Monday, July 22, 2013

July 21 Sermon - Just One Thing

Just One Thing was my sermon given at our joint service with Monroe Congregational Church on Sunday Morning.

O Loving God, whose son Jesus enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of Mary and Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, and strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

It is great to once again join together for a joint summer service between MCC & St. Peter’s Church.

Today we heard from the Gospel of Luke about Martha & Mary welcoming Jesus into their home. So often when we hear this passage we think it’s a battle between sisters…

Martha vs. Mary – who will win? Sounds like something on pay per view.

Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” So we all should be like Mary. Thanks for coming out this morning. Am…but, wait. Is that all?

I think if we see this passage as some sort of rivalry between the two and Jesus picking one sister over another, we miss the point. We need to remember the Gospel passage right before this story, because they are linked.

In the passage preceding this, we find the parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest and Levite do not attend to the injured man, they were distracted, by social standing or by needing to get somewhere above everything else, they failed to love and to act but the stranger who was not distracted, the one who saw the injured man and responded with love was the one least expected to do so, the Samaritan.

Likewise, in this passage, we have Mary & Martha welcoming Jesus into their home – they are the hospitable hosts. They prepare and welcome Jesus and the disciples. Mary heard Jesus talking and so she sat down along with the other disciples to take in his words.

Martha did not see what Mary was doing as helpful or right. She missed what Mary was truly doing. Not loafing but listening, taking in the words of Jesus.

Jesus does not say that what Martha was doing was wrong, so in fact, it’s not Martha vs. Mary at all but simply a story of Martha & Mary. Martha’s duty of hospitality was not misplaced, only that she was “worried and distracted by many things.” Martha was doing right by her acts of hospitality but so was Mary in sitting down and listening to Jesus.

The problem is the worries and distractions that can overwhelm us as they did Martha. Mary saw through it all, to see the important thing, of the one who came into their midst, Jesus. Martha missed the importance of her guest in the busyness of it all. She got overwhelmed, she could not see the most important person right in front of her, Jesus, instead she resented Mary and made the work the most important for her.

Who hasn’t gotten so busy, so distracted, that they missed the reason why they were doing it in the first place?

After Martha complained, Jesus said, “there is need of only one thing.” Indeed, Just one thing is needed – it is our love for the other in our midst, be it family, friend or stranger, the one thing is the love of our neighbor and that’s why Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part. (Just as Jesus praised the Samaritan for his mercy to his neighbor.)

Maybe if George Zimmerman was not so distracted, not so willing to see the other as the enemy, Trayvon Martin would still be alive today. As one Bishop tweeted after the trial (Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida, Greg Brewer) “I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. Come Lord Jesus!”

But of course we live in a world, where we judge others, where our preconceived notions too often overrule that ethic of love that Jesus commanded us to follow. We need only one thing and too often we avoid it. Like Martha in the Gospel, we can get distracted by our work, our lives, our prejudices, and miss loving and being loved by our “guests.”

In his book Sources of Strength, former President Jimmy Carter wrote about his experience with Eloy Cruz, a Cuban pastor who had a great rapport with poor immigrants from Puerto Rico, and was asked for the secret of his success. Pastor Cruz said, “Senor Jimmy, we only need to have two loves in our lives. For God, and for the person who happens to be in front of us at any time.”

I think Pastor Cruz got what Jesus was saying to Martha and to us. In our busy world, with its myriad of distractions, Jesus invites each one of us to make a place in our lives for just one thing, just one thing we need to do – that is to love one another. Amen.

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