Summary: The Story of Mary & Martha with Jesus is used to challenge Christians regarding their choices and God’s Word.
August 1, 2004 — Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
Will You “Mary” Jesus?
I. Choose Love
II. Sit Down Already and Listen
III. ‘Til Death Do You Join
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Word of God for our study this Sunday is our Gospel, Luke 10:38-42:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)
This is the Gospel of our Lord.
Dear Fellow Servants of Christ and His Gospel:
I don’t know if it’s true today or not, but I’ve been told that at least some Roman Catholic nuns, from the time they take their vows and become nuns, wear wedding rings on their fingers. That may seem a little odd, considering that they’re committing themselves to a life of celibacy and singlehood, but that ring is symbolic: it’s supposed to show that they are married to Christ himself.
Now I’ve always wondered why the Roman church was comfortable making Jesus out to be a polygamist — being married to all those women at once — but it is at least an interesting way for them to express a single-minded to devotion Christ. But sadly, that’s really not at all what Jesus is looking for — not from women or from men. Christ wants our devotion, yes, but the true test of that devotion is not what great services we’re willing to do for him, or how far we’re willing to go to express or prove our love for him. Those would be the attitudes of the busy sister in our Gospel today. Jesus wants us to be like the other sister, who made the better choice about what to do with her time and devotion.
As we consider the story of our Savior and these two sisters today and apply it to our own lives and decisions, a question is put to each of us — what are you going to do? Will you “Martha” Jesus, or will you “Mary” him?
I. It is a real choice, and it’s one you have to make. We’re not talking about the mistaken notion that an unbeliever has to decide to follow Jesus in order to be saved, as though somehow someone dead in his sins and hostile to God possesses the ability to do anything to change that situation. No, the choice we’re talking about here is the one Christians have to make — not just once they become believers, but every week and every day: what do I do with my time, my energy, and my attention?
A farmer hired a man to work for him. He told him his first task would be to paint the barn and he said it should take him about three days to complete. The farmer was quite pleased and surprised when the hired man finished it in just one day. So next the farmer put him to work cutting wood, and told him it would require about 4 days. Lo and behold, the hired man was finished in a day and a half, and the farmer was amazed. The next task was to sort out a large pile of potatoes. He was to arrange them into three piles: seed potatoes, food for the hogs, and potatoes that were good enough to sell. The farmer said it was a small job and shouldn’t take long at all. At the end of the day the farmer came back and found that the hired man had barely started. "What’s going on? What’s the matter here?" the farmer asked.
The hired man looked at him, frustrated, and said, "I can work hard, but I can’t make decisions!"
Ever found yourself in a similar situation — plenty of activity, but no ability to act decisively? Actually, although he didn’t realize it, the hired man in this story had made a decision —with his inaction, he had decided not to sort the potatoes.
Martha probably didn’t realize, either, that she had made the choices she had, because she was just too busy doing what she was doing to notice. But with her activity, she had chosen her self-determined duty over Christ and his love.