Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sunday Sermon Notes - 05.03.09

Be the Anchor!

Be the one who Listens!

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10v38-42 (TNIV)

A really interesting story that is NOT about the different personalities of two sisters clashing over Jesus. A homely story that is NOT about the tension between the task-oriented and the relationship-oriented. It's entirely possible that Martha has an outgoing personality with a task-oriented bent to her. And Mary may have a laid-back personality and also be very relationship-oriented. But the story is beyond those dimensions.

Note that Martha is the one that invites Jesus into her home. To offer hospitality was central to their culture, and thus the more honored the guest the more honor for the home that hosted. It's possible that Martha was seeking to host Jesus, not only for the sake of honoring Jesus, but garnering honor for herself as well. Mary, it is worth noting, probably had no interest in hosting Jesus for an elaborate feast. This becomes clear when, amidst the flurry of preparations (slaughtering the calf, prepping the meats and bread and dishes, cleaning the home, etc) Mary sits at the feet of Jesus.

It's possible that Mary would have helped Martha out had the guest been someone else other than Jesus. It's likely that Jesus was a brilliant story-teller, able to tell tales and recount past events with mesmerizing effects. Mary couldn't tear herself away from Jesus - he was too funny, to wise, to enjoyable to leave alone. And this made Martha really angry. Here she was, wearing herself out getting this feast ready to honor Jesus, and Mary just sits there. And Jesus allows it! Martha loses her cool and brings shame on herself. She accuses Jesus of playing favorites, of disregarding her, and being selfish. She even commands him to do her bidding.

The feast is pretty much a lost cause at this point. Martha has brought dishonor upon herself, she has shamed her guest, and put a chasm between her and her sister. But notice what Jesus does in response to this outburst - he is very gentle with her, but very direct: "Martha, Martha - you are worried and upset about many things...."

What you are worried and upset about these days?
How is your worry and anger tainting other areas of your life?

Worry and anger cannot be contained - it contaminates all the other areas of your life. Worry and anger kept Martha focused on herself, her intentions, her heart, her plans, her goals, her work to honor herself and use others to get what she wanted. Martha was worried that her plans to honor herself were not going to go as she wanted, thus she got angry at the people she wanted to use because they wouldn't go along with her plan. All of this kept her from listening to Jesus. And all of this prompted her to tear Mary away from listening to Jesus. And Jesus wouldn't allow for it.

When we get worried and angry it is really hard to focus and listen to Jesus. We know already what worries us, what upsets us. The dance has gotten kind of predictable at this point. One of the ways to resist the inevitable worry and anger is to pause in the moment, focus on the Way of Jesus, and listen to Him - he can bring good out of your outbursts...if you'll listen. Make a decisive break - exert your freewill and refuse to let the powerful emotions of worry and anger sweep you away. Let Jesus be your anchor - listen to him.

If you're going to be an anchor to your neighbor, you need to listen. It's really hard to be an anchor for another when you're life is wracked by worry and anger. Determine to resist worry and anger by listening hard to the wisdom and way of Jesus. His way leads to a better way. 
Be the Anchor: Listen!

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