(This sermon was not transcribed, but is made available in outline form from the speaker’s notes.)
|38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village
where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called
Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was
distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord,
don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many
things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and
it will not be taken away from her.”
Who I am
I’d like to dispel any rumors that my presence up here indicates that I’m in line to be the Senior pastor-In fact I asked the Pastoral Nominating Committee to remove my name from consideration several months ago
For any guests who are with us today, you should probably know that our church is in the middle of a pastor search, and I’m filling in for our interim pastor today-so if you find the next 20 minutes to be a painful experience, I want to encourage you to come back anyway. This really is a warm and caring community, and a great place to grow in your journey with God, and I trust that you’re finding that already
Pastor George has been trying to get me up here for several months, and I kept putting him off. He first asked me to preach Easter Sunday-for the sunrise service. Those of you who know me know that would have been an “interesting” experience, because I am not a morning person. I don’t know the last time I saw a sunrise-I’m basically assuming they happen based on what other people tell me.
Well, anyway, here I am and I’m excited to share with you today, and in case there are some of you who may not be excited about me being here, I want to remind you of George’s words a couple weeks ago when he started his series on “Sitting at Jesus Feet.”
We’re still sitting at the feet of Jesus, no matter who’s preaching up here
When he said that, I scribbled it down as great encouragement, and I hope you take that word to heart today as well.
I’ve been busy
One of the things I’ve been struggling with these last couple weeks-and maybe some of you can relate to this-is that life has just been really busy; I mean downright hectic.
Summer’s here, so I’ve been expecting a little lull, and really, it’s been the opposite. It seems like we’ve had something going on every day and every night for a while. Just this weekend, as I’ve been trying to finish up this talk, we had a wedding to go to in Pennsylvania, yesterday. And of course my folks wanted to hear my first sermon so they followed us home last night, so we’ve been trying to get the house ready for them.
They’re really great, the things that parents will do-and here’s a classic newlywed moment: we went out and bought a new air mattress for them to sleep on-the old one wasn’t good enough. So mom and dad slept on the new air mattress last night… in the basement. Never a dull moment.
Life in General is crazy
I know that we’re not the only ones scrambling around trying to get it together. Our culture, here in America, expects, even requires this kind of push-it-to-the-limit life. The fact that it’s so easy to get miffed at the guy driving in front of us who’s only going 10 MPH over the limit… through a residential zone… I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.
Ever notice that just when it looks like you’re going to get a break, something else comes up? I thought it was bad back in college, and let me tell you for all you college students out there-enjoy it while it lasts! The day will come when you’re going to have a regular job, with commutes, bills to pay, telemarketers to dodge, it becomes much harder to make time for things like relationships, friends, exercise. And it gets harder.
Let me just say that I have so much respect for you parents on this issue. I’m a new uncle, and I’m just now getting a glimpse of how much a baby changes your life. (Parents out there are thinking, ‘Oh, just you wait, buddy)
So in the midst of all of this commotion that we call life, where do you find time for the things that really make life meaningful. How many of us, stuck in these patterns of busyness, have felt the keen surety that there’s gotta be something more, but you just can’t put your finger on what it is, or how to get it?
Believe it or not, this is not just a 21st century problem. People have been wrestling with it from the beginning of time.
I’ve been reading in my personal study time the Book of Samuel about the life of David, and I had forgotten what a rough time this guy had. There were people out to kill him, he was exiled from his own country, had his best friend killed in a war, committed adultery and murder himself, watched many of his children die or be killed, have his own sons turn against him. And still he could write:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3
And yet one generation later, his son, writing in Ecclesiastes, says,
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:17
Do you ever feel like you’re chasing after the wind? What makes the serenity that David found so elusive?
Jesus understood this dilemma about human existence, the tension between our immediate needs and our spiritual or eternal needs, and spent a lot of time trying to help his disciples understand it.
Speaking to the crowds in Matthew 11:28-30 he said
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
When he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me,” what did Jesus want us to learn? And how in a life that seems full of toil, even for those who claim to follow Christ, can he tell us that his yoke is easy and his burden light? What, in the words of Dallas Willard, is the secret of the easy yoke?
One clue, I think, is found in the brief account of Jesus’ visit to the home of two sisters in the countryside town of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. Turn with me now to Luke 10:38-42 and let’s read it together. You can find it on p. 735 in the red pew bible, or follow on the screen.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named 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. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “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.”
Pray with me
Open these words to our hearts
Guide my speech, that it would illuminate your son
Things that are of you would be remembered, and that aren’t would be quickly forgotten.
When George asked me to speak, I thought I’d continue the series he’s already started, which is “Sitting at the feet of Jesus.” And this passage was the first to come to mind.
I think what’s happening in this passage is two disciples-followers of Christ-one who seemed to understand the secret of the easy yoke, who sat at the feet of Jesus to learn of him, and another, who the Bible says, was distracted by many things.
So as we uncover the meaning of this text together, I want to ask you three questions.
Are You Willing to listen?
Jesus stopped in unexpectedly
As I was studying this passage, I noticed that it takes place in the middle of his itinerant ministry, as he’s going from one place to the next teaching the good news of the kingdom of God. Of course in those days, they didn’t have cell phones, not even pay phones or walkie-talkies, so Jesus really had no way of calling ahead for a place to stay.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
He stopped in unexpectedly.
Isn’t it the same with us?
We’re going along, living life in our own sphere, when something tugs at our heart and tries to arrest our attention. You know what I’m talking about
Driving up to an intersection where the homeless man stands, and you hear “give him some change,” as you roll up your window. Talking to an acquaintance ask how are things going, and she says good, but her face says otherwise, and you hear, “ask some more” as you change the subject. Or maybe you’re here today and you’ve been asking about God, and you feel that tug in you’re heart that says “I’m here,” are you willing to listen?
I believe that Jesus unexpectedly stops in on us every day.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
And we have the choice, just like Martha did, to continue on with our own activities when Jesus stops in or to open the door of our hearts to him and to listen and learn of him.
Learn of his Grace
One of the things that I think keeps us from being willing to listen is that we’re afraid of his disapproval.
Martha, being unprepared, probably felt the need to get her house in order. She didn’t seem to realize that Jesus wasn’t concerned about her efforts and preparations.
When Jesus stops in on your life, do you feel like you need to get your house in order?
Learn of his grace. See, when Jesus visited a home, it was a sign of love and affection. He always takes the initiative and it’s always because he loves you.
Brennan Manning said at the core of our ability to learn from Jesus is the question, Do we truly believe that God is “head over heals in love with you?” That question is that the heart of our ability to grow and mature spiritually.
To all of Martha’s worry and concern he says, “Martha, Martha, I don’t care that you’re house is a wreck. I love you and I am here now. Listen, and learn of me.
So to the question, “Are you willing to listen to Jesus?” my challenge to you is learn of his grace.
Are you prepared to listen?
Many things distract us
Jesus said “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.”
I want to point out that there doesn’t seem to be any indication that Martha, in taking time to serve God by making preparations, was doing anything wrong. The solution is not to become lazy and do nothing, for as God teaches us, he calls us to action.
What did happen, though, was that those things became to Martha distraction and worry.
Jesus wants to take the many things that captivate us and pull at us and instead give us one singular focus.
How many roles are you torn by in your life? son, daughter, wife, husband, breadwinner, soccer mom, employee, boss, college student, republican, democrat, middle class, upper class, lower class, Caucasian, Asian, African American… the list goes on.
In a world that wants to divide and label everyone, Jesus wants to throw that all out the window and give us 1 role, 1 focus: Learn of me.
Contrast Martha with Mary’s reaction: she sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Her posture is one of single-minded attentiveness to Jesus’ teaching.
How can we be prepared to listen when Jesus is ready to teach?
It’s an easy yoke
Learn his discipline
Which portion will you choose?