Mary Moments

Attached is the sermon in written form and the link below is for the sound file.

http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/mary-moments-7-20-13

As usual…disregard the odd punctuation and indications to pause…I gotta remember to do that stuff somehow.

Grace and peace to you (pause)…Oh sorry…I got distracted for a second there…Let me start over…Grace and Peace to you from God…wait, what was I just thinking…oh never mind…Sorry about that…I kept getting distracted…a lot of stuff to keep track of…

You know, things are certainly out of the ordinary today. I mean, for starters its Saturday evening and here we are, gathered for worship. Anyone else thinking about RAGBRAI tomorrow? Hopefully all the pieces come together. It’s gonna be busy though…
Water bottles…I’ve seen some of those…serving breakfast…yah, that’s right. Carol Bertelson’s in charge…hopefully she’s got everything in line…I wonder if she needs any more help…oh wait…sorry I got distracted again…what was I talking about? Oh worship…right…Let’s see, I need to think about the children’s sermon…oh hold on, no…I already did that…check, I can mark that off my list…but communion isn’t done yet…are the elements in place? I think so…I hope so…otherwise that’ll be awkward…oh and the offering plates…let me see…yah, they are there on the alter where they are supposed to be…check…got that covered too. (pause)

Okay…opening illustration over. How about we try this again.  People of God, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Well that was an interesting way to start things out wasn’t it? I guess I was having a bit of a Martha moment wasn’t I? I’m sure we’ve all had those times haven’t we? Those times when there’s just too much on our plate or too many irons in the fire. Be honest…who can relate? Think about those times when you’re the host, or you’re in charge and all the important aspects of the day are falling on your shoulders. Sound familiar? (pause) I imagine so.

That is the dilemma that faces Martha in today’s scripture lesson. She’s the hostess…the head of the household…and today…she is hosting a very important guest. Jesus himself…the LORD himself has come to town…and Martha has welcomed Jesus and his entire entourage into her home. Think about it…that’s got to be crazy…

Social decorum dictates that she put on a good spread. The people have got to be hungry…they’ve been traveling…walking through the countryside in the hot sun…I bet they’re thirsty too. And of course, dinner time entertainment is in order as well.

Martha is struggling to impress. She’s thinking about the many activities of service that are required of her now that she has a house full of guests. A multi-course meal…fetching water from the well to refresh the travelers…and so on and so forth…and don’t forget that this is Jesus at the head of the table…as Martha runs around from task to task…duty to duty…service to service…

She must be thinking…Man I could really use some help here…a whole slug of people sitting in the dining room…listening to Jesus speak…I sure would like to join in…but I’m too busy…some help would really be nice…Hey, where’s Mary at? She’s my younger sister. I might be the host, but she’s should really be pitching in and helping out…Where is she at? (pause) What, she’s sitting in there with the men…sitting at Jesus feet like she’s his student? Women don’t do that…she needs to be helping me out. She knows better than that…but that’s just like Mary…always ignoring her duties…I swear she’s been like that her whole life…always spacing off expectations whenever someone comes to visit.

And so Martha…goes straight to source…Jesus…don’t you care that I’m working my tail off here and Mary’s just sitting there listing to you…crack the whip on her will you…I’d love to just sit there with you too…but there’s too much to do and she’s letting me do it all…IT’S NOT FAIR JESUS!!! (pause) It’s not fair.

Anyone ever heard that phrase before? It’s not fair? I bet if you have kids you’ve heard it. And let’s be honest…We’ve all thought it or said it ourselves…probably many times haven’t we.  It’s amazing how the notion of justice becomes so apparent when we are the ones that feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick…and our attention centers right in on that doesn’t it?

It’s not fair…all my friends get to stay out past 11…why do I have to be home? (pause)  It’s not fair…why can’t I have that toy, all my friends have it. (pause)  It’s not fair…I’ve been working my tail off, why did he get the promotion over me? (pause)  It’s not fair…last year we had a drought that killed the crops and now this year we’re getting drowned out by all the rain?  WHY ME?  WHY THIS?

Just like Martha in today’s story…I think we all tend to get a little self-centered at times don’t we? As Martha looks at her sister, sitting at Jesus feet, she seems to have a bit of a “grass is always greener” moment…and we all have those tendencies…and perhaps the tendency that we all share in the most, even more than the “It’s not fair” attitude, is the ability to get caught up in the crazy, day to day grind.

Think about your calendar for a moment. We’re ruled by it aren’t we?

How many times have you gotten into the conversation with someone else and you end up in a bit of a competition about who’s busier? Who has the most meetings…or the most errands…or the most sports practices and homework?

We live in a world that is SO distracting…and it’s getting worse all the time. We live in a world where you can get your email, respond to text messages, update facebook, send a tweet, book airplane tickets, check the box score, get news updates, and see the weather forecast all right here on our phones…oh yah…not to mention get the occasional phone call right?

Our brains are going a mile a minute and how much focus to we actually give to anything? That is the error that Martha suffers in today’s story…and we share it. All too often we jump from distraction to distraction…never really giving anything our full attention…and everything suffers because of it.  Those are the Martha moments that we all experience…and Jesus points it out to her…and I think in doing so…he’s also pointing it out to us.

Martha…MARTHA…and you can probably insert your name right there…you are worried and distracted by many things…but only one thing is needed…We get so busy skipping from thought to thought…activity to activity that nothing is really being done well. This happens in our lives…it happens in our interactions with each other…and if we stop and think about it…all too often it happens in our ministry.

In today’s story, there are two types of ministry…or service happening. Hospitality on the part of Martha…and attention to the guest on the part of Mary.  One of the sister’s keep’s her focus on the ministry at hand…but the other is trying to do too much…but keep in mind, that Jesus doesn’t condemn Martha for everything she’s trying to do. He never says that the many services she’s doing are bad…quite the opposite…he only says that she’s trying to do too many of them at one time…and she needs to slow down and focus on one thing.  Martha, you are distracted and worried about many things…but only one thing is needed.

People of God…I pose this question to you…what is the one thing that is needed in your ministry…in your service?  The apostle Paul tells us that there is one body with many members. Each member has a specific function…and that applies to us?  Are you trying to do so much in your day to day life that you are missing out on the opportunity to really pay attention to the person that is standing right in front of you? (pause)

In the end, I think that’s the point that Jesus is trying to make when he says that Mary has chosen the better part…she has chosen to really focus on the guest…and yes in this case it is Jesus himself…but we are called to give our attention to the “guest” that we have crossed paths with…that is what God is telling us to do…that is what God is telling us to focus on.

About a week ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Shreeves. Most of you know Jeff. He’s our congregational president and from what I hear, he did a wonderful job of leading the church through the time of pastoral transition.  Now you may or may not know that Jeff is an insurance man…and when he meets with someone for the first time, he focuses on the individual. Through simple conversation…he gets to know them…He listens and you can tell as you sit across the table from Jeff, that in that moment…he genuinely cares…and he wants to help people…he even went so far as to tell me that he considers that work to be his ministry…and I applaud that.

We each have our own type of ministry to do. God places us in specific roles at specific times. I think of Beth Torneton and Wendy Leaders who coordinated Vacation Bible School last week. I think of Chris Privia and Joyce Tiarks who have served as Sunday school coordinators for the last 5 years.  I think of the different members of the church council and various boards that they serve…I think of the volunteers who usher, and prepare communion…I think of the junior high students that volunteer to acolyte or the high school students that served as VBS helpers…those are all important roles…but ministry isn’t limited to church. Ministry happens outside those doors…and each of you is God’s worker out there. You don’t have be a pastor…you don’t need some big fancy education…you simply need to be aware of the person standing right in front of you in your day to day life…that’s the person that God wants you to pay attention to.

But in order to accomplish this, we also need to remember the need to quiet our minds from the distractions, and finally to follow Mary’s example by sitting at the Lord’s feet. Jesus says that what Mary has chosen the part that cannot be taken away from her…and we each need to do the same. When God shares a word with us…we need to be listening…and sometimes this takes conscious effort. Sometimes we have to conscious step away from the distractions and those expectations that we place on ourselves…and choose to sit at Jesus feet. That’s the Mary moment from today’s story.

There’s a poem out there that applies pretty directly. Perhaps you’ve heard it, but I’ll share it here.

I got up one morning and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray. Problems tumbled about me and harder came each task. Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted joy and beauty, but the day was gray and bleak, I wondered why God didn’t show me, He said, “You didn’t seek.” I tried to come into God presence; I used all my keys at the lock. God gently and lovingly said, “My child, you didn’t knock.” I woke up early this morning, and paused before starting the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.

I want to offer you a challenge today…and that’s to slow down…and take your Mary moment. If this isn’t something you normally do…try taking 5 minutes…just start there…ask God to quiet your mind and your heart from the many distractions…and then ask God to show you the guest…that he wants you to focus on.  If you already do this every day, good for you…keep it up…but ask God what else you can add…maybe it’s joining a Bible Study…maybe it’s inviting your neighbor out for coffee…God will show you what it is….so when you find yourself in the midst of a Martha moment…and there’s just too much pulling you in different directions…take 5…shut off the cell phone, put down the laptop, turn off the tv…and have a Mary Moment at Jesus feet. Amen

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