There is a value in creative space for giving our undivided attention to the Lord, but this will require intentionality on our part.
It’s so good to be able to worship together, isn’t it? We’re going to continue this journey we’ve been making in these what I’m now calling transition times. In these transition times, I want again to sit with the wonderful, beautiful, remarkable, and colorful exchange account of Martha, Mary, and Jesus. I want us to be able to learn from them. This is a time for us to both, I think you’ll understand what I’m saying by the time we’re done, lean into the Lord and lean out as well. Lean in and lean out, and we’ll talk about that.
Let’s start by reading the passage. We’ll begin by reading it through in the ESV. It says, “Now, as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving.” Distracted with much serving, that’s important, don’t run past that too fast. There is such a thing. It is possible to be pulled away from the best things by a good endeavor. It is possible.
Let’s continue on, “She went up and she said, ‘Lord, don’t you care? Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'” We can miss the best in pursuit of the rest, can’t we? We can miss the one thing that is truly necessary in the pursuit of ‘the many’ things. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about so many things.” Isn’t that what Jesus said there? “You’re anxious and troubled about so many things.”
How relevant is that word for us right now? How particularly connected to what we’re all experiencing. Certainly, there are many things that we have to be anxious and concerned about. No question. I have concerns, I do. So do you. I’m sure that there’s a few things on your mind that are easy for us to be anxious about. Things you’re thinking about, weighing out, and concerned about. Things we’re struggling with, discouraged around, afraid of, or trying to imagine how, or consider how we’re going to deal with things that are coming ahead of us. Just so many things.
I was thinking about it myself, if I want to I can settle right there. I can settle right there about the things that are ahead. Things I can be anxious about, or the things that I’m dealing with right now. I can settle right in that place, you can do it too, and start to begin to count my troubles, nurture them, name them one by one. Name them one by one, or I can do the other like the old hymn, “I can count my blessings and name those, one by one.” That’s what we’re being asked to do or asked to consider.
We get to decide where we want to sit. Do we want to live in troubled todays or trustful tomorrows? I’ll say that one more time, do we want to live in troubled todays or trustful tomorrows? The choice really is ours. I want to do this; I want to look at the same passage that we just read. I want to add a little color to it by looking at the Message translation. The Message translation always gives it a little bit of a unique twist. It may be a lack, let’s put it this way, it may be a slightly less accurate translation. I think it is, but it makes up for it in other ways with a grittiness and authenticity that does give us a fresh approach to looking at passages of scripture.
I want to read these verses directly from the Message. Luke 10 verse 38 says, “And as they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village and there was a woman by the name of Martha who welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister Mary who had sat before the master hanging,” I love this, “Hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away. She was pulled away,” we’re told here, “By all she had to do in the kitchen. Later she stepped in interrupting them, ‘Master don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.’ The master said, ‘Dear Martha, Martha, dear Martha you’re fussing far too much and you’re getting yourself worked up over nothing. Over nothing. One thing is essential. Yes, and Mary has chosen it. It’s the main course, and it won’t be taken from her.'”
We’re going to come back to Mary, who we’re told, I swear I want to zero in on the time that we have and connect to this because we’re told that Mary, she’s our focus, is leaning into the Lord. “That Mary was hanging on every word,” I love that phrase. I see her sitting. I see her thinking. I see her listening to the words of Jesus. I see her just looking, listening, and lost in the beauty of his words. It was, in my mind, the heart of worship. If you really want to think about the heart of worship, then sit with what Mary was doing, she was just lost in this moment. It wasn’t about what she had to get done. It wasn’t about the time. It was just about her being with Jesus. That is, I think, the heart of worship because the heart of worship is humble and open. It’s not calculating the time, it’s just being present with Jesus.
Something we get to decide if we want to do, in the end, that’s the main course, that’s the best. That’s the gold standard to me I think, the one thing. Helen Keller had this great quote, she said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” It’s worth saying again, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” Maybe you can say that with me, we’ll do it one more time. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they must be felt with the heart.”
There is a value in creating space to give our undivided attention to the Lord, leaning in requires intentionality. The more complicated the times, the more important to slow, sit, and still ourselves at His feet. That’s what I’m getting at. The times like these, these transition times, invite us into the best thing. Which is leaning into Jesus and hanging on His words. For His words, Jesus said to us, “They are spirit and they’re life.” Yes, they are. They are spirit and they are life.
I was sitting with this, thinking about this, practically speaking, I think it’s a time for reading the scriptures a lot more. Some of us need to be engaging God’s Word more intentionally than maybe we have in the past. I think it’s helpful to sit with the gospels, I really do. One more thing I would spend a little more time with, just because of the nature of things, I would spend a little more time in the Psalms.
The Psalms. In anxious times, I have found as generations of believers have found that the Psalms are kings. They’re watering holes for the soul, that’s what they are. I was pondering, for example, the last part of Psalm 46 and how it connected with what Jesus said. With what Mary was doing. Then, I just re-read the whole Psalm. It’s not a big one. This is a small one, Psalm 46. It just hit me in a good way, like a hammer. It just hit my heart, hit my soul, hit me good. It got my attention. It made me think, and I just want to share that.
I want us to look at this together and read it through. You’re welcome to read it through with me as we put the words up, but we’re told this in Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Let’s just stop right there, how good is that? God is our refuge and strength, a very help present help in trouble. Ah, He’s right there. “Therefore, we will not fear,” the Psalmist writes, “Though the earth gives way,” think about how applicable this is. “Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling,” in the midst of the chaos we have an anchor sure, that’s what we have. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the most high. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. God will help her when morning dawns,” there’s a new time coming.
“The nations rage,” think about what’s been going on. Think about again, how connected this is, “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter. He utters His voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us and God, the God of Jacob is our fortress. So come, come behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolation’s on the earth.” I’m not saying God brought this plague at all. What I am saying is that God be present in the midst of it. “He makes wars cease to the end of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear. He burns the chariots with fire,” that is, He’s the peace bringer. That’s what the Psalmist is saying.
Then in verse 10, the verse that originally attracted my attention as I was thinking about Mary. What she was doing and how the Lord commended her for being able to do the one thing that was most needed. Verse 10 says, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Be still. Be still. Calm the waters. Remember, that’s what we’re being told here. What Mary did, listen, we are invited to do. Yes, we are. Sit at His feet with a listening ear and a humble heart stilling ourselves, means at least in part, that we shift and we create space. We pause from our action. “Be still and know that I am God.” We pause from our action and our activity, from our distractions, which are many. They are many, and we settle in the one. We settle in the one.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled,” Jesus said, “About so many things, about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” I do believe, I really do, that this is one of the underestimated positives of this unusual, but the exceptional time that we’re living in right now. I think we’ve had more opportunity to be still. Yes, to slow down. If there’s anything I can say that’s a positive here is that we’ve had the opportunity to slow down and to rethink what our priorities should be. We’ve had more opportunity to disengage and maybe just to be a little less distracted.
The direct context, remember this, of Psalm 46, do you know what it was? God was reminding His people to be at peace. Yes, He was. Why? Because He was saying, “He was at work and in control.” In other words, no need to fret to try to solve things, but rather trust. Don’t be fearful. Don’t be impatient. God’s telling His people don’t be restless. Instead, the be still, that still was, let it be. Let it be in your heart. Be still and know that I am God.
In other words, He’s working as He always does, relentlessly and unperturbed, unchangeable, utterly faithful. God is at work even in the midst of the chaos and the disruption while the nations rise and fall, and teeter and turn. While we all try to find our way in time and history through these things that none of us could see coming, and have ultimately, like this pandemic, rocked our world, even our economy, the economies of the world, have caused us to have to think about how we’re going to re-engage normalcy. To think what that’s going to look like.
In the midst of all these things, whatever other things are raging around us, whatever other things we’re having to deal with in our lives right now, whatever other things they could be, relational, health-wise, it could be emotional, they could have to do with our finances or anything else that would rob us of our peace, things that, that are difficult for us. We all have unique things that we’re having to face. We all have to deal with a collage, a mixture, a unique thing, that we’re uniquely challenged by. In the midst of all of that, while all this is happening, both at a global, national, and personal level, God is with us. God is there. God is present. God is here. Ultimately, God will overwhelm this entire episode with His peace, if we will allow Him to bring His peace into our hearts. That requires us to be still.
When we’re still, we usually see things that we normally don’t see. I’ve noticed that. If we’re still, we normally hear things we don’t usually hear. We are surprised. One of the blessings of stillness is that we notice things differently. It’s one of the blessings of the early morning. It really is. I think that there’s something about the stillness, the breaking of the day, or right before the breaking of the day, both the dawning of the day, that invites us into contemplation and perspective. That’s also true of a sunset. We love sunsets as well, which reminds us of the close of something. I don’t know anything about how human beings are wired, the way we’re wired, the artistry of God at work in our hearts. Something about sunrise and sunsets though, they capture us, they do something inside of us.
I don’t think that’s a coincidence, there’s something about it. It’s not just symbolic. It’s probably intertwined or part of our essential DNA having been made in the image of God who set the world in motion, the universe in motion, and whatever else is in existence that we cannot see in motion. God who brought light into the darkness, and spoke light into the void, still will do that inside of our hearts as well, if we will allow Him to have room to speak into our lives. That requires us to be intentional.
One of the things that we’re reminded of here, and again, in the morning when I rise, I just am still in the morning when I rise. I love the idea we’re doing and what we’ve done today. We’ve risen to rejoice in the Lord. Remember it’s not just the idea of being still. It’s not just the idea of ceasing from our many distractions. It’s also listening, you know it, come on, it’s, “Be still and know that I am God.” Think about that.
Think about the interweaving of Psalm 46 and what Mary was doing. “Be still and know that I am God.” That’s what the Lord reminds us of. It’s using stillness to focus more on the one thing that truly matters. It’s detachment for the purpose of attachment. I’ll say that again, it’s detachment for the purpose of attachment. It’s joining Mary at the feet of Jesus, that’s what it is. It’s joining Mary at the feet of Jesus. Hanging on his words and enjoying the main course. That’s what it is. We do this, when we make this a high priority in our lives, when it’s a seasonal priority in our lives, when it’s part of the rhythm of our lives, when the heart of worship is something that we’re cultivating and tending to, when we’re being intentional about space creation in a room, we think, ponder, pray, journal, and share our heart with God. We sing songs unto Him.
This is when we sit at the feet of Jesus with Mary. We find that things happen inside of us because did not the Lord say, “This is the thing that truly matters. This is the portion that will last. This is, in the end, what we were really made for, to know God.” Yes, we were. At our core, we long for more. At our core, we long for more. If this season, this time has helped strip away things that are propping up the life that isn’t truly life, then maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s good actually, maybe our hearts need to settle back where they belong with Jesus. Bringing our heart, our affections, our flaws, our sins, our addictions, our troubles, our pains, and our fears all to His feet.
I love the fact that it says, “Mary sat at His feet.” There’s humility there. There’s openness. I think there’s worship. All of those things. There’s something about it. It opens up the heart. If we have been busy, too busy, either in our panic, or in our need to fill the gaps, let’s make it a priority this week to join with Mary and spend our time at the feet of Jesus, or at least a little more time there. I’m not saying don’t do the work, that’s not what I’m saying. Clearly, there’s a time to live out our faith. In the end, the deeper place will always be connected to our willingness to sit with Him, to be with Him, to cultivate that heart of worship.
When we do this, what we will find is that not only will we be deeper, better people, we will be a better version of what we are. We will. We will be growing people. We will find that the more we sit with Jesus, we will be more refined. We will be more designed, and we will be more aligned so that we can sow, water, and reap. That sow, water, reap flows out of a heart that is steady in the Lord. It has found its satisfaction with the Lord. We are to find both our satisfaction and our safety with Him. You don’t need to be afraid or panic. You just need to trust, sitting at His feet. Trustful tomorrows in this transition time, because the Lord is with us. The more we linger with Him, the better things will be.
Let’s keep in mind what we’re going to do. I have just a little bit more to say, then I want to pray the blessing over you, over all of us really. I know we’re not having an official time of giving, but this is our version of it. Remember that you can give faithfully as so many of you have done. I’m overwhelmed actually, by the way, the church has stepped forward, knowing that there are a few of you who can’t and yet the others have stepped forward. Some of you know who you are, you’ve stepped forward in extraordinary and exceptional ways to fill the gap. It’s not gone unnoticed. It’s not only allowed us to function, but it’s allowed us as a church to bless.
We’ve been really involved in many ways to help. We’ve been doing everything we can to strengthen, encourage, and spiritually uplift, not just our community, but anybody that you think can be helped by what we do. We’re doing what we’re supposed to do, and I’m grateful for that. If you want to, you’re more than welcome. It is actually desired. I would love for you to do it, to consider, keep doing what you’re doing. Give as you’re able. You can give online or through the app. You could give by just sending in something to our offices. Whatever, God, however, God moves you, but please keep that in mind.
Right now, we’ve got a song to share. I will come back around and close this out with the prayer, a blessing, and a final little word. All right, here we go. (music) The last part of that song, a wonderful song, Psalm 46, reminds us that the God of Jacob is our fortress. Yes, the God of Jacob is our fortress. That He, the Lord is a safe haven in disruptive times, that the Lord is with us. So let’s trust Him. Let’s trust Him. Let’s trust Him in these transition times. Why? Because He’s so good. He’s so God, and because of that, we should sow good and sow God.
So Lord, I just pray that you would help us to not be defeated, not be discouraged, not be depressed. We give you our today and we give you our tomorrow. We want to be strong, and at peace as much as possible, a blesser, we were born to bless. So keep that in mind. Hey, you know what else? You’re loved very much. I so enjoyed spending this time with you. May the Lord be with us all in the days ahead.