Archive for the ‘Pentecost 8C’ Category

“Martha, Martha… (insert your name here)!”

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 18, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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This morning God’s Word desires to teach us something both about worship and service.  What is worship?  I’m fairly certain that if I ask 7 people to define worship I will get 7 different answers… especially if I ask our brothers and sisters from different Christian denominations.  So to avoid any confusion, let’s talk about Lutheran Worship, which by the end of the message, you will see is the Biblical model of worship. 

Lutheran Worship is based entirely on the model of service.  “OK”… many of you are saying, “I can see that.”  But here comes the portion of our definition that often times can lead to disagreement:  It’s not you and me serving the Lord, but instead it’s God almighty serving us!  You see friends, when you decided to go to church this morning, you weren’t doing God any favors, and the fact that you are here doesn’t earn you anything.  No, I’m afraid that coming to church isn’t a good work that serves God and wins His favor.  Then what is worship?  True Christian worship is simply sitting at the feet of Jesus… hearing God’s Word and letting Him serve us!  This is why we call our worship a Divine Service; it is God serving us!  We go to church out of need.  We go to receive the precious gifts that Christ has to give to us.  What are these gifts?  Forgiveness of sins and God’s love and real presence in our lives won for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  These wonderful things friends are given to us through His precious Word and Sacraments—the very things that we gather around during our Divine Service! 

I. Last Sunday, we discovered in our gospel lesson a lawyer that wanted to do something in order to receive God’s approval.  Jesus tried to show him through the Law, that it wasn’t what he did that would save Him but the gift that God had to give… and that gift was Jesus Christ!  This morning, in our gospel reading we are introduced to two sisters.  Both knew that they needed Jesus… both knew that through Jesus God was with them.  But one sister insisted that her service to Jesus should come before Jesus could serve her.  You see, she knew that she needed Jesus, but she wanted Him on her terms.  Listen to the first portion of our gospel reading and see if this isn’t true: “But Martha was distracted with much (service).  And she went up to (Jesus) and said, “Lord, (don’t you) care that my sister (Mary) has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.” [Luke 10:40]  And what was Jesus answer?  Listen: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” [vs. 41,42]

So what’s the point?  Well, our Lord was implying that by Mary’s attentive hearing of His Word, the very place where He was seated had become a pulpit, and Mary’s own humble seat at the feet of Jesus became a pew.  In fact the entire home had become a sanctuary filled with the very mercy of God!  It was a place where God had drawn close to sinners so that He could change their hearts and fill them with grace and forgiveness!

Friends, Mary’s natural devotion to Jesus’ Words will forever stand as a witness to the church as the true mark of worship and discipleship.  Here we learn that if the Words of Jesus are received by a humble and empty heart wanting to be filled and changed, then God is more than ready to do this good work or service within us!  And here we learn that whenever God’s holy Word is offered to us, we should be willing to drop everything else just to hear it.

The problem Martha had friends is the same problem many of us have… we’ve lost sight of God’s priority!  You see, Martha forgot who came to serve whom.  She thought that it was better for her to do a good work than for God to serve God her.  This way of thinking goes like this: “There’s something important that needs to be done today at home or even at church, so I’ll skip worship and work on that!”  The truth is, each of us come up with some pretty good excuses to justify not coming to worship on Sunday or during the week; each of us has a little bit of Martha in us!  Think about that for a moment; while Jesus was teaching she was preparing Him a meal.  She thought that the God who fed over 5,000 people with just a few loaves and fish “needed” her service!  Friends, Jesus didn’t need any food from her she needed food from Him!  And He doesn’t need any service from us either; he wants to serve us!   “Wait a minute pastor… are you saying that my service to God isn’t important?”  No, of course not!  But my point is that before we offer service to God we must first seek to be served by Him!  That is His will and that is His priority.

II. In our epistle lesson (Co. 1:21-29), St. Paul helps us keep our priorities straight.  He says that we must first become reconciled to God.  Listen to his inspired Words: “And you who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, (God) has now reconciled (you) in His body of flesh (Jesus body) by His death.”  And to this we ask, “But why?”  And Paul answers: “In order to present you (as) holy and blameless and above reproach before (God).” [vs. 21, 22]

“Ok pastor.  I see that I must be born again… I must be given a new heart and mind.  I know that I must be given the heart and mind of Jesus.  But wasn’t all of that given to me in my baptism?”  Yes it was friends, but this is a gift that is continuously given and it must be continuously received.  Listen once again to Paul.  He says that all of these gifts of grace, love, and forgiveness are ours, “if indeed (we) continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that (we) heard. [vs. 23a]  Do you hear in those Words the need to continue… to be steadfast and stable… not shifting from the hope of the gospel?  The only way this can be done is if Jesus is serving us with His life giving Word!

You see friends, unlike Martha, we have the ability to look backwards into time.  We can see that it was Jesus who first served us at the cross, and from there we can follow Him to His resurrection and ascension.  We can hear and read that His Word is real food and that He is really with us in a mysterious way through our baptism, the absolution ( forgiveness of our sins), and His Holy Supper.  In all of these things friends, Jesus is inviting us to regularly sit at His feet and be nourished and strengthened in our faith.  It’s His desire that we faithfully gather each Sunday and hear that we are forgiven… but He also wants us to remember that we are forgiven with a purpose.  And that purpose is where “our” service becomes part of our worship. 

Each one of us has been called to receive the forgiveness of our many sins and then we are called to praise God and share that forgiveness with our Christian brothers and sisters and even our neighbors.  This is what is called our service to God.  It is first demonstrated during our divine worship as we offer up and sing praises to our God for His faithfulness.  And that spirit of praise and thanksgiving first shown here then leads us out into our families and our community, demonstrating a life which is centered in God’s grace.  As this reality that God has reconciled us becomes clearer, and the truth that every day He is transforming us into the very image of Christ’s, we will not only desire to always take advantage of Christ’s Divine Service, be will also see the need to be reconciled with each other and to see others reconciled to God as well!

III. Martha lost her focus; she lost sight of God’s priority.  She forgot that the one thing most needful was the Word of God.  Jesus wasn’t telling her that her service was unimportant; no, He was telling her that it was not the most important thing.  Her sister Mary knew that her service was important, but she also knew that it would come after the Word of God was had done its work within her heart. 

Dear friends, we should never lose sight of the need to show Christ’s love to others.  But we must always remember that the gospel… God’s forgiveness through Word and Sacrament are the reason we can love them; it is the one thing most needful.  We must remember that we are simply a glove that Jesus uses.  If we remember this we will also remember that it isn’t the glove that does the work but the hand that is in it… the hand that was stretched out upon the suspended portion of the cross and nailed in place for our sins.  This is the hand that stretched out in agony to a Heavenly Father who would not answer the plea, “My God, My God… why have You forsaken Me?”  Friends, Jesus asked this question for our benefit; He knew why His Father had forsaken Him… and it is my prayer that you do too!  He was forsaken so that you would not be!  He was pierced for your transgressions so that you would know God’s love for you.

Dear friends, there will always be a time to give thanks and service to our God, because it is always good, right, and admirable to do these things.  But these things must always be done as a result of God’s service that is first done within us.  I am sure that Jesus taught Martha this truth and I believe that she did take her place at Jesus’ feet along with her sister Mary.  I believe that Jesus not only changed Martha’s priorities, but He also blessed her service towards Him.  I pray that you will believe this also and be content to regularly allow God to be of Divine Service to you so that He can use you as a glove for His had that will serve His church and your neighbor.  I ask this in Jesus name…. AMEN!