Mary listens to Jesus READ Luke 10:39, and Martha busies herself with chores, “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” is the way it says it in Luke 10:40. What is the point in inviting guests over for a meal, spend most of the time getting ready and then more time cleaning up and then they go home. I think Martha’s biggest problem is losing perspective ~ in the 2nd half of Luke 10:40 she goes to Jesus and tries to argue she is the more responsible of the sisters. Jesus says, “hold your horses Ma’am, lets pause and think about what you just said,” and Jesus shares the timeless principle: READ Luke 10:41-42.
Over the years as I have counseled many people for their wedding. Many times I have talked about how the marriage is far more important than the details of the wedding. The color of the table cloth is not going to make a bit of difference to the quality of your relationship a day after the wedding is over. This is a lesson about priorities. Determine the purpose for your life, what are you called to do. “Only one thing is needed, only one,” Jesus says to Martha as he points to Mary as the example of fulfilling his point. Whatever Mary is doing, Jesus is pointing to her as a shining example worthy of adopting. The only thing the Bible says she does is listen.
TIMING is part of the lesson of this scripture. Jesus doesn’t say the work of Martha is wrong. “Mary has chosen what is better” is the way Jesus scolds Martha. It is the timing. Nothing wrong with preparations, but if it means not spending time with your houseguests then something is wrong. Nothing wrong with doing the dishes, a clean house… Brother Lawrence in the 1600’s wrote a well known book, the Practice of the Presence of God in which he spoke of seeing God in the little things. He penned these words:
O Lord of pots and pans and things,
Since I have no time to be
a great saint by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food
in room, or by the sea,
Accept the service that I do-
I do it unto Thee.
Timing. Watching TV, sports, computers, video games, schedules, scrubbing the pots and pans, so many things that take our time are NOT wrong, it’s how much time they take, how much time we devote, the problem is often not the time it takes, the problem I is what get’s crowded out. Martha had no time for Jesus, not because her choice was a bad activity, but because what it meant she could not do: LISTEN.
CHOICES is another lesson. Martha acts like she has no choice: READ Luke 10:40b. But in Jesus response he declares that in fact each of the sisters made a choice. An irresponsible person lets life happen to them and then acts like a victim ~ It isn’t my fault I was late. If you are tired every day at work then choose to get more sleep. Martha is essentially saying “I have no choice, this busy work has to get done.” You always have a choice. If reading the Bible, praying, going to church is important you will find a way to do it. If you are too busy, that is because that is your priority. If you are a person that feels stuck, a person that feels trampled on, a person that is feeling out of control, spend the next week mentally reminding yourself that you make choices in the situtations, how much time you spend, how you spend your money. Our world is NOT too busy, it is poor choices. I heard about one grandmother age person that has threatened to not bother going to see her children and grandchildren because all they do all evening is choose to bury themselves in their I-phones.
BUSINESS is the fundamental problem of Martha. READ Luke 10:41.
We have chosen to be too busy. Indulge me while I take a moment to pick on Pastors. Perhaps the biggest sin of pastors as a group is setting a poor example of being too busy in a society that desperately needs rest. One of my favorite inspirational authors is Eugene Peterson (most famous for the bible translation, “The Message”). In one book he explores the sad pattern of Pastors being too busy: two reasons he says: “I am busy because I am vain.” Pastors like the attention, the feeling of importance…
As a society, business is a means of escape from facing a hard world. By staying busy we never ask ourselves hard questions, we keep ourselves busy so we don’t have to prioritize…As Christians we need to slow down, to say no, to practice the art of vigilance, waiting, resting, ready to spring into action when needed….If we are too busy, constantly on the run, we may miss the opportunities of what is most important.
The Church gets bloated too easily, too many programs that we forget the purpose. The wisest thing a church can do may be to know when to stop doing some programs/patterns when the time is right, if the purpose of serving Christ has been lost.
The other reason for pastors being too busy, like Martha: “I am busy because I am lazy,” Woe to the pastor who lets others determine the schedule, responding to every request. Business is the result of NOT making the hard decisions. Sounds like our entire world! I like the testimony of Eugene Peterson: “Years ago I noticed… that when a pastor left a neighboring congregation, the congregational life carried on very well, thank you….A congregation would go months, sometimes as long as a year or two, without a regular pastor. And I thought, ‘All these things I am so busy doing ~ they aren’t being done in that pastorless congregation, and nobody seems to mind. I asked myself, ‘what if I, without leaving, quit doing them right now? Would anyone mind?’ I did, and they don’t.” If you just stop being busy nobody will be offended.
As the Church faces a world spinning out of control, the best we can do is to not over think, not over react, but to be patient, be available, ready to spring into action. We need to be like that police officer in Sumas that sits in his car for hours at a time, just waiting, just waiting, ready… Would you want a police force playing video games all day…. May we be vigilant, waiting, watching, ready. What is the ONE THING NEEDED according to Jesus? LISTENING.
LISTENING is needed above all else. Mary is commended for listening to Jesus as a priority, as a choice, the right timing, not being so busy with other things, but listening. I have a problem in how we usually understand this word in this scripture. I have a who’s who reference book with a description of every character in the Bible. I looked up Mary and it says, “Mary sat listening to Jesus’ teaching.” I challenge that idea.
I am a simple person. Show me where it says Mary was taught by Jesus. All it says is she listened. Jesus is a guest in her home. He had been teaching all day. Surely Jesus got tired dealing with the Expert in the Law from last weeks scripture, the tense exchange in which Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, the disappointment that the Expert left the conversation hanging, not willing to admit that there was nothing he could do to earn his salvation. Today’s scripture is the same day. When the Bible says Mary sat at Jesus feet “listening,” she is inviting Jesus to unwind from a long day. There are a few people whose gift to me personally is to ask me about me. This is not a complaint, but many days I spend all day listening to other people, helping them sort through their issues, dilemmas, no greater honor. Sometimes how good and necessary to have somebody say, “and how are you?” (Sally is #1 on that list…you should feel sorry for her!) This is what Mary is doing for Jesus. She is not asking for another lesson from the Master so she can grow in her spiritual health, she is saying “Jesus, my home is your home, rest, talk...” she serves the Lord by listening. Is there any doubt that the greatest need in our world is to be heard?
I go back to the instructions from the scripture two weeks ago to the part about Jesus instructing the disciples to go out, and go into homes in Luke 10:5-7. That scripture talks about how the disciples are to go into a house where there is peace, where there is a mutual blessing with the owners of the house. As Christians we need safe places, we need people to bless us, we need to get away from the stress of the world, the tension, a place of peace. We all need an oasis in the desert. That is the home Jesus described. Stay in a place where you are welcome because there is a time to REST, a time for peace. This is why they are told not to go from house to house once a safe restful place of peace is found. This is exactly what Mary is doing for the Lord Jesus Christ. She is blessing the Lord with PEACE by LISTENING to Him.
LISTENING to others, not for the sake of learning, but for the sake of BLESSING is the ONE THING THAT IS NEEDED. Precious little dialogue ever takes place in the public square of our old world. What we have on our college campuses, in the protests, in the debates over guns, racism, climate change, social policy is one sided monologues of people shouting at each other, no solutions, but people belittling one another, intimidating, shouting each other down. All we ever seem to get from world leaders is maneuvering to dominate and acts of betrayal. This old world in the public square is so discouraging because nobody ever really seems to talk on any level.
The cry for help is met with a thud. Once upon a time, trapped in a crevasse, with no way out I yelled to try and make my voice heard, and my screaming voice traveled about two inches into the wall of ice. The One Thing needed is for somebody to STOP and LISTEN. People that are hurting need to be heard. The chaotic world needs somebody to listen. I can’t control others, we can’t stop the madness of people shouting at each other, but we can make ourselves available, ready to listen, we can practice the art of being unbusy like the police officer that sits in the car, waiting till the time is right. Listening promotes peace for it stops arguments, it eases minds. Mary Listened. That’s all she did and Jesus gives her one of the highest commendations in all of scripture: “Mary has chosen what is better.”
LISTENING to a hurting and confused out of balance world is the better way. Our calling is to be a people who listen to give others a voice and to be heard. It’s a great ministry. It’s a great service. Go and listen to a hurting world in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.