So what is it that has you worried and distracted these days? Bills? Health concerns? Work? Taking care of family members? Volunteer projects? The election? Racism? Pervasive violence? Hunger and poverty?
There is so much work that needs to be done in our lives and in our world. There is so much wrong that needs to be fixed. And it’s important. These are all things that matter. These are things we should care about…we should respond to…things that should occupy our time and energy.
Yes, we all have important work that we need to get done. And in our gospel story this morning, Martha is doing important work. Last week we read the story of the Good Samaritan who cared for his hurting neighbor along the road…and Jesus said, “Go, and do likewise”. Well…Martha is doing likewise. She is taking care of people. She is welcoming visitors, showing hospitality, serving people. And if you pay attention to Scripture at all…it doesn’t take long to discover that this work of hospitality is one of God’s highest priorities. Jesus says that’s what he came for after all…to serve, not to be served. Jesus washed dirty feet because that is what it means to love God in this world. Hospitality is holy work…has always been holy work. In our Genesis story this morning, we hear that in welcoming and feeding and caring for a passing traveler, Abraham and Sarah are truly welcoming God into their home…and they are blessed by blessing this stranger.
So that said…Martha is doing important work here. Don’t ever let anyone dismiss Martha’s service as trivial in any way. But I wonder if the problem isn’t that Martha is serving instead of sitting….it’s that Martha is worried and distracted about her serving. And her worry and distraction have consumed her to such an extent that she has lost sight of what matters…of WHY she is serving….of WHO she is serving. And so what should be a joyous reunion with her dear friend Jesus, who brought her brother back from the grave…has instead become a stressful day full of resentment for others who will not share her burden…who will not join her cause…or “do their share”.
And I wonder if that isn’t where we all get in trouble? It isn’t that we shouldn’t be working and paying bills and going to the doctor and caring for our families and volunteering and participating in politics and addressing racism and violence and hunger and poverty. We should do these things. This is our holy work in the world…caring for our neighbors…living faithfully the lives God has given us.
But the problem is when lose sight of WHY we do what we do…and when we lose sight of the presence and love of Jesus in our lives…and in the midst of our work. It seems to me that what Mary is doing in our story this morning…is taking time to soak up Jesus’ presence — to hear what he has to say…to listen to his words…to his promises and reminders of God’s grace and mercy and salvation. She is stopping in the midst of all that needs to be done…to be reminded of who she is and who God is..and to catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom in her midst. Because without that…she too will just get lost in the endless cycle of busy-ness and worry and resentment.
And don’t we know that? Haven’t we seen that and lived that…even here at church? After all, in order for our church to be the beautiful and gracious place we want it to be…a lot of work has to be done, doesn’t it? Somebody has to work in the kitchen and bring the goodies and mow the lawn and prepare communion. Somebody ushers and greets and makes the coffee and sets the tables. Somebody has to volunteer in the nursery and teach Sunday School and clean out the storage rooms and paint the walls. Someone has to prepare the deposits and pay the bills and organize the service projects and plan the events. There is work to be done. And it’s important work..don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s not. But even at church, it is easy to get so wrapped up in these things that need to be done…and to stress and worry about them until it collapses into finger pointing and resentment of those who “don’t do their share”…until we miss the point. That the people we serve and greet …are Jesus. The very presence of God in our midst.
Yes, the work we do here IS important….but only if we remember why we do it. And that’s why we all need to take time to immerse ourselves in the life-giving word of Jesus…to soak in the love and grace and abundant hope of Jesus that gives meaning to our lives. That is the better part of what we do here. The better part is being reminded that Jesus is with us…Jesus…who, as it says in Colossians… is before all things and in whom all things hold together — ALL things…in heaven and on earth. Without that, our work is empty…a ‘worry and distraction’ …instead of the joyful response of a grateful heart.
Does that resonate with any of you?
There is so much work to be done in our lives…bills to pay, projects to finish, appointments to make, commitments to fulfill. There is so much wrong in the world that needs to be righted…hatred and violence, hunger and injustice. It can be overwhelming…exhausting. But this morning, we come here to rest for a moment in the promise of God. You see, we are not alone. It is not all up to us. Jesus is with us…and he is before ALL things…and in HIM all things hold together. We come here this morning to be reminded that God’s kingdom IS coming…that this world belongs to God…that in the face of all that is wrong…God is good and Jesus’ love prevails.
I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but there was a story told about Pope John the XXIII…that every night before going to sleep…he would simply say “Dear lord, it’s your church. I’m going to bed.” Trusting God with the church…with his work…with the world…he could rest in peace.
It’s when we lose sight of Jesus in the midst of our lives and in the midst of the world…it’s when we think we can’t trust God…and that we’re all alone…that life becomes scary and we feel like there is no hope and we get overwhelmed. That’s when we choose the “lesser part”….that’s when we end up living lives that are riddled with anxiety and fear instead of the peace of God.
The better part that Mary chose wasn’t sitting on her butt while Martha did all the work….the better part that Mary chose was taking time in the midst of all that needed to be done…to soak up Jesus’ words…to be filled up with Jesus’ love…to bask in the presence of Jesus in whom all things hold together…so she could continue to do her work with joy and peace and hope.
This morning we are here…to immerse ourselves in the love and the words of Jesus, to soak in the presence of Jesus…to be filled up with his love. So that when we do the important work of our lives…we may see Jesus in those we serve…and may find peace in trusting the world to the one who made it…and who holds it all together. Amen.