130721 Luke 10:38 - 42

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 July 2013 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: Luke 10:38 – 42
Theme: Only One Thing is Needed!

When I sat down to write today's sermon message, the temperature outside was over 90 degrees; and the "heat index" said it was well over 100 degrees! What one thing do you need when it is that hot outside? A shady spot under a tree? A glass of ice-cold water? A cool, air-conditioned space? Now...let's think about this on a spiritual level: How are you and I able to be sure that, when our time of grace here on this earth comes to an end, we will not have to spend our eternity suffering in the heat of hell? On a weekend when we as a congregation are celebrating "Christmas in July", reminding ourselves once again of the wonderful Good News that our Savior was willing to leave his throne in heaven and come into this world as that baby born in Bethlehem; on a weekend when we are installing Mrs. Katie Schlomer as our new 3rd grade teacher, reminding ourselves of the importance of sharing the message of God's Word with generations to come through the ministry of our Lutheran Elementary School, we will see from God's Word that only one thing is needed.

Luke begins by telling us that Jesus has come to a village. While he doesn't identify that village here, we know from other portions of Scripture that the name of the village is Bethany. Bethany is a small village, about two miles outside of Jerusalem. It is the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Martha is excited to see her Lord, and warmly opens her home to the Savior. In the past, Martha gladly and willingly sat at Jesus' feet and listened to him speak. That's why she was able to confess about Jesus, after her brother Lazarus died, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." But, on this particular day, Martha forgot about sitting at the feet of Jesus and found herself caught up in preparing a meal for her Lord. She got so caught up in the little details for this one meal, that she was distracted away from the Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

At first, it may appear that Martha was doing all the work, while Mary was simply sitting around the house, not helping at all. But if you read this section closely, it appears that Mary was just as busy as Martha preparing things for the Lord's visit. But, when Jesus finally arrived, Mary stopped what she was doing and sat at the feet of her Savior. Mary put aside any and all distractions. By the power of God the Holy Spirit working on her heart, she was lead to know what was truly important, namely listening to the Word of her Savior.

At this time I would like to read an e-mail for you which my older sister sent me a few years ago. We could call it a "Press Release from Hell":

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, "We can't keep the Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can't even keep them from conservative values. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship in Christ.

If they gain that close relationship with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can't grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do, angels. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day."

"How shall we do this?", shouted his angels.
"Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent unnumbered schemes to occupy their minds," he answered. "Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then, borrow, borrow, borrow. Convince the wives to go to work and the husbands to work 6 or 7 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work."

"Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or CD players whenever they drive, to keep the TV, the DVR and their MP3 players going constantly in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ."
"Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogues, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering, free products, services, and false hopes."

"Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week. Don't let them go out in nature. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion."

"Let them be involved in soul-winning. But crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Christ and his Word. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family unity for the good of the cause."

It was quite a convention in the end. And the evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.

Is any of what I read in this piece true for you and me? Do you and I have distractions which keep us from sitting at Jesus feet and listening to his Word? Each one of us will have to confess that we have committed the sin of letting the things of this world, even the things which seem to be "good things", distract us from a close, personal relationship with our Savior through his Word. You and I have broken the First and Third Commandments far too many times! But the wonderful Good News of the Gospel is that these sins are among all those sins for which our Savior, Jesus, lived, suffered and died. Our one and only Savior won forgiveness of all sins, including the sin of letting things distract us from his Word. It is this same gracious Savior who invites us to leave those distractions behind, remembering that only one thing is needed!

My guess is when we read this account, we find ourselves quickly criticizing and looking down on Martha. It is true that Martha found herself distracted by all the preparations for the day. But don't lose sight of why she was doing this: She loved her Lord, and wanted to show this by offering him what she thought was a proper meal. She felt that Mary had simply left her to do all the work by herself. So she pleads, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" To which the Lord responds, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed." Some commentators see Jesus saying these words to Martha with a harsh tone. Yet often times in the Bible, when the Savior repeats the name of the person he is speaking to, it is a loving and concerned way of speaking to the person. Certainly Jesus appreciated all of Martha's work. He knew it wasn't easy preparing a meal like this all alone. He knew this meal was important to Martha. But there is something which is far more important; far better and far more necessary.

Just as we might be quick to criticize Martha for what she was doing, so also others may be ready to criticize Mary for leaving her sister to do all the work. Yet Jesus praises Mary for her actions. She was led to realize that "only one thing is needed." What is that one thing? Grace? Faith? While these are life-saving gifts from our gracious Savior-God, the "one thing which is needed" that Jesus mentions here is the Word of the Lord itself. It is only the Word of the Lord which tells us of his grace. It is only the Word of the Lord which creates and strengthens faith. It is only the Word of the Lord which motivates us to want to hear more from our Savior as we sit at his feet. The best thing Mary could do was to Stop! Look! and Listen!; not because it would keep her safe while crossing a busy street, but because it meant: stopping what she was doing, putting aside all distractions, looking only to the Lord Jesus and listening to his Word. And the promise of the Savior to Mary was that the Word would continue to be a blessing for her. "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

As I read and studied this portion of God's Word for myself, I couldn't help but think to myself, "I wonder what Jesus was talking about that day which caused Mary to leave behind all distractions, to sit at Jesus' feet, listening to every word he said?" Was Jesus simply talking about the wonderful aroma of the meal that filled the house? Was he talking about the weather or the political situation in Israel? Earlier in Luke's Gospel, in chapter 9 we read, "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." The Savior is in the final days of his ministry on this earth. At the home of Mary and Martha that day, Jesus most likely was speaking about his upcoming suffering and death, and what this would mean for mankind. Perhaps Jesus spent time talking about the sin all people are guilty of, and their great need of a Savior from that sin. Perhaps he shared the wonderful Good News that the angel spoke about: "Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." As we spend time in the Word of God, you and I hear Jesus speaking to us about his upcoming suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. As we join Mary at the feet of our Savior, we can hear his promise that he will always be with us until he returns again.

It is in Hymn #290 of our hymnal that we sing:

How were Mary's thoughts devoted Her eternal joy to find
As intent each word she noted, At her Savior's feet reclined.
How kindled her heart, how devout was its feeling,
While hearing the lessons that Christ was revealing;
All earthly concerns she forgot for her Lord
And found her contentment in hearing his Word.

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, always remember that only one thing is needed. It is your one and only Savior, Jesus, who invites you personally, "Stop! Look! Listen!" Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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