Sermon for Pentecost 6
“One Thing Is Necessary”
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Some of you remember the Brady Bunch with Mike and Carol and company of three boys and three girls. In one episode, Marcia, the oldest daughter has everything going for her, and Jan, the middle daughter, is jealous. Talking to Mom and Dad she says, “Well all day long at school I hear how great Marcia is at this or how wonderful Marcia did that! Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”
Whenever I read this account where Jesus addresses Martha, I can’t help but to think of Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Martha invited Jesus over to her house. While he is a guest, she is busy in the kitchen, preparing and serving food. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching. Martha is frustrated that Mary just sits there while she has to do all of the work. She wants Jesus to play referee and tell Mary to help her out. It is at this point Jesus answered, “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 from her.” (v. 41-42)
The obvious application of Jesus’ words is that listening to Jesus is more important than feeding Jesus. In more general terms, listening to Jesus is more important than anything else we do. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Romans: [Romans 10:17] Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
If I were to ask you to honestly answer, most of us would say that we are more of a Mary than we are Martha. After all, I am in God’s house on Sunday morning. I am glad that you are here. I celebrate that you have come to hear God’s Word, to confess your sins and to rejoice that, for Christ’s sake, your sins are forgiven.
The setting for our text is in the home of Mary and Martha. It is not a worship service. It is a setting where Jesus is teaching. You might say this is an in-home Bible study. How intent are you at taking the time to intentionally study God’s Word, to dig deep into His message of truth? Are you growing in your knowledge of God’s Word? How has God’s Word given you encouragement and hope in uncertain times? There are many wonderful benefits to studying God’s Word together with brothers and sisters in Christ.
Spending time in God’s Word builds relationships, first with our Lord and, second with others who gather and share insights, questions, challenges and joys in life. It is also the way in which the Holy Spirit empowers us to do battle with the devil. God’s Word is our most powerful weapon against the powers of darkness that seek to destroy us. Through study of God’s Word we are equipped and empowered to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Why does Jesus teach that Bible study is so important? Jesus Himself said, [John 5:39] “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Here Jesus teaches that the best way to get to know Him is to get to know the scriptures. To be a disciple of Jesus is to desire to know Him better! It means spending time with Him in His revealed and inspired Word.
The Bible is not like other books. Most books exist merely to transmit information. The Bible is not like that. God’s Word actually transmits its topic. It tells us that the Son of God took on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became a man named Jesus. It tells us that Jesus lived a perfect life of service to the people in His life. It tells us that although He lived a perfect life, the authorities arrested Him, and found Him guilty of false charges based on lies. These corrupt authorities managed to get the Son of God tortured and sentenced to death by crucifixion. The Bible tells us that when Jesus hung on the cross and died, He satisfied God’s wrath against all our sins. The Bible also tells us that Jesus did not remain in the tomb, but rose bodily never to die again. It tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven and will return on the last day to judge all people. These are the facts that The Bible transmits to us.
However, unlike all other books, the Bible does not stop there. It is the Word of God. God’s Word does not just tell us about Jesus. God’s Word actually is Jesus transmitted to us by the Holy Spirit through the Word. God’s Word does not just tell us about forgiveness. God’s Word actually is forgiveness delivered to us by the Holy Spirit. God’s Word actually is eternal life transmitted to us. The Word of God is God at work.
God’s Word convicts us of sin and brings us to our knees in sorrow. It creates faith in Jesus as it connects us to Jesus through the waters of Holy Baptism. It also sustains that faith. As the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write, [Romans 1:16] “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” BOOM The word for power is “dynimous”. Sounds like dynamite. The Lord blew up the devil’s plan to destroy you giving you His Word. It is God’s powerful Word that has turned us from hell-bound sinners to heaven bound saints through the blood of Christ.
If the Word of God is indeed that powerful … if the Word of God really is the means by which the Holy Spirit actually delivers from sin and opens up heaven for eternity … If, as Jesus says, the Word of God is the one thing necessary, then we would expect Christians to ask questions like, “Pastor, is there a way that we can have some sort of Bible study more often than once a week?” If Christians really believed what Jesus said about the Word of God being the one thing necessary, congregations would drive their pastors into happy exhaustion as they taught class after class after class feeding their members on the good food of God’s Word. Christians would look forward to retirement because then they could attend an extra Bible study or two every week.
The simple fact is this: God delivers His blessings through His Word. When Jesus says Bible Study is the one thing necessary, He is teaching Martha, Mary, and us that God delivers His blessings through His Word. God delivers Himself through His Word. When I or anyone else encourages you to attend Bible study, we are only encouraging you to receive more of God’s blessings and to pile up more of God’s strength and to celebrate more of God’s joy. It saddened Jesus that Martha was missing out on the blessing that was being offered through His teaching. That is why He addressed her in such a compassionate and direct way.
Mary has chosen the that which is necessary. The past two weeks have shown me how vital God’s Word is to our lives. On July 6, my father fell asleep in Jesus. My siblings and I had the opportunity to say good bye. In our own way, we each shared Scripture and prayed with Dad, commending Him to God’s care. As I watched him draw his last breath, in the midst of the sadness, there was a wonderful peace and joy for him. The emotional and physical challenges that he faced during the course of his life were now behind him. God’s Word assures us that He has been transported to heaven because of Christ’s completed rescue mission. The funeral service was a service of rejoicing and giving thanks to the Lord that Dad has been welcomed to his eternal home. He hungered and thirsted for righteousness on a daily basis in his devotions and prayers.
Last Sunday the Lord called Dwayne Keith home to heaven. Dwayne was one of the first people I met when we moved to Tolley back in 1992. He and Elaine a few other couples were there to greet us. They unloaded the truck, set up beds, hooked up washer and dryer and helped get our young family settled in our new home. Dwayne was treasurer for Trinity Lutheran for over 40 years. Shortly after his wife of more than 50 years died, Dwayne was drawn to Bismarck where I had the privilege to officiate at the wedding of Dwayne and Joyce in October 2010. As I mentioned in the funeral sermon, Dwayne helped us move into our first real home. It was my joy and privilege to prepare him to be welcomed into his eternal home through the proclamation of the one thing needed, “God’s Holy Word of life.”
We certainly carry out of vocation as Christians as we serve others, much like Martha. However, the most important task that we have in this life is to sit at the feet of Jesus and permit Him to teach us His Word of Law and Gospel, so that we may know for certain that He has done all things well for us. Forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours because Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised to life for you. Jesus invites every week, “Come on in, have a seat, listen and be fed and nourished on My Word and My supper.” Mary had it right. She sought what was more important, to listen to the Word of her Lord. In the midst of our struggles, this is where we come to receive forgiveness, peace, joy, and eternal life. Amen