Luther Memorial Lutheran Church

Preached at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA
on August 10, 2014

Mary and Martha Welcome Jesus

I love it that Jesus is all about what’s best for us. That he can just zoom right in to the middle of a situation and strip away all that would distract us – all the “yes, buts… — and help us to see with just a little more clarity the path for our steps.

That’s the Jesus that Luke wants his young church to know – his church of misfits and broken people. Of all the Gospelers – and, by the way, Luke is the only one who includes this story about the two sisters in his Jesus story… Of all the Gospelers, Luke writes first for the misfits. At least the misfits of his day: women, the poor, Samaritans, those who struggle in any way – with illness, with real-life decisions, with just about anything you could imagine.

We probably wouldn’t call the people that Luke champions our peers – they are not people who struggle with first world problems like whether to buy a Prius or a Ford Fusion, worry that there just don’t seem to be any decent Bosc pears at Whole Foods these days, or wonder if next summer’s vacation should be domestic or foreign – and – by the way – does Mexico qualify as a foreign vacation? Well, not in the same way that, say, Tuscany does, to be sure.
No, Luke’s people are not frustrated with slow Internet connections or why the gas tank almost is always on the opposite side of what you’d expect with your rental car. Luke’s population wonders where their next meal is going to come from, wonders how they will survive now that they’re widowed or orphaned, wonders if this leprosy will ever get better, and wonders how to live in an occupied land where almost everyone seems to have a good reason to be an enemy of a new Christian.

In so many ways, they’re entirely different than us; and in so many ways, they’re exactly the same. They are a people faced – as we are – with a multitude of choices. Two roads are diverging in their yellow woods every moment, just as those roads diverge in ours, and – well: which way to go?

That’s where Mary’s sister Martha is when we dial in to this episode of Sister Act and pick up the conversation. Somebody needed to put something decent to eat in front of Jesus and whoever else might have come with him for this house call. It was surely a surprise that he showed up, and in the bustle of things, Martha’s the one who ended up in the kitchen fixing things. We don’t know many details: did the sisters negotiate? Did Mary flat out refuse? Did Martha pull the typical sister stuff of “No, no, I’ll be fine… You just go ahead and sit at Jesus’ feet.” and then build up a head of steam along with the boiling lamb, potatoes and okra?

We don’t know. We’ll never know. But we do know this. The sisters faced some choices, just like we all do. Everyday. They faced some choices; Jesus just zooms right in to the middle of the situation and strips away all the distractions. I love it that Jesus is all about what’s best for us.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just a little bit. Before we talk about what Jesus sees as best for us, just a minute and talk about choices. We certainly get a prompt for that discussion from the psalm this morning. I counted them up, and there are at least a half dozen pairs or more of choices laid out in the psalm. Righteousness and peace
Salvation and glory
Steadfast love and faithfulness
The Lord giving and the land yielding
For heaven’s sake, righteousness and peace are even kissing!

That is to say, that the psalmist sets up what we all know and experience, he paves a great big super highway to the home of Mary and Martha where two choices come to a head. Which road will we take? Righteousness or peace? Salvation or glory? Sitting at the Master’s feet, or kneading bread for his dinner when teaching time is over?

I’m going to say it one more time: I love it that Jesus is all about what’s best for us. He just zooms right in to the middle of the situation and strips away all the distractions.

And here, in the home of Mary and Martha is what he comes with for them. “I get it,” his response to Martha the worried and distracted one begins.
“I get it that there are roads diverging in the yellow wood all over the place.”
“I get it that hospitality is important to you.”
“I get it that this isn’t the day you were planning when the snooze alarm went off for the fifth time this morning.”
“I get it that there are many parts.”

Did you get that? It’s right there in the text. “I get it that there are many parts.” This is one of those places where Jesus is like a lazar zoomer into our lives. “I get it that life is complicated, Mary.” “I get it that life is complicated, men, women, and children of Seattle in 2014.” “I get it.”
“But for right now, for this moment, in this place, at this time, having a moment kneeling at my feet and just being, is the better part.” All the distractions stripped away. All Jesus. In this moment. All Jesus. That’s the better part. He never says, “it’s the only part.” He never says, “Don’t ever cook again; throw hospitality out the window.”

Luke in this story to his poor, struggling, misfit church says simply this: Christ at the center of things. Christ at the center. Lovingly prepared food is life giving. The words of Jesus are even more life giving than that. They are, right now, the better part.

So look at us, those who’ve gathered today for both a Word and a Meal. Christ has called us to diverge off the path in the yellow, hazy woods of our 24/7 lives and sit at his feet and listen, first. Then eat a bit. A little bread, a little wine. Nothing extravagant, except in its extravagant contents of the living Christ. Each part in its own time. Each meant to fill us and feed us, for the many choices that will lie ahead. All those choices won’t go away, just for having sat here and circled here for these few precious moments.

Tomorrow there will still be: Prius or Fusion? Tomorrow one might wonder: Should I say something at the office about the ethics of it all or to just let it go? Do I write that letter to Patty Murray or not? Tell him that I love him? Give away more money, or call it good? Stay in this job, look for a different one? In other words, sit at the feet, or sweat in the kitchen?

At least we have this: a new awareness in our ears and in our bellies to look for the Christ in the decisions. To look for the Christ – and to go with Jesus. He’s all about what’s best for us. And what’s best is always – always – the life he offers to those whom he loves. That would be us.

In the name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.