Potsdam United Methodist Church
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Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
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Being Present

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Chris Remick, July 21, 2013

Luke 10:38-42

Today we are reminded that it is often important to stop what we are doing even if it is church work, and be present for the Lord.

I really feel for Martha. I am sure most of us can relate to her situation.

Here she is trying to make things "Just Right" for Jesus' visit. He has come to her house with likely, a bunch of other people, the disciples and other followers.

A couple weeks ago, we read in Luke that Jesus sent out 70 to spread the word and work miracles, they did so and then they came back to him rejoicing. Now, maybe all 70 didn't go to Martha and Mary's house with Jesus, but I am guessing Jesus did not go alone.

To feed these people she is going to need help. Her sister Mary, a member of the household, should be helping her, shouldn't she? But no, Jesus gently tells Martha that Mary is doing the right thing in sitting with him and listening to him.

So who is the better follower?

Is Martha right, acting as a hostess to these tired travelers, probably washing their feet, bringing them water or wine, cooking lamb chops and beefsteaks, making bread and salads? Isn't Martha honoring Jesus and her other guests by preparing them a meal and making them comfortable?

Or is Mary doing the right thing, sitting in front of Jesus like a disciple, listening to his word, feeding her soul?

As Christians we continually face this dilemma.

  • Are we to devote our time to contemplative study and prayer? Or
  • Are we to spend our time in action and service to others in Jesus' name?

Last week we heard the lawyer answer his own question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" His answer was, and Jesus confirmed it, that he and we must, ""Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

You can't do the second part without doing the first. They go hand in hand.

Before you can truly love your neighbor as yourself, you must have within you the burning desire to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind"

Before you can even love yourself with a love that goes beyond self-preservation you must first cultivate a deep love for God.

Years ago, I was a lifeguard. When training as a lifeguard, one of the first lessons I learned, was how not to become a drowning victim myself. I was taught to be sure that I remained safe. If I was throwing a lifeline or reaching with a pole I was taught to be sure of my footing and balance. If I had to go in after a drowning victim, my first priority was to make sure that I did not get into trouble myself leaving other rescuers with two victims rather than one. Annually I was tested to make sure that I was physically able to swim and perform rescues effectively and safely. I also had to refresh my knowledge of first aid and CPR.

Just so, as Christians we must refresh our knowledge and relationship with Jesus lest we fall into deadly traps and become victims of worldly temptations. We must renew our connection to Jesus and the Holy spirit daily, hourly, even minute by minute not only to confront life's challenges, but also so that we are spiritually nourished and spiritually healthy.

In my study to become a lay minister, one of the things we were warned about was the tendency to sacrifice our personal devotional time reading only what we needed to prepare for the next sermon. I imagine bible study leaders also face this challenge. Yes, we are devoting time to scripture and it is spiritually healthy, but sometimes the time we set aside for God becomes time we set aside for our congregations or students preparing our sermons or lessons. Indeed, I have found myself doing that and I have found that there needs to be sometime for just God and me. More than just sometime, it needs to be a regular time that I dedicate to my own personal relationship with God.

To prevent physical weakness and sickness, we need air and water and nutrients and minerals to feed our bodies, lest they become week and we become sick,

To prevent spiritual weakness and sickness, there needs to be a time where we nourish our souls and maintain our connection with the one who:

  • "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;"
  • the one for whom and through whom, "all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers"
  • and the one who, "is before all things and in whom all things hold together."

You've probably heard the phrase, "Stop sitting there and do something!" But sometimes, more often than we might think, we have to, "Stop doing things and just sit there!"

This is Jesus message to Martha. Yes, her domestic duties were important, yes she had guests, but having Jesus in her living room was more important than everything else.

And Martha may have been a very devotional person. We know very little about her time spent studying the scriptures. We don't know if she prayed a little or a lot.

But we do know that at that time and place, she was missing an opportunity of a lifetime. Jesus did not want her to take that away from Mary. AND, Jesus wanted Martha to put aside her distractions, and take time to, "Be Present" with him.

Psalm 46 tells us to, "To be still and know that I am God". It is in the stillness, the quietness that we are able to hear that still small voice, the whisper of the Holy Spirit that is ready to guide us and comfort us. It is in this stillness that we can deeply realize the awesomeness of the great, "I AM" and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to flow into us and through us, refreshing us and making us people of God's kingdom on earth.

Let us pray: Oh God, as we strive to do your will and love our neighbors. As we do the work that needs to be done so that your kingdom may be realized here on Earth. Remind us to be still and present with you and listen to you as you teach us, comfort us, and show us the way. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.