There is a time to lean in and care for our soul but there is also a time to lean out and care for others.
Ah, it’s so good to see everybody. Blessings to all of you. I love worshiping together.
Our series is engaged. We are still in it, talking about putting our faith into play. Talking about activated faith, a faith that shows up in real ways. We’ve been using the whole incident that occurred in Luke 10 these past few weeks, between Mary and Martha. The incident between the two sisters, and Jesus. This just a marvelous passage. We’ve been using it as a way of exploring how we should be, in this time of ours, this unusual transition time that we find ourselves in. Last week we spent a lot of time talking about the example of Mary. The way in which she modeled cultivating an interior life with the Lord. How Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and just honored in such a way that by the time the exchange was done, Jesus was using her as an example of the one thing that is truly needful.
It’s easy to see Mary as an example of what we’re supposed to do. She is. How do you argue with it? Mary is a wonderful example. She’s sitting at the feet of Jesus. It’s correspondingly, I think, sometimes easy to see Martha as the example of what not to do. I guess another way of saying it is, in the Mary-Martha debate, in the Mary-Martha showdown, Mary always wins. Mary always wins. Partly because Jesus said so. So, how do you trump that? Mary has done the one thing that is truly needful. I mean, Mary wins.
Yet, I would like to suggest that just because in this situation Jesus made it clear what the better choice was, that we don’t write off Martha too quickly. That there are actually some things she also can teach us. There is no question that she was missing the moment. Martha had misaligned her priorities. She had allowed herself to get worked up. Attitudinally Martha, clearly, was just out of alignment herself. She was anxious, angry, and stressed out. I’m just not going to argue with that. I can’t argue with it. How can we? There’s no way. But I also think it’s important that we acknowledge the positives of Martha.
I don’t think that’s a common thing when it’s discussed. I think we can sometimes lose the spirit of what she was actually trying to do. The value and beauty of what Martha was bringing to the table. She becomes a kind of cautionary tale in the sense that she escalated things disproportionately. Martha ended up getting rebuked, lovingly, gently, but nonetheless corrected by Jesus in a way that’s is hard to miss that, right? But then, if we’re not careful, we can also miss the thing that she was doing that was good. That’s the kind of unconventional approach I’d like for us to take. I ask you now, Lord, to help us as we just spend some time in your words together. I would like to read verse 38 again. Verse 38 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.”
Martha loved Jesus, Jesus loved Martha. She wanted to honor the Lord. That was really important to her. That’s the backdrop of everything here, is that she cares. Maybe Martha sensed intuitively this was a special time. It was even more important the Lord was affirmed, honored, and blessed. He was always giving, deserved to be given something back. In Martha’s mind, she wanted to bless Jesus. She was going to use her gifts. She clearly has this extraordinary administrative gift. She’s running a household, and anyone who’s ever had to run a household has to have some level of administrative capacity. On top of that, she also has something else, that’s clearly evident. Martha had a gift of hospitality that was in her heart, in her nature, to have a meal, to bless, to create space for the celebration itself. It was very important for her.
So Martha was using her gift. As we have discussed, her gift was undermined by her irritation. That’s the unfortunate side of this. Sometimes it’s what we notice, and we don’t forget, that she was irritated. She got irritated at first with her sister, Mary, and then incredibly, with Jesus. Remember her accusation, her insinuation, flowed from an agitation with the situation that she found herself in, feeling abandoned by her sister and Jesus letting it all happen. Martha went up to Him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” That would have been enough. On top of that, she says, “I need you to tell her to help me.” Jesus gives her, I still have to say, it’s not a rebuke, but it’s a correction. It’s a gentle correction, but it’s a correction nonetheless.
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. You are. But one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” But at that moment, “Martha, Martha.” Jesus says her name twice. I hope you understand. There aren’t too many times where Jesus says a name twice. There are only a few, actually, in the gospels. So that should immediately cause us to take notice. This is not just a common thing. There is one moment that stands out, of course, with Peter, around what we call the Last Supper, as Jesus is on the edge of the cross the night of the betrayal.
He’s talking about the cross with His intimate disciples, this wonderful, beautiful exchange. Jesus talks about the cross and Peter rebukes Him and says, “This is not going to happen to you. I’m not going to let it happen.” Then Jesus hits Peter with actually a statement that has become even more meaningful in my life, some of you may know this, but in Luke 22, Jesus at the moment of the apex of that intense exchange, says to Peter, He uses his surname, “Simon, Simon. “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you. When you are restored, you strengthen your brethren.” That was an intense moment. It’s one of the few times Jesus is mentioned as repeating a name twice.
There’s another time where Jesus is standing and watching over Jerusalem. He can already see where things are going and He laments it. He does. He knows He’s going to be rejected by His people. He will follow a long line of those sent by God who was rejected by God’s people, the broken heart of God, and the magnanimity of God revealed in these words, when Jesus says, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often,” hear the tenderness of the Lord’s voice, “how often I’ve wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing. You would not have me.” It was very passionate.
In fact, usually when Jesus repeats a name twice in “Simon, Simon” or “Jerusalem, Jerusalem”, it’s for a point of emphasis. It also has at times a sympathy in it or a melancholy in it, there’s clearly a pathos. It’s not really anger. It’s not anger. It’s more sadness or a desire to see something adjusted or corrected or seen differently. It’s always born out of love. That’s the thing, born out of love. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what happens with Saul, the one who becomes Paul, on the road to Damascus in Acts Nine, where Jesus says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Look at the examples. You have Jerusalem, Simon, Peter, Saul, Paul, and Martha. That’s a pretty intense company right there. “Martha, Martha.” It’s one of those rare moments. I look at Martha, and that’s something we do need to at least remember, and that is this, in her case, as much as she wanted to bless Jesus, and she did, her expression of hospitality, affection, and concern for the Lord, her intention to bless, was, according to Jesus. Part of that “Martha, Martha” is that you’re allowing that good intention to be overwhelmed and fractured by a state of mind. This is just not good for you.
I think that’s what can happen. I hope we understand that can happen when we allow our soul to be troubled, and she was allowing her soul to be troubled. I’m not saying Martha intentionally chose to do it. She clearly didn’t. She stumbled her way. Martha wandered into a place of irritation, just like we do, just like we do all the time. I do. If you really look at it, her gift was being undermined. That’s what happens when we allow our soul to be troubled either from issues inside or outside of us. Our gift can be overwhelmed.
What was meant to be a wonderful and beautiful contribution, what was motivated out of a desire to bless and out of a heart of love and affection, was being undermined by the way she was allowing certain things to affect her state of mind. “Martha, Martha,” Jesus says, “you are anxious and you are troubled about so many things right now. Martha, stop it.” It’s true, in her case, she was disturbed about everything, the stress, Mary, Jesus, and the situation. Inside of Martha was a tumult, a little storm, and it was erupting. She couldn’t contain it and it comes out.
Maybe this relates to some of us, but I found myself thinking about the frustration that many of us are having to walk through right now. The frustration of the situation we find ourselves in, how difficult it is. It’s partly fear. It’s partly a lack of clarity. It partly has to do with the slowness of transitioning back into normalcy. What will that even look like when we get back? Will it ever be some of the things that I’ve loved most, will I ever recover them? We have this really unusual mix of things that we’re having to walk through together right now. I just think that it makes what’s happening with Martha even more significant because some of the pressure that we’re feeling is inside of us. Some of it’s also outside of us, connected to this disruption that we’re all having to walk through that has disturbed our sense of peace.
We find ourselves frustrated. I think that’s a fair assessment. I may lean towards frustration with fear. Or it may lean towards frustration with anger. It may lead to frustration with worry or anxiety, but that frustration is something that we have to be aware of. Because if we give too much place to it or we don’t resolve it properly, then it can erupt inside of us. It can then affect and damage things. So we need to pay attention to that. Again, we talk about taking care of our soul, but there’s something else here.
Jesus talks about it. He says, “Martha, you’re just allowing this to just overwhelm you. You’re so troubled.” I think I may be able to put it a different way. I’ll say this, that unresolved disturbance on the inside, which is where I think most of it was happening, will usually do damage on the outside. So that’s another way of looking at it. Unresolved disturbance on the inside will usually do damage on the outside. That disturbance on the inside may be affected, stimulated, or catalyzed in some way by what we’re experiencing externally. When it gets inside of us, when we’re not handling things properly on the inside, then we begin to damage the outside, and we become the damagers. Do you see what I’m saying? That’s different.
External things that begin to work inside of us then can cause a reaction from us that creates a disturbance. We’re giving place to the disturbance inside of our soul. This is why we need to tend to our souls. Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are so frazzled about many things, so many things. But Mary has focused on the one thing.” I have to say, if I’m Jesus, this is how I would say it, “That she has chosen the one thing that is truly needful at this moment.” That may be a word for us, ‘needful.’ The most meaningful thing for us in this season is really our need to be with Him in a centered and aligned way that creates an equanimity, a settledness of soul, that that probably does have to be and should be the priority. We mentioned that last week. How we need to lean in and care for our soul. We need to pay attention to our heart, for out of the heart flows the issues of life, the scriptures tell us.
No one’s going to even suggest, in any way, shape, or form, that is not the highest priority, the one thing that is truly needful. But, and here’s a key, we should not allow our need to lean in to be the endpoint. We need to sit with the Lord. We need to be able to care for our souls. There’s also a time for leaning out. There’s a time for leaning in. There’s a time for leaning out and serving and caring for the welfare of others. Just because Martha didn’t handle things properly doesn’t mean that she wasn’t doing something that was actually very important. That’s what I’m wanting us to hear.
There is a time for us to sit, but there’s also a time for us to serve. There’s a time for us to care for our soul, which is part of what we’re doing right now, and there’s also a time to care for others. Do you see what I’m saying? Sitting and serving, leaning in, leaning out, caring for our soul, caring for others, are the expressions and the rhythms of the Christian life. Because, as we’re told, there is a time for everything. For everything, there is a time. If I can put it this way, and I know you’re going to hear what I mean by it, I hope you hear it when I say, that would make sense, there’s a Mary time and there’s a Martha time.
There’s a Mary time and there’s a Martha time. If we come out of this study here and this engagement with this piece of scripture, and miss the truth that one of the main purposes of Mary time is to move us to Martha’s time, then it will be to our disadvantage. I need to say that one more time. If we come out of this study, and we miss the fact that one of the main purposes, as valuable as Mary time is, sitting with Jesus, sitting at the feet of Jesus and engaging His words, as absolutely essential it is at a core level to the healthy life with Christ, the growing life with Christ, the vibrant life with Christ, always connected, to sitting with Jesus at his feet, having time to pray, think, write things down, talk about that and to not just engage it in a surface fashion, but in a deeper one. That’s huge, and no one’s ever going to suggest that, but if it only is Mary time, if that’s where it ends, then we never can also jump into Martha time. I’m calling it Martha time, in the best way, serving, giving, loving, and tangibly blessing. I’m suggesting that Martha has something to teach us too.
Martha is also a model, not the part that she got out of whack with, but don’t let that take us away from the good thing that she was doing, which was wanting to serve and bless. Martha was intuitively aware of how much hospitality mattered to Jesus. In that regard, she had actually caught something of the heart of the Lord. It was that giving, blessing, and serving actually meant a great deal to Jesus. There were more than a few occasions where the Lord made it very clear that He noticed when people remembered or forgot. I’m thinking about people who are healed, sometimes Jesus would say, “Where are the others? Only one came back to say thank you.” Or when a host forgot to bless Him, and Jesus would say, “Well, when I came into your house you didn’t take care of me.” He noticed those things. Martha was aware that it meant something to the Lord. The fact is that Jesus lived service out. He had come to do that for people.
Martha was aware that Jesus Himself modeled service. He had come, think about this, He said, “Not to be served, but to serve. The son of man comes to serve, not to be served.” He wasn’t opposed to being blessed or this whole thing would have been something that He rejected. He didn’t do that. Jesus would receive blessings all the time. But at His core, He was a servant. He was God’s servant. He was serving all of us. He was giving. The son of man gives His life as a ransom for many. Serving and giving, Jesus was a blesser. Jesus was a healer. Think about that.
He gave of himself in tangible ways during His earthly ministry to such a degree that He was often exhausted in His humanity. The disciples would try to take care of Him because they saw how much He was giving, blessing, serving, and loving. Martha, she had some of that, and Jesus loved her for it. So don’t miss that truth. As we admire Mary, as we should, let us not also miss the positive example of Martha. That is huge because Martha was not a bystander. She was a person of engaged faith. Her faith was active. Her love was real. It was worked out. Martha is an example for us in that way. Remember, James 2:26 says that, “Faith without works is dead.” Which is kind of another way of saying, Mary, without Martha, is incomplete. Mary, without Martha, is incomplete.
Mary is the supreme example, in regards to our greatest need, because our strength is in Him. But Martha is also an example because our faith needs to show up. What we do with the Lord at an eternal level needs to be revealed at an external practical one. I was reminded of this wonderful passage in Romans 12. It’s a chapter that describes in splendid detail what an activated faith looks like and how the Christian life is supposed to show up. I really would encourage a lot of you to consider revisiting Romans 12, especially in the context of what we’re saying about Martha and her example. Do you know know what I want to do? I want to read a portion of it. I’ve chosen to read it from the slightly more granular and looser, or at least I say less technical translation, the message translation. I’m going to read it at my own tempo. I’ll try to slow myself down a little bit more because sometimes I start reading, as you know, I can start tearing down the road. I go fast. But I’ll slow this down a little bit because the words are really meaningful. So all I’ve done is culled or cut out just a portion of Romans 12 from the message. I want to read the pieces through, that I think connect to the example of the good thing that Martha really models.
“Take your everyday ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life, and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well formed maturity in you.”
Then to verse six. “If you preach, just preach God’s message. Nothing else. If you help, just help. Don’t take over. If you teach, stick to your teaching. If you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy. If you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate. If you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond. If you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Love from the center of who you are. Don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil. Hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply. Practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out, keep yourself fueled, and a flame. Be alert servants of the master cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times. Pray all the harder. Help needy Christians.”
The last one, “Be inventive in hospitality.” I want to say that one again, “Be invented in hospitality.” We’re talking about being creative in our hospitality, being creative in the way we give, bless, and serve. Some of us might say, “Well, how can we do that right now?” I’ll talk about that in a moment. But what I want to get at really here is saying this, that Martha time is needed. It really is. Mary time, no question, but Martha time is needed as well. I would say Martha time is needed more than ever given some of the limitations that we’re facing right now. Where we have, more than we realize, opportunities to bless and to refresh everywhere.
I don’t see this as just a time of limitation or frustrating kind of having to deal with things that we don’t want. It’s actually an opportunity. It’s actually an opportunity for us to bless in new ways. Remember, the one who refreshes will themselves to be refreshed. No question about it. It not only blesses the other, but we get blessed as well. When do we think about hospitality, which was one of Martha’s great gifts? We can’t bring people into our homes the way we want to. It’s not like we can throw a giant celebration. We can’t bring people to our house. We can’t bring people to the church on location, in presence, the way that we are accustomed to. But, again, I’ve told everybody, “We’re still having church. We’re just having it differently.” The way that we used to have it, we can’t do that right now.
We can bring the spirit of the house to others. I can’t bring people to my house, but we can bring the spirit of the house to people. We can do so much, even in this time we can. Our church has community expressions and ways to help others. You can do that. We can bless. We can share. We can pray. We can send notes of encouragement. We can do good in practical, tangible, ways. We can sow good. We can sow God.
I’ve watched my oldest daughter, Chloe Cahill, she’s organized a ministry that has been invaluable. ‘The Ways to Help Ministry’ that so many of our church are participating, contributing, and engaging in our community to bless. It’s just been wonderful. I’ve watched the people involved in it just doing exactly what we just read here, being inventive in hospitality, creating ways to bless, serve, give, and love in sacrificial ways. I just see life everywhere. There’s something to that. I’ll take it a little bit more close to home, I hope it’s not bragging, but I’ve watched my wife be part of a team making and distributing mass and meals to hospital workers and other people. I’ve watched our church send out and coordinate groups of volunteers to help distribute food with organizations, the Salvation Army in particular.
I’ve watched my wife and others make baked goods and with love and care. Distribute food to people in our church community with house calls, done properly. I’ve watched all of that. I’ve watched our teams buy groceries and other goods and share them with needy families. Especially to a few of our elderly who are alone and not really even able sometimes to do things. It’s just a difficult time. Loneliness is real. I’ve watched that care and love expressed. I’ve watched our kids’ ministry leaders drop off baskets at this time. I’ve watched them help single moms and families who were not used to being under this level of stress have support.
I guess what I’m saying is I’ve seen so much good. I’ve seen a lot of Martha time. That’s what I’m saying, Martha time. That’s what I call it. I’m talking about Martha time. I’m proud to also lead a church full of Marthas. Mary is absolutely needed. We all need to have Mary in us, but, boy, I think maybe what I’ve noticed most at this time is that there are a lot of Marthas out there, and you know who you are. I’m married to one. I’m telling you when I say Marthas out there, I’m talking about men and women. I just see a lot of you who have the spirit of Martha in you. You’re just blessing everywhere. You are being like we were told in Romans 12, just creative and inventive in hospitality. I just see it everywhere. Some of you have given extra too. Maybe you haven’t been able to serve directly, but you’ve given and you’re a part of that blessing because you’ve helped make it happen. That’s also true.
The bottom line is this. We need both Mary time and Martha time. We need both Mary time and Martha time. That’s how it’s supposed to be. We need both Mary time and Martha time. Martha time’s really important. Let’s keep that in mind. As we shift over, we’ve got a song to close with. I’m going to come back around though after that and share the blessing and pray. I have one more thought I want to mention. This is when I have a chance to remind everybody to just continue to be faithful as much as possible in your giving, your tithes, and your offerings, which you guys have been doing amazing. I’ve just been humbled and overwhelmed by that as well. I know not everyone can, but those of you who have been able to, whether it’s on the app, online, or some of you have been mailing stuff in. I just see so much beauty, so much giving and so much sacrifice, everywhere, in every direction. I’m loving you. I’m loving being your pastor. I’m loving this church. I’m loving what you’re doing. I’m looking forward to the journey we’re all going to make together, as we move forward together, and God’s going to be with us.
I really enjoyed being able to be here together with you. My heart is that we would put our faith into action and understand that we need a Mary time to keep our hearts close to Jesus. Maybe for some of us, the Lord is calling us to have a little more Mary time and pay attention to things that are on the inside. But let’s also be open to Martha time. Let’s be open to the opportunities that abound in every direction. Let’s choose to look for ways to be models, life-givers, and healers in His name. I like to say wounded healers in His name.
My prayer is that the Lord would be so real in your life, that God’s goodness would be so near you, that you would sow, water, and reap. That we would remember together that He’s so good, He’s so God. Therefore you and I can sow good, and sow God. That’s what we’ve been given the opportunity to do. Lord, I just ask that you would stir our hearts to want to really represent Your heart and that You would keep each one, each one of my friends, each one of you, keep them all, Lord, in spirit, soul, and in body. Heal in every way, let life spring out of us. Help us not to be afraid nor frustrated nor angry. Help us to trust You, be resilient, open, and as optimistic as we can possibly be. That’s my prayer for all of us. Let’s engage in some Martha time. Do some good in His name. Bless you all. Love you guys.