But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto you O Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, AMEN
Martha, Martha – poor frenetic, crazed Martha. Running all around the room as Jesus arrived. Instead of sitting and quietly listening to him as Mary and the others did, she had to be the perfect host. Focusing on silliness instead of the holy moment that was happening. And then she tries to pin the blame on poor Mary whose sitting there IN the moment. Does this scene sound familiar to anyone?
This is one of my favorite Gospel Readings because every time I read it, I can’t help but laugh ay myself and chide myself a bit over my earthly foolishness. We all know this story and I believe each of us here gathered this morning can relate to it. How many times have you caught yourself caught up on a frenetic journey to complete 20 things at once? To start the day with a ridiculously long list of to-do’s that only ends up frustrating you because its impossible to check them all off in a normal day. How often have you found yourself awake half the night unable to sleep because your thinking of the endless list of things you need to do the next day. Or when you “think” you’re in a moment of prayer, find yourself unable to stay focused, your mind thinking of every person you know and their struggles, wishing and hoping you’ve captured everyone of them, like that’s what God’s looking for from you; that you’ve checked everything on the list off in order and completed your task of prayer?
Well I’ve caught myself experiencing each and every one of these examples over the past week. I found myself sitting drilling through a list of things to do here, and at home, getting mad at myself for not working faster, smarter. I found myself awake one night tossing and turning, with an endless list of “stuff” rolling through my head. I found myself kneeling before this altar in prayer with my mind racing, unable to clear it and focus my prayer on thanksgiving, instead rehashing the list of people to pray for again and again, fretting about leaving someone or something out, then getting mad at myself after because I forgot to say thank you to God instead of simply asking him for a thousand requests.
And then, as I sat towards the end of the week to begin to write this sermon, and I saw the gospel lesson – and I had to yet again laugh at myself for even daring to believe that any of this is what God is expecting from me.
We, corporately as God’s created in this small world are yet again reeling from another senseless tragedy, situated again in France. 84 as of Friday dead, killed in another attack by a deranged person with some false sense of a foolish earthly mission in his head. This, followed by a political coup in Turkey which has left another 160 plus dead. And we find ourselves yet again wondering why, why does this stuff keep happening around us?
Luke’s gospel this morning, and in fact ALL the lessons when you look back at them and read them deeper, have a message for us. Just as last weeks gospel did, and all of Luke’s gospel as we’ve journeyed through it. A message that continually espouses us to not remained focused on the earthly, but focused on the holy, focused on God, and faith, and what is truly important. To not as Jesus cautioned Martha in this mornings lesson, be worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
It’s too easy to be distracted by this world, the earthly with its list of endless things to do. We are inundated with societies demands to have all that we can get, that it’s never enough, there’s always the next generation of smartphone, there’s always the bigger house to buy, a newer TV to get. And we find ourselves on an endless treadmill, driving ourselves to work harder to pay the mounting bills that come after the mounting pile of material things appears. Our media inundates us with subliminal messages that we aren’t good enough, we aren’t successful enough if we don’t have the latest and the best. And instead of us focusing on relationships and faith, we find ourselves swallowed up in the earthly things. And then inevitably what happens, is that we find we have less space for the one thing, our faith and for God to be present in our lives.
We see it in our very existence as church today, as we sit here and look around and realize how many people are NOT here this morning to gather in faith. We experience it as a community when we realize there isn’t enough money to pay the monthly bills for the church, because our pledging isn’t enough to support our work here. And we witness it sadly, when our ministries, our very gospel call – to go and seek and serve others in the world is diminished, when we can’t find enough volunteers to sign up for feeding programs, for visiting our neighbors once a month, or for something as simple as coffee hour to encourage fellowship and relationship building. Have we grown over the past year? Most definitely. Have we accomplished many things? Absolutely. But are we living fully into our call as messengers of the Gospel? Perhaps not as fully as we should. The one thing, the call to us as Christians to gather together, to support and to do the work we’re called to do is being flooded by the earthly the many things.
This is the world, as Jesus reminded those gathered around him, that really only needs one thing. And the sad thing is we already have it; God’s endless and abiding love. Something we, and I mean the greater world, not just us here this morning, simply can’t for some reason seem to share with those around us.
We in this world, particularly as Christians today, MUST continue to live our lives as examples for others to witness if we are to affect any change in the world around us. We most certainly can’t let our media and our politicians be the example can we? And when we do this, we cannot get discouraged and left feeling that it is of no use. That all that we are seeking to do is of no avail and give up. The only way this world is going to change is when people begin to see how a life should be lived. That there is the promise of new life and a new way of living found in Christ and that his message is as important today as it was when he preached it.
And that message of hope, that example of living, that mission cannot be seen by others in the world around us if we do not seek to purposefully seek to be in relationship with others. That means we’re challenged with being more than the one-day Christian. It’s more than simply coming here on Sunday and then returning to the world as we were. It’s returning to the world changed from being here, committed and emboldened to actively engage the world. By seeing our call, our stewardship to be something we live daily, not simply once a week. And we do that by creating new relationships and deepening our existing ones. We change the world, one encounter at a time, one person at a time. We invite our friends, or family, our neighbors to come here to experience what we do when we gather. We invite them to share in our ministries outside these walls to help others. We offer the invitation to them to be carriers of God’s message of hope for the world, engaging in mission far away and invite them to be changed by it.
Our Collect this morning, and I encourage you to read it and re-read it, reminds us that God is there, patient and always present to guide and protect us. We don’t need to have the endless list of requests in our prayers, he knows them already. What he seeks is for us to grow closer to him and to invite him in, and then to go and share that love with everyone we encounter. Whether the happiest of neighbors, the grumpiest of store clerks or co-workers, or to bring that love where it is most needed, the hopelessness of the homeless – we are called to be there in all those places.
Moses, in our Old Testament reading experienced being human, being frail and being uncertain of his call when he asked “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.” And God responded. God never left his side, despite the many things that worried and distracted him.
It’s not easy, but it can be done. We may feel that we’re using a bucket to hold back an ocean. We’ll face endless days of feeling inadequate against the tremendous need of the world. But we are equipped to do the work, our very baptismal call, by our faith. God is with us always and eternally. And as Paul reminds, provided that we continue, securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that we’ve heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven we can say “I, fill in the blank, became a servant of this gospel.
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right
Whoever speaks the truth from their heart.
There is no guile upon their tongue;
They does no evil to their friend;
They do not heap contempt upon their neighbor.
In their sight the wicked is rejected, but they honor those who fear the Lord.
They has sworn to do no wrong.
Whoever does these things shall never be overthrown.
Don’t be another Martha. Don’t focus your living on the earthly. Get involved in your faith, and get involved in the world. Keep your focus on the one thing, and great things will happen.
And when we do so, when we begin to live out our faith deeper, this parish Trinity will be a voice of hope in the world for all to hear, a light to enlighten the world.