New England Intern Cluster Retreat Eucharist
Sermon Preached at Enders Island on October 1, 2008
Faster, faster Daddy… the words shouted from the back seat as we traveled down Greene Lake Road toward my Grandparents home in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York. It was this winding road from the village out past the big farm and down almost to the lake that was a place of happy childhood memories.
But the drive, that road… that heaving strip of asphalt remains my favorite place to drive. Like a roller coaster this road rises and falls, twists and turns and has an amazing thrill. Just past old man Jenkin’s farm, the road turns drops and rises quickly. If you keep your speed at the 45 mph limit there is that split second when gravity is tricked and euphoria fills your being as your stomach and brain try to figure out what just happened. And… if you hit that spot between 50 and 60 mph… one literally flies with all four tires airborne, ah what a ride.
But roller coasters are another story. While I enjoy speed, it’s the unknown twist, turn, dip and fluttering stomach when one least expects it that makes me avoid them. It’s also the lack of control that makes me queasy about roller coasters and other experiences where I don’t have full responsibility for. I admit it, I like to be in the driver’s seat, controlling speed, decisions, agendas, and yes even the TV remote. I love to be in charge, the boss, number one… one could say I embrace my free-will boldly.
I know I’m not alone… we fill our lives and our schedules with things we can control. We shop till we drop, we work too long, we even over schedule family time. We walk around with I-Pod’s or Blue-tooth’s, we turn the TV on in every room, embrace personal soundtracks or generic background noise to keep us occupied, never alone with ourselves or our God.
In running from one top priority to another, we have little time to deal with the broken and unfulfilled aspects of ourselves, our families or our communities… We seem to be able to juggle complex schedules but never eek out those times to reflect, repent, renew, or reorient ourselves, let alone time to be still and know.
In our text this morning, Martha is caught-up in the business of running her household. An accommodating host, she has welcomed Jesus and dozens of followers into her home and like us she tries to keep everything on schedule, on task, on her own terms. Now she knows Jesus and calls him Lord, but in her business finds herself grumbling about her deadbeat sibling sitting at Jesus feet as she does all the work.
Finally, Martha has had enough, looses her self-control and confronts the situation. And in looking at Martha loosing it, we see ourselves. We compare our experience to each others. We long for congregations where we can call the shots. Instead we find ourselves running from meeting to meeting, trying to eek out time to prep a sermon or Bible study, take that walk or run, cook a healthy meal, catch-up with a loved one… and the phone rings and one finds oneself packing the communion kit and heading to the hospital.
And Mary, sweet Mary she is centered on what matters most. She gets it and in her stillness, knows that through all the many worries and distractions, there is just one thing that truly matters. But in this text there is grace for Martha as well. For this whole story is narrated in the aorist, told entirely in terms of Jesus and Martha. Jesus who has been relaxing in her living room focuses completely on her as she shares family frustrations and anxieties. There is no scolding tone here, though we may insert it based on our personal experience and family system. Jesus calms her, acknowledges her worries and distractions and encourages her wellness by focusing her on the one thing that matters most.
On Sunday morning the 8:00 service had ended and as folks were leaving, I was focused on the Bible Study I was about to lead. I chatted with folks but wondered when the narthex would empty so I could get on to the next thing. It was then that Matthew and Andrew came into the narthex from the nursery proudly holding their coloring projects. “Vicar Bill, Vicar Bill, look what we did this morning…”
My focus shifted completely. I crouched down to look at their art and commented on Matthew’s and then turned to Andrew. He held up a photo copied page from a coloring book. Jesus’ stood crooked on the page the top of his head disturbingly cut off. Andrew had scribbled bright reds and yellows and I asked him who was in the picture. He boldly said it’s God! And it was then I noticed words on the corner of the page that said One God. All is relative to the one thing that matters most.
As Eduard Schweitzer noted, although Jesus is often served, it is ultimately always he, the One, who ultimately serves. It is the incarnate Word made flesh, the One whose ultimate service is the source of all action. Jesus is the One who calls us, calms us, focuses us, and sustains us. To receive Jesus is to receive His Word as we will in a moment. And in the eating and drinking of the Word is healing, stilling and knowing there is need of only one thing.