O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
At the Lord's feet
At the Lord's feet
Based on Luke 10:38-42
Preached on July 21, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, this morning Jesus is going to tell you something you do not expect. He is going to shake things up here at Beautiful Savior. What your Lord has to say this morning will make you see things very differently. It may even frustrate you. For the freedom He utters in the words of our text is not what we want Him to preach to us. He speaks a freedom we do not know what to do with, yet one that is the ultimate peace and rest. Let me ask you this: Can your desire to do the right thing ever pull you away from the Word of Christ? Can your yearning to do good actually drag you away from Jesus?
When our text begins, Jesus enters a village and a woman named Martha welcomes Him into her home. She welcomes this Sent One into her home because she has heard His Word. She has listened to Him preach the Gospel and she believes it. She believes He comes from God, and she immediately receives Him and His Word into her home. This Sent One is here to preach and teach, so when He enters Martha's home, He sits down to do this.
Then we are told that Martha has a sister called Mary. Mary too has heard His Word. She too has listened to Him preach the Gospel and she believes it. So she sits at the Lord's feet to hear more of His Word, but Martha does not, for Martha is distracted with much serving. It seems there are other things that have taken her attention at the moment, and she is not sitting listening to Jesus.
A distinction has been setup here, between "hearing the Word of the Lord" and "being distracted with much serving." But our English translation here fails to capture the significance of this critical distinction. It says Martha is "distracted," which is a legitimate translation. But the Greek word here "paraspao" has much more to it. It holds the connotation of being pulled away, encumbered, overwhelmed, chained down. The text says Martha is being dragged away from Jesus because she is focused on serving Him.
What!? Really? No, Martha must be distracted by unimportant things, you know, things that don't really matter at all, not serving the Lord while He sits in her house. But that is not the case. The Greek word used here for "serving" is the top church word that we ever use to signify good works. "Diakonia." It is the church word for serving. For doing the right thing. We even call some of our clergy deacons. No, Martha is not being pulled away from Jesus because of unimportant things, but because her focus is on serving Him instead of hearing His Word.
But we can relate to this, can't we? You too have heard the Gospel, and you believe it. Christ has come to you. He has entered into your life, and you want to serve Him in all you do. But how easily does the much serving you have to do begin to replace hearing the words of Jesus? How easily does your daily Bible reading and prayer get interrupted by all those things you need to do? How easily do other things, even good things, pull you away from resting in the Word of God?
Let's bring this a little closer to home. God has sent His pastor to preach and teach, and you have welcomed him into your church home here at Beautiful Savior. This pastor God has sent you is not supposed to be some nice guy who pats you on the head. He has been sent to preach and teach the words of Jesus to you, that you might hear them. Do you attend Bible Study every week and sit at your Lord's feet to hear His Word, or are you too busy serving Him? Do you gladly hear preaching whenever it is offered, or are there too many things that require your attention? Do you long to kneel at the Lord's feet as He feeds you His own body and blood, or does the next thing rob you of rest?
We know Martha. All of us. Pastor and people alike. Which is why we thank our Lord for His Word, why pastors thank the Lord for His people, and people thank the Lord for their pastor. For it is very easy to be distracted. That is why the Lord sends men to preach.
Your pastor, whoever he may be from time to time, is called for only one thing - to be faithful to the Word, to speak the words of Jesus. You want your pastor to preach Christ to you, to properly distinguish between Law and Gospel. You want him to exercise the keys, absolving you of your sin when you repent and binding your sin to you when you do not. You want him to properly administer the Sacraments to you. You want him to expose false teaching and renounce it. You want him to pray for you, to be an example to you and to care for you with the words of Jesus if you are poor, or sick, or afflicted, or alone.
God has sent you a pastor to speak the words of Jesus to you in these ways. Hear them. Learn them. Hold them. Protect them. Confess them, and do everything you can to ensure they continue to sound in your ears. For it is very easy to be distracted. And Martha shows us what happens when we are pulled away from the words of Jesus, even by something as good as Christian service.
Look what happens. Martha is so overwhelmed by her misplaced focus that she actually begins judging, not some stranger or an enemy, but her sister and her Lord. "Lord, do you not care?" "Look at all that I am doing, and look, this person just sits here hearing your Gospel and you won't even tell her that its not about that, that its about going and loving your neighbour as yourself! Tell her to stop hearing Your words and start helping me!" Martha is not ready for what Jesus is about to say, and neither are we. Why did you have me into your home Martha? In order to serve me, or in order to hear more of what I have to say to you? I am here to serve. 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."
One thing, says Christ, one thing. Ooh, doesn't that just make you bristle? It totally goes against everything we know. It goes against our nature. It goes against our culture. It goes against the devil and all his work. How many things? One. Many? Nope One. But what about? Nope One. Hearing the words of Jesus. The only thing you truly need in your life is the Gospel. You need to hear that this Jesus who speaks His words upon you, who pours out His powerful Word upon you, has been mounted on a cross to save you. That even there He spoke words for you. That He has taken all of your distractions, and your failures and your weakness and He has put them to death in His body. He has not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many. If you haven't heard this recently, like today, then you can expect to be anxious and troubled. You can expect to fret about your life, or your family, or whatever it is before your eyes that very moment. For your flesh is always distracted, but the words of Jesus come upon you with the power of Holy Spirit and they give you peace.
Jesus has really spoken a good one here, hasn't He? His words cut right through even the most pious heart. He leaves you hanging, waiting, even searching for what's next. Hearing your words can't really be it, can it?!? What about service? What about loving my neighbour? What about my part in all of this? Ah! There it is - the real issue at hand - you don't have a part in this, Jesus says. I save you remember. You are dead and I make you alive, I keep you alive, and I give you eternal life. If you lose sight of this, all there is - is anxiety and trouble. But if you keep your eyes on me, all that service stuff will take care of itself, you will do it, probably without even noticing it, because my Spirit is in my words. But you can't look at it - you can't look for it - you need to look at me. You need to hear my words.
In fact, this is the chief reason we come to church. To hear the words of Jesus. Father, forgive them. I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Take and eat, this is my body. Take and drink, this is my blood. Jesus is here now speaking His words to you. This is how He is with you. That is where He is. In His Words. We come to sit here at the Lord's feet and receive His Word and Sacrament. So that echoing in our ears, when we go out into our vocations - whether mother or father or son or daughter or accountant or neighbour - are the words of Jesus. Our Lord Himself. Jesus serves those in our lives through us because He has made us hearers. Because He is found in His Most Holy Word.
So whenever Satan accuses you, whenever he tries to convince you that you are a bad Christian because all you do is sit and hear the Gospel. The words of your Lord will always answer back. Begone, Satan. My dear child has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from them.
Yes, Jesus says, your desire to do good can drag you away from Him. Yes, Jesus says, you are actually free. Yes, Jesus says, one thing is necessary. You are forgiven. You are forgiven. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr