Sermon Preached July 18, 2010 + Lectionary 16 + Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Click here to listen to Faith Lutheran Church Word portion of July 18th worship
Last week in the story of the Good or Merciful Samaritan, Jesus says to go and do likewise. I shared the importance of stopping first and seeing before doing and how we stop, see and do in the name of love that is Jesus. This week Jesus points out to Martha that the best part is in the stopping, seeing, sitting and listening. Last week Jesus lifted up doing and this week… not doing, or perhaps not doing it all.
There is a book called “Being a Mary in a Martha World” published ten years ago whose title seems appropriate for the pace of life and the distractions many of us experience. As I pondered its relationship to the text, it struck me that… Jesus didn’t say to Martha: “Why can’t you be more like your sister Mary?” Rather Jesus recognizes that we all have unique gifts, personalities, learning and serving styles… One wasn’t better gifted than the other and one didn’t earn Jesus’ favor because of what one did, or didn’t do.
Rather Jesus said: “Mary has chosen the better part.” This is not a harsh word of judgment here. We are not told that Jesus had a scolding tone, although we might hear a bit of ‘ha ha Mom likes me best, or nah, nah you messed up approval seeking, competitive sibling rivalry. The competitive tone, the scolding tone, the judgment we hear, we insert… Jesus does not. The better part, face time with our precious Lord Jesus was available to Martha as well as Mary. Jesus presence, comfort and merciful love are unconditional. It is graciously available for Mary, for Martha, for me, and for you 24/7, 365 days the best part, given for you…forever.
But Martha, like you and me didn’t really see Jesus. She didn’t comprehend all that he offered, right there in her presence, in her living room, standing in front of her. And it’s the same for you and me. We miss the face of Jesus standing in front of us, dwelling with us, in the face we see in the mirror, in the faces made in God’s likeness, fellow children of God in the workplace, playground, grocery store, or soup kitchen. The face and body of Christ, clouds of witnesses surround us wherever we are… but, we are busy, we are distracted, we miss the best part.
We can easily talk about the distractions in life that keep us from being in God’s presence each day. The things we should do… the things we could do… the things Jesus would want us to do. There it is, the feeling of guilt, the need to fix, the need to do. And when we stop and see, really see Jesus and listen to him… we get overwhelmed, and maybe uncomfortable by all that love. We think we don’t deserve it because we haven’t done… we haven’t listened to our call to be and share that love.
For some, it’s easier to cook a meal than eat one with a stranger. It’s easier to write a check than look at the eyes of someone in need. It’s easier to say get a job, or write someone off because they are lazy, stupid, strung-out on drugs, mentally ill, speak a different language, or come from a different culture… than it is to stop in love, see a child of God in need and love that person made in God’s own image, the same as you and me.
We have so much to do… maybe tomorrow, next year, when I retire, someday… Someday I’ll have time, I’ll get around to a stronger prayer life, volunteer, give, help, have money to share, serve where Jesus would… someday.
We live between urgent/must be done, should be done… Between good intentions and the best/or better part. We live between distractions. Between ringing telephones, instant messages, e-mails, cell phone applications, Facebook updates, tweets… and the voice, the face, and the very breath of God in our lives.
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Feeling distracted and that you don’t have an ‘app for that’… well we do, it’s called Word 1.0, Jesus the Christ, God with us, the Ruach, wind, breath Holy Spirit of God that sustains everything. God is present here, in each of us and in every shining moment, euphoric experience, and brightest day, as well as every dirtiest corner, frightening times, and darkest of nights… but we are distracted, we fail to notice, to stop and see.
Theologian Paul Tillich noted that there are innumerable concerns in our lives which demand attention, devotion, passion. But they do not demand infinite attention, unconditional devotion, ultimate passion. These concerns and distractions are important, often very important for us all, but they are not ultimately important. What is ultimately important is seeing, listening and dwelling with Jesus throughout our daily and often mundane routines, even in the distractions.
So when in your daily life do you see Jesus? Where have you experienced sitting at the feet of our Lord and Savior? Where have you seen Jesus this week? …Are you distracted yet? Do you wish I’d get distracted, get on with the sermon, and stop asking these questions…?
Now some days I am as uncomfortable with these questions as some of you, but when I’m on schedule, have a deadline, plans, you know things to do, places to go and then… something happens, I get distracted, or someone, or something distracts me, I know I have a hard time thinking about where Jesus is in it all.
This week has been full of distractions, changed plans, things that didn’t go as planned, or my way… but it was filled with holy distractions, God filled moments spent at Jesus’ feet, looking at the face of our Lord in the most unexpected or planned places. I’ve been to three bedsides this week, holding hands in prayer, sharing the bread of life and the cup of salvation, stopping, listening, and experiencing God in profound ways.
From the reoccurring encounters with a nursing home patient seeking communion… to the face of someone grimacing as she was prodded by needles for another blood sample on one side of the bed and by a nurse entering her patient information on a laptop computer on the other side. The face of God, joy, mercy, love reflected when I was in my Martha mode, I was the comfort bearer, the face of faith… and yet I encountered God in these folks who were in Mary-mode sitting at Jesus feet, glowing in the majesty and mystery of the divine. I am grateful for these holy moments, turning my Martha distractedness to Mary focus on what is truly the best part, Jesus, Word made flesh, standing or laying right in front of us, when we least expect it.
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Jesus models how not to be distracted and invites us through the Word and prayer how to dwell with him. Knowing Him, noticing Him in others and in yourself, come through showing mercy, doing justice and walking humbly with Him. Jesus invites us to be with Him here in His Father’s House to hear, taste, see, and become Him. Jesus reminds us that we are made in His image and invites us to dwell in His presence, sit at His feet, feast at His table and see Him in one another. Jesus reminds us that these holy distractions are the better, the way, the truth and the life.