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One Good And Necessary Thing

November 10, 2018

Verse: Luke 10:38–10:42

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
November 11, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 24
One Good And Necessary Thing

Now as they continued on their journey Jesus entered a certain village and a woman by the name of Martha welcomed him into her home. And she had a sister named Mary also, who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened intently to his word. But Martha was distracted by many preparations. And so she prevailed upon Jesus and said, "Lord! Does it not matter to you that my sister has left me to serve alone? Now tell her to come and help me!" And Jesus said to her, "Martha, Martha you are anxious and troubled about many things; but one thing is necessary – Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

For the last 3 years Christ Lutheran Church has been “anxious and troubled about many things”. Like Martha we expended the lion’s share of our time, talents and treasures to build the house of God. It was good and important work.

In that time the same Spirit of God who filled Bezalel and Oholiab with “skill, intelligence, knowledge and craftsmanship” (Ex. 35:31) to build the tabernacle in the wilderness has brought us to this moment in time. To the feet of Jesus to listen intently to his Word. And what a word it is!

It is the word that defies sin, death and Satan. The word that forgives our sins, and adopts us God’s children. The word that shines forth in the darkness of this world, and the darkness of the things that “concern and trouble” us each day. It is the word that promises us God’s love here in time, and there in eternity. It is, according to our Lord’s own teaching: the one thing necessary; the one thing that can never be taken away from us.

Because of our natural limitations as sinners it is easy to lose our way. It is easy to deal with the things we can see! It is easy, for example, to understand a dripping faucet and repair it. But not so easy to spot a dripping soul, or restore it. But as we sit at the feet of Jesus each Sunday we learn to do what St. Paul wrote. To “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Now it is true that we do need many things. We need food, shelter and clothing. We need purpose and hope. We need to worship God and to feed our hungry souls. To do that we need a roof that doesn’t leak, and a heating system that keeps us warm on a cold November day.

God be praised we have all those things. He has richly provided for us. He has given us the resources and by his Spirit instructed and inspired many people to bring us to where we are today.

But at the end of the day there is only one thing that is needful. Only one thing we cannot live without and that is God’s Word and Sacraments, because as Jesus says: What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mt. 16:26)

Yes, Jesus’ word is the one thing necessary. Indeed everything else we do in this church whether shovel the snow, count the money, rehearse the choir or prepare the altar … it is all done so that we might sit at Jesus feet and drink in the words of eternal life … so that sin and sadness will be replaced by joy and gladness. So that whether we live or whether we die, we live and die for the Lord, and know that we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)

But as we say it is easy to forget that. We all suffer from “attention deficit disorder” when it comes to the things of God. And so the Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to include this event from Jesus’ ministry in his gospel; so that we might always be able to regain our coordinates by it.

Notice that Martha gets a bit cheeky with Jesus, just like we sometimes do with one another. And though the Lord chides her he does so with love. Though he is abrupt with her it is not to harm her, but so that she, too, would learn to sit at Jesus’ feet and become part of the Divine Conversation.

It is significant that he says her name twice. He meant to get her attention and to get ours as well. Each of us might just as well substitute our own name for Martha here. He also doubles down on his message. You are “anxious and troubled” about many things. So are we. The things of our daily lives. And the things of the church, too, because it is our life blood. After all how could we live for a single day without the gifts God gives us here each Sunday: the peace which surpasses understanding to keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus!

Having gotten her attention Jesus goes on to say to Martha and to all people: There is one thing necessary! One thing Good! And Mary has chosen it!

By these words he calls us to sit at his feet, kneel at his altar, and rise up to call him Blessed because what we receive here can never be taken away.

Apart from God’s Word you can be stripped of everything else you have: your health, your life, your possessions, your family, your reputation – they can all fly away. This church, too, can be gone in the blink of an eye because as St. Paul writes to Timothy, “We brought nothing into the world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.” (1 Timothy 6:7)

But there is one thing that is permanent: your Baptism. It is good your whole life long and unto the ages of ages. Because it is not just a religious ceremony but your official adoption as a child of God, into the family of God. It will not be taken away!

There is one thing that is permanent: the Word of God that has entered your ears, taken root in your heart, that has sanctified you and made you whole. It will not be taken away!

There is one thing that is permanent: the Holy Communion the church has with Christ her Lord each Sunday. It is the “medicine of immortality” and it will not be taken away!

And so if there is anything for us to learn today it is to devote our time, talents and treasures to the “one thing necessary”. To change from Martha to Mary. To sit at Jesus feet and imbibe his word as a new born babe contentedly drinks from its mother’s breast without a care in the world. It shall not be taken away! Amen.