“Making a Place for Worship” 3-31-14

?Mary and Martha R Us?? John 11:1-44; 12:1-6; Lk. 10:38-42?? 1-25-04

For a Video of this sermon, click here

The Heart of Christian fellowship is not activity but being together listening. ?It is the same in life. ?Families can go places together, do things together, be in the same stadium, the same car– everyone with their own headphones on, and not be together. ?Jesus wants and Jesus deserves our attention not just our activity. ?If Martha was a parent, she’d be the kind that would take her kids to the greatest coaches and to every soccer, baseball, dance event. She would have every piece of clothing clean and folded, everything in the right place- but would not really know her children. ?The heart of fellowship is getting to know each other. The heart of fellowship with God is being focused on Him in worship. If we do?not spent any time with God- and our faith is shallow, and our life is empty.? If I had to set a priority- I guess being in the same house as Jesus doing things is better than not being in the house at all.? But if Jesus is in the house- and ready to talk- we should take our headphones off, put our cellphones away.

There are many of us who are slaves to unproductive activity.? We are addicted to watching entertainment.? ?March Madness? is called that not just because your basketball team loses- too many basketball games can drive you and those who have to live with you bananas.? People are addicted to texting, tweeting, TV shows, internet hopping, and at the end of the day we need to ask ourselves, have I spent my time the way I want to spend it?? Jesus said Mary, sitting at his feet chose what was better.? Not that Martha was wrong- but Mary was better.

When we think of these stories, we should ask ourselves are we more like Mary or are we more like Martha?? Martha was not doing evil, she was sincere, she was concerned about the physical things that were happening around this most important guest.? She was rightly concerned that things be clean, that hospitality be achieved, and that the food be just right.? Mary had helped her do this, but when Jesus came she quit and sat at his feet.? I have had a similar experience when we have guests over.? I want to clear the table,? put the dishes away. But Kay wants to talk and listen to the guest.? I think that perhaps Kay is right, and I am distracted by what is clearly secondary.? We can let good causes get in the way of what is more important.? We can let Christian activity get in the way of knowing Christ.? My point in this sermon is to find balance in both.

In our culture, we tend to lift up those who are productive, those who work hard, and get things done, and we sometimes forget how important it is to just be there- just sit there in adoration and worship.? That is why so many think worship is doing nothing.? It is not running or working or building a Habitat House, or helping the needy.? It is sitting, it is listening, it is focusing on God.? For a non-believer it is useless.? A baby believer has a hard time with it.? It is something we must learn to do- be still and know that He is God.? Presbyterian worship emphasizes holiness and stillness.? Sometimes this is interpreted the wrong way.? Yesterday I heard the head of our denomination?s Theology and Worship Division, Chip Andrus, speak of? our worship.? He said the old joke is that Presbyterians will be the first to get to heaven when Christ comes back.? Why?? Because it says ?the dead in Christ will rise first.?? I remember preaching in an African American Pentecostal Church once.? I said, the minute I stand before you, some of you will start yawning.? You see, I don?t dance like your preacher.? I don?t shout like your preacher.? I don?t clap your hands and walk/stomp around like your preacher.? Presbyterians believe things should be done decently and in order and we practice the verse, ?Be still and know that I am God.?? You know, there is a place for both.? We might could learn a bit from them, and they might could learn a bit from us.

Mary knew the importance of worship.? Martha did too, but there were other things that got in the way.? Do you let the little things of life ? even the good things, get in the way of the most important thing?? There is the tyranny of the urgent in which we are always putting out fires and not caring for our soul.? Jesus would have us focus on two things- love for God and love for people.? Worship is a primary way of expressing love for God.? The love for God gives us strength to love neighbor, and also to hear and answer our call. Let God be a part of your everyday activity and service.? Let worship be a part of who you are.? So purposefully don?t just tend the roses- stop and smell them.? Look for the beauty on the lake- go on the dock and have a prayer of thanksgiving.? When you are enjoying something good- family, friends, life- thank God for it.? Live for an audience of one (coram deo- before the heart of God).? Sit at Jesus? feet on occasion- finding a quiet place at home to pray and read scripture.
Jesus? words to Martha are words to us- ?Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things, but one thing is needed.?? The thing needed is not worry but worship.? Later Mary would anoint Jesus? feet with oil- oil that took a year?s wages to buy.? Judas saw it and said it was a waste.? That is how so many people view worship.? It?s a beautiful day, why waste it in church?? You can help the poor, why waste your time and talents with worship?? But Jesus commended Mary for her giving and sacrifice on his behalf.? ?Too often we are quick to judge- quick to speak- quick to do, and slow to listen.? Martha was quick to do judge-speak-and do.? But Mary was quick to listen and to worship.? We do not need to condemn those who would do, and we do not need to condemn those whose focus is worship.? God gives us different perspectives- even among siblings.? In truth, we need to get along, respect each other.? Part of the great thing about church is that you are around others- who may be doers, or who may be worshipers- or who may be seekers- or who may be dragged to the table.? But the person who gives to missions does not need to condemn the person who gives to a building.? The person who gives to a building does not need to condemn the person who gives to missions.? Together, we are well rounded- as Mary and Martha?s family was well rounded, though there was tension within it.
I have heard people who say that the church?s main duty is to do missions- to help the least the last and the lost.? I have said similar words.? I have heard others say the church?s main duty is to worship and be together in fellowship.? I have said similar words too.? But really our main duty- our chief end is to glorify and enjoy God.? There is a place for both and differences.? Without worship- there would be no missions. There were debates in the 1960s between those who said that we need to do missions and those who said we need to help the poor.? There were some who said back then (and there is still a rare voice today) that says we do not need to help the poor because the poor you will have with you always.? In the end those voices rightly lost.? The poor we will have with us always- but they are there for a reason.? They are there so those who are blessed might grow a heart of compassion like the Lord has for us.? They are there so that we might show mercy and kindness.? I have seen the CEO of a Fortune 500 company hammering nails with a poor person who couldn?t buy his own lunch working on a house for the needy.? It was a beautiful thing.? I have seen people in worship together who are very wealthy and those who are very poor.? When we are together at the feet of Jesus- it is a beautiful thing.

Mary was someone who hung around Jesus, and when she did she usually hung around his feet.? This was a position of humility?she didn?t try to tower over him, but stayed below him.? This was a position of learning.? The ancient Rabbis would teach sitting in a chair with the disciples sitting around their feet.? This was a position of worship for if you are looking at someone?s feet instead of eye to eye you are bowing before them.? ??????? In this passage of Martha and Mary, Martha was on her feet?running here and there.? But Mary was sitting at Jesus? feet?listening and learning.? Now in those patriarchal days it was common for men to listen while women did the chores.? But Mary broke the mold and could not help but listen.? In synagogues of the day the men sat close to the torah while the women and children stayed behind a curtain or wall.? Martha was trying to not only get Mary?s help, but trying to put Mary back in her place.? But Jesus approved of Mary?s listening, opening up his approval of women and men in worship together.?? There are people who still try to exclude women, but they are mistaken as Martha was.

This is where Mary and Martha are joined.? There is a balance between do-ing and be-ing. Worship can be service and service can be worship.? We call worship a worship service.? It is a part of our service to God to be here.? As Mary served Jesus in worship, so we serve Him by being here as well.? On the other hand, those of you who serve Christ by doing things also know that you do it out of love for God, and that is to be commended as well.? Martha will always be Martha- lots of service and a little bit of worship.? And Mary will always be Mary- lots of worship with a little bit of service.? But both are needed.? I have a tendency to be a doer and not a listener.? But the Lord taught me a huge lesson when I was just 24 years old.? In a very stressful job I ended up in the hospital with major and dangerous digestive problems for almost a month.? I was young, energetic, but I was could not go anywhere.? I saw the need to stop- to rest- to listen to God- to pray.? It was not any medicine the doctors gave me that got me out of that hospital- it was prayer.? So all those blog devotionals you see- they are not for anybody as much as they are for me- to sit down, stop and listen and pray. In some ways, I am alive today to tell you that there is not just work to do for the Lord, there is also peace that is found in the Lord.? Let us be doers of the Word and not hearers only.? But let us be hearers of the Word and not doers only.

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