RECONNECTING WITH AN UNHURRIED GOD
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch - June 16, 2019
TEXT: Luke 10:38-42
This past week, I attended the first pre-natal class with our daughter Mary and her husband Jake. They invited me to come along so that I can learn all the new things about babies. Even though I have raised three kids, a lot has changed in the last 31 years. And since I will be helping at some point to care for this new baby coming into the world, I needed to refresh and update my knowledge!
The class was the first of 3 three-hour classes and was full of all sorts of information from labor and delivery to changing diapers and proper child car seat procedures. Some of the information, I must admit, seemed a bit overwhelming. I could see a little bit of anxiety starting to develop in the room (where I was the only Grandma) as the nurse described to these first time parents the frustrations of caring for a colicky baby or how to take a temperature of a baby carefully.
After the class was over and we were walking out to the car, I asked my son-in-law (soon to be Dad) if he got a lot of his questions answered. And he said, “what I realized is that I now have about 700 more questions I need to ask!”
I must admit I was feeling just a little bit anxious myself – wanting things to go well for Mary when she goes into labor – that the baby will be healthy. And I kept thinking: “I hope I can do this – and be a good Grandmother.” I have even gone so far as to purchase a book entitled “Today’s Grandmother” to learn how things have changed and what I should do and not do!
One of the things that the nurse emphasized in the class was pain control during labor. Oh, did that ever bring back memories! One thing she shared was the need to have a focal point to keep your eyes on while you are going through contractions. The whole idea behind keeping your mind on a focal point is to keep your brain busy processing what you are seeing – rather than just focusing on the pain. The focal point can be anything – like a picture of your favorite place. Standing there in that room at St. Mary’s, the nurse gave the example of keeping your eyes on Jesus on the cross on the wall before you.
I have thought many times about that idea and thought how much we all need that focal point of Jesus in our lives. We all have our own anxieties and worries that can attack us at any time of our life. Whether it is a health issue or a relationship struggle, stress at work and concerns for family and friends – we can find ourselves overwhelmed and even weary. And we live in a culture that is increasingly more anxious and that affects us all. I believe that we all need to find a focal point to help us get through these times – and definitely that focal point is Jesus!
As we continue our sermon series on Busy – Reconnecting to our Unhurried God - today we turn to a story of two sisters – one who knew what it meant to be tuned in and focused on Jesus and the other who was distracted and anxious. As I read this passage, ask yourself where you are in this story. Who do you most connect with in the story?
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.”
Mary and Martha were good friends of Jesus and we know from other stories in the Gospels that Jesus often went to their home in Bethany. Their brother was Lazarus – the one who died and Jesus restored back to life. Mary was so grateful to Jesus for all He had done and she loved Him so much. He was her hero. In John 12, we read of another time Jesus came to Bethany, and while Jesus sat at the supper table, Mary came and knelt before Him and anointed his feet with a pound of very costly oil and wiped his feet with her hair.
And now, our story for today, Mary is at the feet of Jesus again, this time listening to Him teach. That was the most important thing for her to do! She was completely focused and tuned in to Jesus – and was not distracted.
But Martha was different. She wanted to be a gracious host, so she started working on making a great meal for her guests. Hospitality was definitely her gift. We read in John 12 that Martha was also serving the meal while Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. She showed her love to Jesus through serving.
But in today’s story – she somehow lost her focus. In her busyness, she became very “distracted”. She was really stressed out – there was work to be done and she was the only one doing it. She’s trying to get a meal together for a big group of people and Mary isn’t helping and that is a big distraction. Can’t you just see her? – every so often she looks over and sees Mary just sitting there and doing nothing. Pretty soon her busyness and distractions turn to frustration and bitterness. I can imagine her temper rising. Mary is not doing what Martha thinks she should, and she is overwhelmed. Now all her focus was on how frustrated she was. She gets herself all worked up and finally, she’s had all she can take. She stomps right out of the kitchen and goes over to Jesus saying, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Have you ever been there? You are just distracted by all the busyness of life. And then, sometimes it just gets to be too much! You’re overwhelmed and worn out – filled with worries and anxieties. Nothing seems to be going right and people can be so frustrating. Your focus is all on your struggles and pain and that’s all you can think about. Dear God – don’t you care?
Look at how Jesus responds to Martha. Notice how gentle He seems to be with her. He says, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 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 is important to note that He says her name twice. When God calls someone by name twice throughout the Bible, it is a sign of intimacy and close friendship. Jesus wasn’t speaking in a condemning, harsh tone – but rather with concern for Martha and a desire to teach her something.
It’s as if Jesus says: Martha, Martha – you have been busy doing something good for me and I appreciate that. But in your busyness, you ended up getting worried and frustrated and you lost your focus. It became all about you. You forgot something! You forgot to put Me first! Mary understands that. She knows it’s not all about her. It’s about Me. Instead of worrying, she is seeking me first! Mary’s first priority is in worshiping me and that won’t be taken away from her.
It was all a matter of choice – and of focus. We are called to always put Jesus first and make Him our focal point. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that. He said, “Seek the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and He will give you everything you need. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 6:33)
Mary took the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and soak in His presence. She made him her first priority and the focus of the day. Her choice was worship over worry and devotion over distraction.
It is so important that we put “first things first”. So many times, we get caught up in the chaotic, craziness of our world, that our lives become so busy – that we put Jesus on the back burner. We’ll say things like, “I just don’t have time right now to pray – or to read my Bible.” And so, we rush out, working our busy schedules and our focus becomes doing things in our own strength and power – and we end up often filled with distractions, worries and fears.
But when we make the time to put Jesus first into our lives, and we soak in His presence, He can give us the fuel that we need to go out and be His hands and His feet in the world. He can fill us with a peace and a joy and give us the strength and power to face this world and all its demands and trials.
So, what are some ways we can be more like Mary and make Jesus our focal point – instead of living focused on ourselves and being filled with distractions and worry like Martha? Here’s a spiritual to-do list that might help us, a list that inspired me from a woman named Erin Pavlicek1, and with additions of my own. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but just a few suggestions that you can use to keep “abiding in Christ” and focusing on Him throughout your day.
1. Activate your off buttons: take time to turn off things that can distract…from your TV to your computer to your cell phone.
2. Grab pockets of time: take whatever time you can get. Sometimes it may be while you are sitting waiting at the doctor’s office or sitting at a train crossing. Take those annoying times as opportunities to silently sit at the feet of Jesus and bask in His presence.
3. Take time out: Sometimes we need to take a break in the rush and busyness of our day. We need to pause and catch our breath – and literally breathe in the Holy Spirit’s presence to get renewed strength for the journey.
4. Carve out time: Carve out time in the early morning or late at night. Make time for God at times when people are not likely to be disturbing you.
5. Set an alarm: don’t let a single hour go by without seeking God in prayer and asking Him to sustain you. One thing I have started doing is setting my alarm on my FitBit. As my alarm goes off at the top of the hour, I pray, “Holy Spirit, may I be aware of Your presence with me now – and with whomever I am talking to right now.”
6. Daily exam: As you get into bed at night, look back and identify God’s providence woven throughout your day - in both the good times and the bad. Fall asleep praising God for all His blessings.
7. Run to God: When you find yourself growing weary, run to God any way you possibly can. Not to the world but to Him. Read His words of Scripture, pour out your heart to Him and seek His face first.
There have been many times in my life that I have lived like Martha. I have gotten distracted and busy and not made Jesus first in my life. And I’ve gotten worried and anxious and have not known peace. Not long ago I was going through one of those times. I was struggling with an issue I just didn’t know how to handle. I did run to God and I poured my heart out to Him. I found myself saying, “God, I just don’t know what to do!” And all of the sudden, I really felt I heard God saying, “Worship Me!” And so I stopped my fretting and stewing and started worshiping. I started singing: “You are my strength when I am weak, you are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all.” And all of the sudden, I began to get a great sense of peace and comfort. And ever since then…whenever I start to feel myself getting anxious – I have tried to stop and ask myself – where is my focus? And then reminded myself to choose worship instead of worry!
As we come to a close right now, I want us to take some time to pause and be in the presence of God in prayer. We are going to take just a few moments of quiet prayer and reflection. Try to empty out your mind of all distractions and focus in on spending time with Jesus. Maybe there are some struggles you are going through, take this time to just lay that at His feet. Ask God to help you set your priorities and make Him first in your life. Take this time right now – make the pew your prayer chair and be still and know that He is God.
1Erin Pavlicek, “Mary-Martha Syndrome: Living in the Martha’s World with Mary’s Heart”. https://www.thewordsmithblog.com/mary-martha-syndrome-living-in-marthas-world-with-marys-heart/