Pentecost 6C - Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. 40 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!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Fred owned a small business.  He was always busy - always in demand.  He worked from 7am - 8pm, including Sundays.  His cell phone was always ringing and message bank was always full. 

Fred didn’t see much of his family.  He travelled from job to job.  His life was hectic.  He was always on edge. Fred had no time for his family or the Lord.  Some would have described him as “Stressed”. 

Molly was busy too.  Running the children here and there after school, helping with remedial reading at school and working part time at the newsagent.  Housework wouldn’t get done, except a lick and a promise, the phone would ring and she’d drop everything to help out at the church with cleaning and photocopying.  Molly’s ready to pack up and move out.

Frank  - he has his own business too.  He works steadily.  8:30am - 5:30pm.  But he has Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday off work.  His cell phone is put in the drawer - voice mail is used.  Frank spends time with his family most weekends (except for his twice yearly fishing trips with the boys).  Sunday morning he’s at church early to prepare, greet and usher the visitors.  Frank’s not stressed.

Emma - she’s retired.  Well officially anyway.  She’s on the Super.  But she’s leading the prayer group and helping meals on wheels most days during the week.  She fills in as a Sunday School teacher when asked and is on the church cleaning and morning tea rosters.  Twice a month she’s off to her computer classes.  Always ready to listen and slow to tell people what to do – Emma always seems to be available.

Which person would you prefer to be?  Would you like to move from being stressed to being free from pressures and burdens of modern living (existing). 

One of the keys to change is being able to listen.  If you’re a “doing” person it can be hard to sit still and listen, to make time - perhaps to give up or re-prioritise how one spends one’s time and effort.

          Listening - that’s what Mary did!  Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem. We learn from John 11:1 that the sisters, Mary and Martha, live in Bethany near Jerusalem.  These two women welcome Jesus and he received the hospitality of Martha who busied herself with preparing a meal for Jesus and his followers.  Martha’s sister Mary sat at Jesus feet and listened to everything He said.

          Martha rushed out to the kitchen and started to work. She was angry that her sister didn’t help her; so she complained to Jesus. 

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

          It was okay for Martha to fix dinner. Jesus ate the dinner. But the dinner was not more important than the message of love and forgiveness that Jesus came to share with the sisters

          Martha is too busy to sit down.  As you all know, there is much more to do around the home when you have guests.  Martha was peeved that Mary would not help with all the extra things she wanted to have done for Jesus.  Martha did acknowledge Jesus’ authority, “Lord, and then she said, …don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

          Jesus said only one thing was needed.  Spotlessly clean houses and fancy meals are not a priority for Jesus.  As far as the meal is concerned Mary has the “best course”.  She takes time to listen the Words of Jesus. 

It’s important to hear the Bread of Life as Jesus calls Himself when He says in John 6:35 ..., “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.  

     Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

said Jesus. 

Why is Mary’s sitting and listening better than the industry of Martha?  Martha made the mistake of thinking that she was the host and Jesus was the guest.  It was the other way around. 

Earlier in the Gospel accounts both Zacchaeus and the two men from Emmaus find their role as hosts usurped by Jesus who wants to feed them with the words of life.

          Mary took time to listen.  Listening to someone says, "I want to understand you.  I want to know you."  Listening is the basic way of showing respect.  Mary shows her respect to Jesus.

          Richard Foster in the book Celebration of Discipline says, "...while many western Christians profess direct access to God, few practise it.  If we are not talking, then the preacher is speaking or music is playing, but how often do we stop, listen and give God the opportunity to speak quietly and directly to our soul?"

          It's really a matter of attitude.  " I want to know."  If this is your attitude when you meet Jesus in His Word, then you will truly hear.

          When Lord appeared to Solomon in dream, God said, "Ask for what ever you want me to give you."  Solomon asked for a "discerning heart."  He wanted to know and understand God and His will for the people He created.  So Solomon became the wise king of Israel. 

          Often, because we’re stressed and 'too busy', we don’t listen.  A Christian band called "Out of the Grey" sang:  “He is not silent, He is not whispering, we are not quiet, and we are not listening.”

          How then does Jesus speak to us today so that we can listen?  (Bible)

          As we read, hear and meditate on the words of Jesus, God’s Holy Spirit applies the Word to our lives.  That familiar Bible verse may take on new a meaning for us as we ponder a particular problem in our lives when we are familiar with the words of Scripture. 

          Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing the message of Jesus and receiving His free gift of life for you. 

          It is in the Word of God that power for living low stressed lives comes.  But how can we hear God’s life giving message when we’re so busy?  When we go to work, watch TV and engage in other screen time, exercise, go shopping, or whatever else we occupy our time with?

          Most of us need help and encouragement to read our Bibles in an organised way.  There are helps.  There’s the Divine Service each Sunday, home group – and what’s to stop someone organising another Bible Study group or ask for a Pastor’s class?

There’s Bible reading guides from the Bible Society or Lutheran Tract Mission, Christian Scripture Calendars and diaries, lectionary readings - as printed in the bulletin, devotion books like Time Out.  All are useful in helping us hear what Jesus has to teach us.  And let’s not forget our Catechisms.

          Some things which may help remind you of your commitment to hearing God’s Word include: leaving your Bible and devotion book in a prominent place - on the bed side table, the kitchen bench, Putting a reminder notice on the fridge or pillow.  Setting an alarm on your cell phone.

          Another method is to use modern media – mp3 Bibles you can listen to on your cell phone or on the car sound system when you are travelling.  Remember - faith comes by hearing. You can listen doing the housework, on your morning walk. After your evening meal is a good time – especially when your family have eaten together.

          If you have the New Testament on mp3 files (or CD) it takes less than 2 hours to hear the complete Gospel according to St Luke from where today’s text comes.

          Opportunity for faith to grow and be strengthened comes through hearing the Word of God.  Please remember that it’s not only for you but also for those who do not yet have faith and even for those who’re opposed to God. 

          A Russian teenager living in Paris around 1930 was aggressively anti-Christian and hated everything to do with God. After listening unwillingly to a priest, he decided to read a Gospel to check whether the priest's picture of Christianity (which he found repulsive) was supported by the Gospel account.

          To waste the least amount of time, he chose Mark, the shortest Gospel. As a result of this he later became Anthony, Russian Orthodox Archbishop in London.

          The Bible, as a whole, reveals God's dealings with His people and the world, since the beginning of time to eternity. God is revealed through Scripture, the creation and history, but supremely through His Son Jesus, who is central to the Bible. Jesus said 'I am the light for the world. Follow me and you won't be walking in the dark. You will have the light that brings life.  ‘John 8:12 (CEV)

          The Bible holds limitless benefits for everyone who will absorb its message regularly and systematically. It will make you wiser, more confident, joyful and responsive to God. It will open the way for the God, whose Word it is, to bring light to your daily life.   That’s why Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. 

          When we sit at Jesus’ feet to learn from Him we lose our selfish agendas and can be more focussed on the priorities God has for us in our lives. How we listen to Jesus determines whether or not we as a congregation grow or otherwise.

          You all have to work out what is most important in your lives. There are many wonderful and exciting things to do. You can enjoy those things. But remember that the message of Jesus' love for you is also wonderful and exciting. Being with friends is important and good. And being with Jesus is very important and rewarding.

          Mary listened to Jesus because she wanted to, not because she had to. She had a choice. You also have the choice. God won't force you to read His Word and hear His message. But when you know what He wants to say to you, you want to listen to Him.

          Amen.