The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 7, 2022
What Did I Choose Today?
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.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Choices. Every single day you and I are required to make certain choices. Some of these choices are very easy. We choose what we are going to wear. We choose what we are going to eat. We choose whether we are going to read a book or watch something on television or play a video game on our computer. Some of these choices don’t always seem like a choice. We can choose not to go to work, but then we risk losing our job. We can choose not to go to school or not to do our homework, but then we risk getting a bad grade or even failing a class.
Our sermon text for today reminds us that as Christians we have some unique choices that we make each and every day. We choose whether or not we are going to let our faith shine in the words and the actions of our life. We choose whether we are going to allow ourselves to be enamored by the temporary things this world offers to us, or if we are going to be enthralled by the eternal blessings waiting for us. And in the light of our text for today we choose whether we are going to be like Martha or whether we are going to be like Mary. With those choices in mind let’s study our text under the theme: What Did I Choose Today?
I have no idea how many times I have read these words of Luke chapter ten, but as I was studying these words in preparation for this morning I connected some dots that I had not connected before. Our text begins with Luke telling us, “As Jesus and his disciple were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.” We, of course, know that Martha lived in the village of Bethany. We also know that the home of Martha, her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus was a home in which Jesus and His disciples were always welcome. In fact, Jesus and His disciples stopped here at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus more than once as they traveled to and from Jerusalem.
The thought that occurred to me as I was studying this text is found in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The fact that our Triune God has made His home in our heart means that we are faced with an important choice each and every day. That choice is: Will we choose to be like Martha, or will we choose to be like Mary?
Since Martha plays a very prominent role here in our text, let’s begin by focusing our attention on her. Luke tells us, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him…Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him (Jesus) and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’”
Since Martha is the one who “opened her home” to Jesus she felt that it was her responsibility to prepare a delicious meal for Jesus and His disciples as well as to make their stay in her home as comfortable as possible. We get the impression that Martha had been given the spiritual gift of serving others— and she was dedicated to serving Jesus to the very best of her ability! Unfortunately, Martha was so focused on serving Jesus that she became so “distracted,” so “worried” by all the things that needed to be done that she vented her frustration to Jesus, asking Him to tell her sister to get up and give her a hand.
Jesus’ response to Martha’s frustration is very well known. He said to her, “Martha, Martha, 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.” Notice very carefully, my friends that Jesus does not say that what Martha was doing was wrong. She was focused on using her gifts, talents and abilities to serve her Lord and Savior! At the same time, the Lord reminded Martha that all of her preparations were preventing her from focusing on the one thing that is “needed,” the one thing that is “necessary”— hearing the Word of the Lord!
Think back to how many times you have chosen to be like Martha. In your devotion to your Lord you consciously strive to use the gifts, talents and abilities He has granted to you in service to your Lord, in service to your family, in service to others. You do your job to the very best of your ability, you provide for your family and take care of your family because you know that this is what your Lord wants you to do. You serve your Lord by serving here in His house because you want to show your love and your thankfulness to Jesus for all that He has so graciously done for you. (Pointing to the cross) You are so busy striving to serve your Lord, you are so busy striving to serve others that like Martha you end up “distracted,” “worried” and “upset” about many things. Like Martha you lose your focus on the one thing that is “needed,” the one thing that is “necessary”— hearing the Word of God.
If we broaden that application out a little bit it is very easy for us to see that there are many many things in this world that can easily “distract” us. The activities that we can be involved in, the recreational opportunities that are available to us are way too numerous to list here today. While most of those activities and while most of those recreational opportunities are both acceptable and beneficial, if we allow any of those activities, if we allow any of those recreational opportunities to keep us from serving our Lord or to keep us from gathering together to worship and praise Him on a regular basis then what was acceptable and beneficial becomes harmful to our soul.
Now let’s focus on Mary. Mary made a very different choice, didn’t she! Since Jesus was right there in her home Mary chose to sit “at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Mary realized that while everything Martha was focused on doing was indeed good and right and proper— one thing was “better.” Mary understood that everything else could wait. Mary understood that nothing compared to the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to the Word of the Lord. To Martha and perhaps to others who were there that day, Mary may have looked like she was being lazy. But in reality Mary understood that the only thing that was “better” than serving Jesus was being served by Jesus! So she sat. At His feet. And listened to Him teach God’s Word.
How can we follow the example that Mary has set for us? The most obvious way is by making sure that we gather together in the Lord’s house as often as we can! It is so easy for us to get so involved in so many things that we actually listen to Satan when he whispers in our ear, “You don’t have time to go to church! You have a lot to get done before Monday morning rolls around again!”
It is so easy for us to get so “distracted” by so many things going on in our life that we actually listen to our old sinful nature when it tries to convince us that going to church is a waste of our time. “It’s too boring! The liturgy is too repetitive. The hymns are too old-fashioned. And the sermon? Well, you know you’re not going to hear anything new, anything that will actually help you improve your life!”
Sometimes I think that even God’s people forget that the central purpose of the worship service is first and foremost an opportunity for the God of heaven to serve us! We come to church so that we can once again receive the result of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection— the free gifts of forgiveness, eternal life and salvation. Yes, we respond to His grace and to His forgiveness by confessing and praising His name and by serving our brothers and sisters in the faith, but let’s keep first things first. Unless we sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His Word as it is read to us and as it is explained to us, unless we approach His altar on a regular basis to receive His visible tangible assurance that all of our sins are completely forgiven— we will end up just as “distracted,” just as “anxious” and just as “worried” as Martha was so many years ago!
What applies to our lives as Christians on Sunday morning also applies to our lives as Christians on all the other days of the week. Between work and school and home there are many things that can easily “distract” us. Once again, many if not most of those things are good and beneficial. Many if not most of those things are things that we need to get done. But if any of those things leave us so distracted that we don’t think we have the time to talk to our God in prayer, if any of those things leave us so tired that we don’t think we have the time to sit down with our Bible and listen as the God of heaven speaks to us through His holy Word, then we would do well to remember what Jesus said to Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed, only one thing is necessary.”
So, my friends, whose example are you going to choose to follow? Will you follow the example of Martha? Will you be so focused on using the gifts, the talents and the abilities that God has given you to serve Him and to serve others that you neglect sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His Word? Or, will you follow the example of Mary and say to yourself, “I am going to concentrate on listening to Jesus as He speaks to me through His holy Word and let others take care of all the work that needs to be done in His house.”
Hopefully, we all recognize that that is not an acceptable comparison. Our Savior God, the God who loved us enough that He was willing to die to pay for our sins (Pointing to the cross), the God whose almighty power enabled Him to physically rise from the dead to guarantee to us a glorious eternity, our Savior God does not see this as an “either/or” situation, but as a “both/and” situation. Our Savior God wants us to be as dedicated as Martha as we strive to use the gifts, talents and abilities He has given to us us— and— our Savior God wants us to be as dedicated as Mary when it comes to sitting at His feet and listening to His Word!
Choices, choices, choices. Every single day you and I make choices in our life. Some of these choices are common to all people— what we are going to eat, what we are going to wear, what we are going to do. Some of these choices are unique to us as Christians— will we let our faith shine brightly in our lives? Will we dedicate ourselves to serving God and to serving others. My prayer this morning is that as the dearly beloved adopted children of God we will consciously make our choices based upon what our God has done for us (Pointing to the cross) and what our God wants for us. With that in mind, when we lay our head down on our pillow at night may we all take a moment to look back over the course of our day and ask ourselves, “What did I choose today?”
To God be the glory!