December 8, 2019 Come, Lord Jesus
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Last Sunday …we had snow. But, we began a short sermon series based on 2 things: the ‘common table prayer,’ and daily devotions. We invite Jesus to be present, & to bless our mealtimes; but that’s a good thing to have happen for ALL our daily activities – not just meals. The beginning of that meal prayer uses the words of Rev.22:20 ~ when Jesus said “Yes, I am coming soon!” and John responds, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
So, that’s all fine & dandy. Except, that whenever we pray, there are strong & evil spiritual forces that oppose us. The devil -esp- does not want us to pray for Jesus to come & to be with us & bless us. Therefore, our prayer & our daily devotional life, will not be easy, but will be a struggle. This is one of the reasons for Jesus’ 1st Advent among us: in order to face -in person- & in real, earthly time defeat the source of the forces against us = Satan.
Jesus DID defeat him; and Jesus has given to us the protective armor we need against our enemies, and has given to us the weapon that our enemies cannot defeat = the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God ~ the Bible. Without the Word & the Spirit & prayer, our faith will be injured by the devil, the world, & our own sinful nature; it will whither and die. Without that faith, we cannot be saved.
This faith~relationship our Lord has with us is ‘interactive’; as we see thru-out both the O & NT. He gives us His gifts, and we respond in prayerful requests & thanksgivings. Our physical living is a daily thing of breathing & eating; so our faith is also a daily thing of receiving from God and responding back to Him. So now let’s consider another aspect of this life we have in Christ our Lord.
Question: *Does this season of Advent & Christmas bring out worries & anxieties?
( Is water wet? Is the pope catholic? ) Okay. So, *why all the stress? = simply: additional things to do, & time limits. We worry: ‘How many days until Christmas? I’m never going to be ready!
// We tell each other: Can’t you do more to help me? /Do I have to do all of the shopping myself? / Help with these Christmas cards; I can’t do it all.” /// “I don’t have time for church; Sunday’s my only free day & it’s the only time when the store’s not packed. // Who’s got time to do Bible devotions? I have to get these crafts done. // Extra prayer time = are you kidding? Who’s going to bake all those cookies?
People call this the ‘happiest time of the year’, but it comes with so many worries, anxieties, & fears. It IS a busier time, with extra gatherings & parties, shopping & gifts, foods & decorations. Those things give more pressure to our daily schedule. And maybe we have seasonal changes at our jobs, & additional monthly bills; & the holiday-cheer doesn’t automatically fix whatever relationship troubles we had before the ‘happy’ season started.
Our faith knows that the ‘reason for the season’ is the arrival of Immanuel, God-in-the-flesh, & His nativity; those events have historic wonder & awe. So, *how could the coming of Christ-our-Savior be so worrisome & stressful? Of course, that part isn’t; but all the things WE bring into this season are quite hectic & nerve-wracking. That-all makes it more important that we pray every day Rev.22:20, and our ‘common table prayer’: ‘Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest; and let ALL your gifts to us be blessed. Amen.’
When we pray that, we are reminded that Jesus IS present with us. Then we won’t be so worried that every last thing isn’t getting done on time; we won’t be yelling at each other when things aren’t perfect ~right? We won’t bellyache when the weather changes our well-laid plans, or get bent out of shape when extra relatives show up we hadn’t planned for. ~right? Or not? *What IF the coming of Christ -itself- brings out some tensions & stresses?
That’s actually what we hear of in Luke.10, & a well-known event involving two sisters. That’s where we meet Martha and Mary. Jesus ‘advented’ to their house. If Jesus came to your house, everything would be calm & peaceful, right? Or would we have to scold someone for something? But Martha was concerned about getting house & meal things ready for their special guest; she was very stressed out, & things were not meeting her high expectations for hosting The Lord.
So she boils-over in frustration: first, she is annoyed with Jesus, because she assumed He would share her high expectations in having everything be really nice, and that all the duties would be divided up fairly. But He doesn’t seem to notice = so she helps Him notice: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” And then she doesn’t ask, she demands something: “Tell her to help me!”
*Why does she demand this? Because Mary’s doing ‘nothing’ = she thinks; nothing important, anyway. And, *what was Mary doing? Since Rabbi-Jesus had advented to her home, she was sitting & listening to the lessons of The Teacher.
It was a great learning opportunity, because He was present. Even in the town of Bethany, in the 1st century, daily life was filled with things to do; far more things than a person can ever finish doing; that’s still true today. Martha -it seemed- was determined to do as many things as humanly possible; she’d have plenty of time to sit & ‘do nothing’ like Mary when she got old. (OR as the saying goes) she would get plenty of sleep when she’s dead;
but “by gum, I want things to be nice for our honored guest! ~ even if I have to get mad at Him!” Yet, what He really wants is our undivided attention.
The Lord had come into Mary & Martha’s home. Mary sat down to ‘receive,’ and Martha ’s mind was not thinking of that. We are tempted to excuse her, and say that her ‘heart was in the right place,’ = but it really wasn’t. There was a better place. Her heart was filled with cares & worries, so that even her mind & living was being resistant to the very Word of Life. She even grumbled against God’s Son that His priorities were not matching hers.
*Does that happen to us? We want to excuse Martha, because we often excuse ourselves. But Jesus’ response here tells us that something wasn’t right.
In last week’s sermon we applied The Parable of the Sower. It reveals strong & dangerous obstacles to our hearing the Word of God, & receiving the ‘one thing needed.’
We call these obstacles the unholy trinity = the devil, the world, & our sinful nature. Satan is constantly working to snatch away the Word of God, like a bird that gobbles up a seed before it can be planted. When Jesus came among us, He took up our battle against our arch-enemy, and defeated Satan for us.
Today Martha & us are facing another planting-problem described in that parable, as God sows the seed of His Word. It’s a very common problem, & John-the-Baptizer preached against it. Some of the seeds “fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.”
This planting-problem is caused by rocky ground with shallow soil. Jesus explains that this is what happens when the Word of God fails to penetrate into our hard hearts. It doesn’t develop deep roots that can sustain us under the scorching heat of pressure & persecution.
If this can happen with one of Jesus’s close personal friends like Martha, who dearly loved Jesus, & wanted to serve Him well, then it can be a challenge for any of us, on any given day.
Plain-speaking-Martha sounds like the female version of Peter; maybe not ‘yelling & screaming,’ but it’s still an outburst of frustration & emotion. She’s demanding help;
BUT Jesus gives her something that she really needs. He speaks a word of Law. It’s gentle, but still a rebuke to her; and He re-directs her attention to what He calls the “one thing needed.” “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. But only ONE thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.” In other words, ‘Martha: Stop it! Be quiet. …& Listen.’
With the Law Jesus points to the Gospel hope; it’s the ‘needed’ thing & the ‘better part.’ Shame on Martha for missing the good thing; she must repent of her hardened heart. But the gospel thing is right there for her to receive. It’s fine to serve the Teacher; it’s far better for the Teacher to serve us. Jesus calls her to trust & hope in Himself. His presence was far better than her serving; His Word would turn her serving from being a frustrating burden to being a satisfying labor-of-love.no matter what Mary is doing. The ‘better thing’ is His very presence; & ‘the one thing needed’ was His cross, & the forgiveness of our sins; which is what changes our lives to be new lives. So, *did Martha take the Teacher’s correction to heart that day?
We’re not told if she continued to huff & puff for a while, like any adult who hates to be corrected; OR if she immediately apologized, put down her stirring spoon, & sat down with her sister to listen to The Master. I am sure that that’s what Jesus wanted her to do.
Because -at that moment- Jesus knows something Martha doesn’t know. In the days ahead, her brother Lazarus is going to get sick and die; and she’ll need Jesus’ words of hope to face that heavier stress & sorrow. Martha also doesn’t realized that, not long after that, her trusted Rabbi & friend -Jesus- will be arrested, nearly beaten to death, and then shamefully crucified.
The Lord would be able to use those terrible things to plow & break up that hard ground of her heart & mind, so that His words of hope can put down very deep gospel roots.
We do know that when Lazarus died, Martha ran out to meet Jesus, and she confessed faith in the ‘one thing needed’ = that as the Christ of God, HE is the resurrection and the life; that even tho we die, in Him we will live.
So, a little later, in the face of death, Martha confidently confessed 2 things: “I know that Lazarus will rise again on the last day,” and “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.” (Jn 11:27).
After that terrible Good Friday, word of the empty tomb would’ve reached the home of Mary & Martha, and their hearts were now good soil for that good news to bring joy in Jesus’ Easter resurrection. His cross & empty tomb proved to be the ‘one thing needful’ that nothing in the world could ever take away from them.
As it was with Martha, so it is with US to subdue our worries & anxieties during this busy season. Jesus directs us to imitate His calm student ~ Mary. This is why, for these Sundays in Advent, you & I need to make sure we’re doing a short daily personal or household devotion.
Jesus has come; He has invited Himself into our home; He is present with us by His Word = the Word that is filled with His Spirit & life. We can expect opposition to doing this, just as Mary had opposition from her family; just as Martha had opposition from the hard-soil of her own mind & heart. But our Lord says it’s ‘better’ than many things. He is worthy of our time, and we will benefit from His words.
Today, with Martha, our Lord calls us to repentance and to faith in Him, the ‘one thing needed.’ Our lives are filled with many worthy activities, and we waste time with some
‘not-so-worthy’ activities. But having the Lord Himself ‘advent’ among us, in our home with us, takes precedence. We’ll take a little time; so He can plow up our old nature’s hard soil, so that He can plant in us some good seed, so that our lives will bear good, spiritual fruit in His Kingdom.
Please use this year’s blue devotional booklet titled ‘Behold The Child.’ Or use the Portals of Prayer; or seek an online devotional from The Lutheran Hour, LWML, or Higher Things. They will help you to sit at the Lord’s feet, & to receive His Word. For He knows some things that you don’t know. He knows what lies ahead in your life when you’ll need His Spirit to get thru: maybe some tough times, or maybe some blessing you might not see unless He directs your attention to it; so ‘interact’ with your Heavenly Teacher.
Most of us -with our faith- can identify with either Mary or Martha. The Lord wants us to be both. The Lord also wants us to know that in order to be the right kind of Martha, we first need to be like Mary. Let’s use this Advent season to establish, re-establish, or to continue our daily devotions, and to pray ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ each & every day. Amen