Proper 11 — Luke 10:38-42
Where do I fit in? How can I serve God with my unique abilities? How should I spend my life?
These are old questions that many people ask. The story of two sisters in today’s text raises them anew for our generation. Jesus and His disciples went to a village where Mary and Martha lived. Apparently Martha was the older sister, and she opened her home to Jesus and His companions. That brought on a disagreement between the sisters about the appropriate way to follow Jesus. Finding that way is an old problem, but let’s take a new look at it. Specifically, let us see some of the issues that keep us from being the disciples we aspire to be.
1. One problem we face is distractions.
Martha rushed around preparing a meal for at least 13 guests. We can imagine how harried she was. The least she could expect
was help from her sister, but Mary did not rush to the kitchen. Instead, she “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.”
Even the normal routines of life can be distractions that pull us away from the importance of learning from the source of our faith—Jesus. The busyness can dull our senses and make us try strange things to break out of the doldrums.
One man who tried to do this was Larry Walters. In 1982, Walters tied some helium weather balloons to his lawn chair because wanted to fly. He was a truck driver who had no aviation experience, but he got some that day. He had a two-way radio, a gun to shoot out the balloons so he could land, and some jugs of water for ballast.
Walters settled into the chair in San Pedro, Calif., expecting a gentle lift and ride. When the mooring line was cut, his homemade craft shot up to 16,000 feet! He passed several pilots on his way up. He was able to shoot several balloons before dropping his gun. After about an hour and a half, he began descending and ended up having his craft get tangled in power lines.
Walters was arrested and fined $1,500 by the Federal Aviation Administration. He was accused of flying in a reckless manner, operating too close to the airport and failing to maintain contact with the control tower. His 15 minutes of fame never brought him any lasting security or stability. Although he had appearances on talk shows and made a commercial, he ended up bankrupt. Finally in 1993, Walters committed suicide.
Let us be certain that the distractions or boredom of life do not pull us off track.
2. The cure for distractions is devotion.
Martha wanted Mary to get up and help. That would be the normal, expected response. After all, every home needs order; but Jesus did a surprising thing. He actually sanctioned her hunger to listen to His teachings. That should not surprise us if we are aware of the gospel story. Jesus was close to His mother; He blessed a widow in Nain; He accepted the tears of a woman who wiped His feet with her hair; He stopped to talk to a woman who touched the hem of His robe.
Time and time again Jesus drew people—men and women—to Himself and taught them a new way of life. To Martha’s complaint that she was left to do all the work, Jesus gave a simple answer. He said, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Devotion to Christ is that “one thing.” That is what keeps us from being pulled off course by all the distractions of life. A Danish religious thinker of a previous generation, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote a book in which he said that “purity of heart is to will one thing.” That is what Mary was doing—willing the singleness of purpose in sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from Him.
Finding the right path of discipleship is an old problem. Jesus gives us a new look at it and gives us an invitation to sit at His
feet and learn from Him.