, taught you his Word, 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.
Christ does all of this for you. He forgives your sins; He opens heaven for you; His Word is preached into your ears; 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. Take drink; it’s Him. Jesus is your best portion. Jesus is your rest in this weary, busy, anxious world. He lived the perfect life you run around so busily trying to accomplish – in your stead.
You’re brought to the feet of Jesus, not because you’re a Mary or a Martha but because you are a sinner like they were, and Jesus is doing everything necessary for your salvation, right here this morning. It’s Sunday morning and you’re forgiven.
And having rested at Jesus’ feet like Mary – learning of his love, hearing his forgiveness, receiving his body and blood – you are now ready to serve like Martha – busy, active, clear witness, caring service.
Don’t be afraid. Jesus has given you, still gives you, and will give you exactly what is needed: the best portion – Himself. He is the one thing needful. And today, Jesus is here at this altar serving you as one who is busier than Martha ever could’ve been. Busy forgiving your sin and giving you the best portion…Himself. He has chosen you. And you will never be taken away from Him.
So don’t just do something – sit here, at the feet of Jesus.
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.