Luke 10:38-42 (Pentecost 7C)                                     

St. John, Galveston, Tx. (7/17/2022)

Rev. Alan Taylor

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him speak. “Martha (on the other hand) was distracted with much serving. And she went up to (Jesus) and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.””

Most of you, I’m sure, are familiar of Hwy. 6. It begins up here at I-45 and goes west and north through Sugarland and well beyond. Many people don’t like to drive down Highway 6, mainly because of all the stop lights and the speed changes you deal with along the way, not to mention the speed traps. I’m part of that crowd myself. But you can’t deny some of the local flavor of things you’ll see as you make the drive. Among other things, there are some pretty interesting messages posted on church marquees along the route. For instance, at one time, there was a sign in front of one church that said, “Holy Ghost Headquarters.” Honestly, until I saw that sign, I had no idea that the Holy Spirit had set up headquarters at that little church on Highway 6. 

I saw another sign that I think has bearing on the Gospel reading for this morning. At a little church on the right hand side of the road, as you’re heading west on Highway 6, there was a sign that advertised 10 minute sermons. This particular church was just down the road from the one where the Holy Spirit had set up His headquarters.   

While the promise of a 10-minute sermon might sound somewhat appealing, I think the notion of advertising and thereby guaranteeing such an abbreviated sermon, offers a bit of a disheartening commentary on the perceived priority, or, the lack thereof, of God’s Word in our culture, even within the culture of the Church. It would seem to suggest that, if we must hear God’s Word at all, or, if we must devote a portion of our week to reflect on it, at least let it not exceed 10 minutes. There are, after all, a host of other things clamoring to occupy our limited amount of time, some of them related to work and some of them, of course, related to leisure. 

But, even a casual reading of the Bible tells us just how important God’s Word is in our lives. The devil, who always tries to corrupt God’s Word and ultimately to tear it away from us, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. In the wilderness temptation of our Lord, the devil even tried to snatch the word of God from the Messiah Himself. “If you are the Son of God (he said), turn one of these stones into bread.”  Jesus responded by quoting the Scriptures. “Man (He said) does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” 

There is, of course, our physical life and it has its mechanics, things like bread and water and the like that we must contend with if we are to thrive. But there is also our life in Christ. To live in Christ, you and I need “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Faith, after all, “comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”  Therefore, we simply cannot expect our faith in Christ to live and to thrive if God’s Word is not received often and is not perceived as of primary importance in our lives. 

And so, the Gospel reading this morning cautions us against letting God’s Word become the last portion, or, the thing of least importance in our lives.  In the example of Mary, the sister who sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him, we are reminded that God’s Word is the “good,” or the “better” portion of our lives, even though we might not judge it so. More than that though, we are reminded that we simply can’t live, that is, we can’t live a life of faith, apart from the strength, the power and the grace that are so freely given to us in and through God’s Word.

The story of Mary and Martha teaches us something else too though. It shows us that when God comes to us in His Word, be it in reading, or preaching, or in baptism, or in his body and blood given to us in Holy Communion, we gather together as guest’s that we might be served by Jesus, who “came, not be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. 

Martha’s problem, you see, wasn’t that she was busy serving. We are, after all, called to serve and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In that regard Martha was doing the right thing in taking care of all of the details for Jesus’ visit to her home. However, she failed to recognize that when the Word of God comes to us, in this case, the Word made flesh, Jesus Himself, God is always the host and we are His guest, recipients of His gracious provision and care. 

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let Thy gifts to us be blessed.”  It’s a fine dinner prayer that many of us have been taught to pray before every meal. We sit down to our meal and by prayer we invite God to join us and to bless the gifts that we receive from His gracious hand. Something amazing happens though when we offer that invitation, when we dine, if you will, in the name of Jesus. He comes among us, not as our guest, but as our host. As the psalmist says, “He opens His hands and satisfies the desire of every living thing.” Indeed, “these all look to you (O Lord) to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” Jesus comes to us, to you, not to be served, but to serve. And so, He opens His hands to satisfy the desire of every living thing, even as He opened hands to receive the nails of the cross, the stroke that justice gave.

Sadly, this relationship that we have with God in Christ, is often mixed up, or turned around. I’m told there is a congregation that gives up one Sunday a month of worship in order for the people of the congregation to participate together in works of service. In other words, Instead of gathering to hear the Word of God and to sing, a group of people from the congregation goes out and does a service project on that particular Sunday. Well intentioned, these folks couldn’t be more mistaken in their effort to serve. “Martha, Martha (Jesus said), you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessaryMary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

While Martha was busy serving, Mary knelt before Jesus as a sign of adoration and praise. Martha, of course, saw her sister as shirking her responsibility. But, at that moment, Mary wanted nothing more than to receive what Jesus came to give her.  There would be another time and another place for her to serve. 

As we gather together for the Divine Service, God meets us here and He literally gives us a piece of heaven. We have one foot here on earth, but the other is in the celestial kingdom, where the mysteries of heaven continue to unfold. Like Mary, we kneel in Jesus’ presence. In bread and wine He gives us life’s better portion, His body and blood given for the forgiveness of our sins. Through such simple, ordinary things we are joined to Him. He brings to bear in our lives His passion, His death and resurrection, His Ascension and His promise to come again to take us to be where He is. 

In the end, the things of this life are ordered by the things given in this place.  The better portion is here. The lesser portion is out there. Abbreviating the better things serves only to exalt and magnify the lesser things. Therefore, we gather here joyfully, with a need that allows us to do none other. The table is set, Christ Jesus Himself serves us, and angels and archangels have begun to sing their joyous song. “Indeed, heaven and earth are full of God’s glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +