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Summary: The title and some illustrations come from Leonard Sweet and Max Lucado's book A Gentle Thunder. the theme is "what is the one thing needful"? the answer "Jesus"

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In Jesus Holy Name July 18, 2010

Text: Luke 10:38-39 Redeemer

“Mary, Martha & the Martha Stewart Church”

“Every church needs a Martha. Change that. Every church needs a hundred Marthas. Sleeves rolled up and ready. They keep the pace for the church. Because of Marthas the church budget gets balanced, the church babies get bounced, and the church building gets built. You don’t appreciate Marthas until a Martha is missing, and then all the Mary’s and Lazaruses are scrambling around looking for the keys and the thermostats and the overhead projectors.”

Marthas are energizer bunnies of the church. They keep going and going and going. They store strength like a camel stores water. Since they don’t seek the spotlight, they don’t live off the applause. That’s not to say they don’t need it. They just aren’t addicted to it.

If you’ve never met Martha, allow me to make the introduction. Martha, with her sister Mary and brother Lazarus lived about 2000 years ago, in the small Judean town of Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem. When Jesus was around Jerusalem, He would often stop and pay the trio a visit. They would ask Him to stay the night, and if He had to keep moving on, at least He and His disciples would have a meal. It was a wonderful arrangement.

Martha, knew a lot had to be done. She began flying around the house putting everything in order for the Lord and his disciples. She didn’t have a micro wave, no ice box….hadn’t been invented yet. A quick run down to the farmer’s market was required. A fire had to be started. House had to be cleaned…. Refreshing drinks had to be prepared.

Martha knew a lot had to be done and she wanted to make sure everything was just right. Naturally, she expected her sister Mary to lend a hand with the preparations. Yes, yes, Martha knew that Mary sat down and was listening to Jesus, that was the polite and proper thing to do. No sense in being rude to your guest. But when Mary didn’t move, when Mary gave every indication of staying put… Martha started to get upset.

If she is like most of us she would have shown her displeasure in some very subtle and secret ways. You husbands know what I’m talking about. It’s that look you get when you have talked too much, picking the cashews out of the bowl of mixed nuts, forgot to wipe mustard off your face. You know the look. I imagine that Martha sent Mary that look. Amazingly, Mary didn’t pay attention. She didn’t lift a finger to help.

Martha simply had no choice. If the look didn’t work, she had to take her protest to the next level. If they would have had cabinet doors, She would have started slamming them. If they had metal pots and pans, Martha would have banged them more than necessary. Did Martha sigh? Did she stomp her feet? Finally, to her self, “this job would be a lot easier if everybody pitched in.”

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“My, my! All of a sudden Martha has gone from serving Jesus to making demands of Jesus. The room falls silent. The disciples duck their eyes. Mary flushes red. And Jesus speaks:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed…”

In the classic Billy Crystal movie “City Slickers,” three long time friends face middle age. In their middle age crisis they find themselves losing their focus and in danger of losing their families.

To reignite the fire in their lives the guys sign up as “cowboys”, helping a dude ranch move its herd of cattle from the hills down to the lower valley. ‘Curly’, the grizzled old cowboy who leads them, seems to be the toughest, canniest, wisest person they have ever met. Billy Crystal asks the usually tight lipped cowpoke what his secret is. What makes life so strong and centered and sure. Curly smiles, raises his grubby, gloved, index finger and proclaims, “It is just one thing,” then he rides away.

Billy’s character spends the rest of the movie frantically trying to figure out what Curly meant. What IS that “just one thing.”

Psychologist, marriage counselors, relationship grurus of all stripes, warn us not to expect one person to provide for all our emotional, intellectual, and relational needs. We need a variety of relationships, a network of friends, colleagues, basketball buddies, quilting club comrades, elders and peers to meet all our emotional needs.

But what might be true for our human connections does not hold true for our spiritual needs. Our soul needs only “one thing”. No matter what your denomination. No matter if your spiritual temperament is exuberant, reserved, flamboyant, or meditative. Whether your soul craves cathedrals and organs, or guitars, drums and keyboard, it is all the same as long as we have that “one thing.”

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