Care About Jesus.

“Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

I am so thankful that we have joined together in worship this Sunday as we once again celebrate the confidence we have in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If we trust in Jesus and take the risks He prompts us to venture, all turns out well. We can be confident that God is constantly seeking and looking for us. We are His. Today we explore confidence in caring for God’s word and work.

We encounter Martha and Mary. Another one of those very familiar gospels most people can quote. We’ll get back to that in a moment. 

Let’s first explore the lead-in, Abraham’s encounter with God. The key to this encounter with the three men by the terebinth of Mamre is that Abraham saw through what was outward, past the obvious, ‘hey there’s three guys over there,’ to seeing the presence of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Abraham not only recognizes but sets his entire household to work in welcoming God. For this he is blessed.

So, with Martha and Mary. The obvious go to for most church people is focused on Martha’s complaint and Jesus’ line: Mary has chosen the better part.

Unfortunately, we take this, and the other words spoken in this portion of the gospel, as a competition between Martha and Mary. We can draw all sorts of assumptions. Martha, hardworking, full of the gift of hospitality. Martha, hurt and maybe jealous. Mary, paying close attention to Jesus and learning from Him. Mary, maybe neglecting her duty of hospitality. Oh, Mary is so much smarter and better. Martha is so angry.

Phooey!

We tend to see drama and then perhaps attach ourselves to the drama. In doing so we miss a very important lesson that this encounter teaches.

What we learn here is not about the gift of listening and learning being better than serving and hospitality. It is not about better or worse parts. It is about the gift of caring being preeminent, i.e., in the first place.

Both Martha and Mary shared in this most important of gifts – the blessing of caring – to care enough to listen and learn, to serve and care for. These two women cared about Jesus very deeply and gave their all in that caring.  Like Abraham they recognized Who was there. Their sisterhood was Christ centered in the entirety of His being as both God and man.

That is the way it must be for us. There are certainly good and better parts in our service to God and His Kingdom and our priority must not be on which part we are to take up, on competition, but rather on recognizing God and doing the part we have been called to with great care.

Getting to
work.

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”

One more week has gone by, and how many years have passed in Jesus’ life? Twenty-eight more!

Jesus, having been baptized by John, is praying alongside the Jordan, and the Father and the Holy Spirit reveal him. In other gospel accounts, we find John pointing to Jesus and telling His disciples: “Look, the Lamb of God!” This is similarly a form of revealing, of pointing out and pointing to Jesus. The next sentence after that pointing out tells us what happened: When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

This year, we are asked to dedicate ourselves to discipleship, to set to work in better following Jesus: To trust, to be willing, and to get to work following Jesus.

If you read our Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, you will see, simply explained, the ways we can do that. If you have looked at our parish newsletter, you read about the parallels between discipleship and apprenticeship. Are we ready to sign our Jesus Union Card and get to learning and working?

Whoa Pastor, what do you mean? I have to do what?

That shock might come from some sort of self-assessment – I am not strong enough, willing enough, I don’t have the skill for, or I am simply unwilling to set to that kind of work. Others could then turn around and comment, judging from afar – oh, look at them – they do so little. What we do not do is scrape away the top layer; we don’t look deeper. Underneath that attitude we may very well find poor self-opinion, a belief in one’s unworthiness or fear of disappointing God; guilt, past error, or fear weighing people down. If that is the case in your life, and it certainly has been in mine, then look at what Peter said in the house of Cornelius – “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” Serious words – God chose us, allowed us to be baptized into His family, His Union, His discipleship. God does not choose stupidly. Trust that.

When John’s disciples (learners) ran up to Jesus to be His learners, Jesus didn’t ask for an application or a resume. There was no test – only willingness. Be willing.

Jesus has been revealed. With trust and willingness, we must take the first step – and the next – learning from Him, modeling His life, getting to work. Not stopping. Following Him.