Posts Tagged ‘busyness’


We are looking at Luke 10:38-42, which tells the familiar story of Martha and Mary and a dinner party.

This story has a lot to say, from several different angles. But I would like for us to be pretty specific in our focus. And that focus is what this story has to say aboutsetting aside our frantic pace of life in order to have time to be with Jesus.

Let’s begin by working our way through –

The Story

 v. 38 – “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.”

As Jesus and his disciples traveled around Israel, they were at various times taken in and given hospitality by those in the villages where they ministered. Jesus speaks of this in Luke 10:8, giving instructions to his disciples. He says, “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.”

To welcome Jesus or his disciples was a sign of acceptance of the message of the kingdom of God, which is what they were preaching. To receive the messenger is to receive the message. So this verse shows us that Martha is a supporter of Jesus. She is doing a good thing, welcoming him into her home.

v. 39 says, “And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.”

So Jesus has come into the house and here we see Mary learning from him.

Now, to sit at a teacher’s feet was the position of a disciple, or a student (2 Kings 4:38; Luke 8:35; Acts 22:3). So, this was quite unusual for that day. That is, that Mary, a woman, takes up the position of a disciple who learns from a master teacher. This was reserved for men.

The Mishnah, an ancient collection of Jewish teaching says, “Let your house be a meeting place for the sages and sit amid the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst.” So again, sitting at the feet of a teacher is the position of a disciple. But then it goes on to say just after this, “but talk not much with womankind.” (M ‘Abot 1:4;5).

In contrast to this, here, Jesus welcomes Mary as a woman disciple (as he does with other women in other places). And even though Martha, as we will see, tries to force her back into the traditional domestic role that women filled in that day – Jesus does not allow it.

We could say more on this part of the story, but our focus for today is on Mary as one who “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.”

v. 40 goes on, “But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’”

The portrait that we have here shows that Martha is very busy serving. And this is understandable given that the disciples were probably also in her home. She has quite a crew to feed and take care of. She is, no doubt, trying to keep up with the social expectations of the day for how you treat honored guests. And hospitality was a much bigger deal in ancient culture than it is in our day.

The word – “distracted” means “being pulled away” by something; to be overburdened with a matter. She was overburdened with all the work she had to do.

And this causes her to complain to Jesus – ‘Mary should be helping me with all this work! Tell her to get busy!’

vs. 41-42 end the story, “But the Lord answered her, ‘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 away from her.’”

Here Jesus also takes note of Martha’a busyness. He says, “you are anxious and troubled about many things.” But instead of rebuking Mary, as Martha wanted, he gently admonishes her.  He teaches her that there is one thing that is necessary. What is this one thing? It is the “good portion” that Mary has chosen – sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his teaching.

This story gives us a lesson in priorities. Serving the needs of others is good, but listening to and learning from Jesus is better. Now, there is a time and place for both, and we are to do both. But here Martha has given higher priority to service, rather than listening to Jesus. This is her mistake.

Let’s step back now and look at the big picture. We have here –

Two sisters, who represent two approaches to Jesus

We have Martha who is busy. She is doing a good thing, but she has become overwhelmed by it all and her busyness produces some negative results:

  1. She becomes self-focused. Even though she is trying to serve others it comes back to her. ‘Jesus don’t you care about me? All the work I am doing by myself?’ You can see it in the pronouns – “Me, me, me.”
  2. She demands from Jesus, telling him what he should say. ‘Tell my sister to help me.’ Fix my problem with all this busyness that I have going on.

In contrast we have Mary who is not busy. She is not overwhelmed. And this bears forth good results:

  1. She is focused on Jesus. She is able to give Jesus her attention. Indeed she probably had forgotten all that needed to be done, because of her single-minded focus on listening to Jesus and soaking in his presence.
  2. She listens to what Jesus wants to say. Not telling him what he should be saying from her perspective. But listening to what he wants to teach.

I share all this with you today because, I think –

We are very much like Martha

1. We are “anxious and troubled about many things.” As Americans we value producing things; getting things done. We don’t value rest, calm, or being still. At least not as much. We always want to be doing things; things that produce results in a tangible or an economic way.

  • And so we are always busy with activities. There is always something going on, or better, multiple things going on which we have to choose between, or try to do both. Multi-tasking is standard fare now. These activities are connected to family, kids, work, school, our various social commitments, including church; a constant barrage of events.
  • We are busy going places. All of these activities require time spent traveling. We are always on the move.
  • We have busy minds. This has to do with keeping all of our commitments and schedules together, plus all that we take in from TV, radio and the internet. We are always plugged in. We become saturated with information, which leaves our minds spinning to try to process it all.

We are indeed “anxious and troubled about many things.” And we become “distracted” by all this from focusing on Jesus himself.

2. These are good things we are doing. It’s not like we are out wasting our time, being frivolous or useless or worse. Beyond what others may do, we also give our time to serve Jesus to work in the church and to serve the needs of people.

Again, just like Martha who was welcoming Jesus into her house, we are doing what is laudable; what is commendable. But . . .

3. The result of all our busyness is not good. Besides stress, sleeplessness, headaches and other physical symptoms – we become like Martha; we get overwhelmed, so that like her:

  1. We can become self-centered; only seeing what we have to do in the swirl of our activity and in our world. Even when we are trying to serve others. And we also try to include others in our busyness so that they are now anxious and troubled, like Martha tried to do with Mary. Our busyness and anxiety is contagious.
  2. We can become demanding of the Lord. We are too busy, but instead of fixing the problem of our over-committed lives by making better choices, we want the Lord to compensate for us to make things all work out right.  ‘Lord, fix this!’ We actually pray this way. We don’t act to fix the problem, we just want help to sustain or even increase our ability to be busy.

Instead of all this –

We must learn to be like Mary

She had her priorities straight. Out of all the things that she could have been doing, and by social expectation should have been doing –

  • she “chose the good portion” – v. 42
  • she got “the one thing” that is “necessary” – v. 42

She “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” – v. 39. She spent time in the Lord’s presence and just took it in.

Be honest. How often in the busyness of your life do you truly sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teaching? Where you enter into the Lord’s presence and learn his way? Is there time in your busy schedule? When there is a small bit of time are you really there, or still busy of mind?

This is a question of priorities. As good as all that you are doing may be, nothing is more important than being with the Lord and learning from him.

If you don’t have time to sit at Jesus feet, then you need to reevaluate your life, because your priorities are out of order. To say it simply –  if you are too busy for Jesus, you are too busy!

May we all learn from Mary’s example and Jesus’ teaching and act to make things right. So that we make the hard choices we need to make to spend time with Jesus.

William Higgins

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As we approach our baptism and recovenanting service on May 19th I would like to share the next two Sundays on two particular parts of our church covenant, that deal with two important aspects of our Christian lives. And today we begin with a focus on Christian fellowship.

Let’s take a look at the section of our church covenant that we are dealing with today: “We commit to love each other – to be gentle, kind, compassionate, honest and forgiving with each other; to humbly serve, encourage, teach and pray for each other; to meet together regularly”

I have three points this morning on these themes and more broadly on the topic of Christian fellowship.

1. We are related to one another in the Lord

In fact, we are a new family. Let’s listen to this story from Mark 3:31-35. “31And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ 33And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Jesus makes the point that he and his disciples form a new family, that is different than a natural family. It is a family made up of those who believe in him and do God’s will as he teaches this.

And although Scripture teaches us that we have clear obligations to our natural family and hopefully we have very close connections to them, as we see here, ultimately our faith family is more important than our natural family.

More specifically, Jesus says in Matthew 23:8 – “ . . . you are all brothers and sisters.” The word “brothers” as it is used in the New Testament, most often refers to both men and women, so we can say here “brothers and sisters.”

So in this family we are all brothers and sisters, and Jesus is the eldest brother (Romans 8:29) and God is our Father (Matthew 23:9). We are part of a huge family that extends throughout the world. And then we are a part of an extended family of believers here at Cedar Street. And every Sunday that we gather its like a family reunion.

Now, it is interesting to me that when Jesus speaks of the kind of relationship we have with one another, he highlights this idea of being siblings and not, for instance, being friends. And that’s because the relationship of siblings is more open. It is not based on similarities in interests, and personalities that click; it is based on a common relationship to Jesus and the Father.

Also, the relationship of siblings is more durable . Friends can disagree and not be friends anymore, but siblings are always siblings, at least on some level.

So we are related to one another as siblings, and this is the basis of our fellowship with one another, but –

2. How should we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord?

Well, just as brothers and sisters (in a good, healthy family) watch out for one another, take care of one another, help each other out, so we are to do the same as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Let me give you a number of examples from the New Testament that fill this out in terms of our faith family.

We are to:

  • “love one another” – John 15:12. And Jesus give himself as the example here of what love means. We are to love as he loved.
  • “love one another with brotherly affection” – Romans 12:10
  • “serve one another through love” – Galatians 5:13
  • “seek to do good to one another” – 1 Thessalonians 5:15
  • “lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” – 1 John 3:16, sacrificing for each other’s well-being.
  • “be kind to one another” – Ephesians 4:32
  • “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” – Romans 12:15, as we walk with each other through life’s good times and hard times
  • “pray for one another” – James 5:16
  • “bear one another’s burdens” – Galatians 6:2, that is, when another is struggling or weak
  • “show hospitality to one another” – 1 Peter 4:9
  • “clothe (ourselves) . . . with humility toward one another” – 1 Peter 5:5
  • “outdo one another in showing honor” to each other – Romans 12:10
  • “submit to one another” – Ephesians 5:21
  • “bear with one another in love” – Ephesians 4:2
  • “forgive each other” – Colossians 3:13
  • “be at peace with one another” – Mark 9:50
  • “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom” – Colossians 3:16
  • “encourage one another, and build one another up” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • “exhort one another” the verse says, “every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:13
  • “stir one another up to love and good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24
  • “serve one another” with the spiritual gifts that God has given us – 1 Peter 4:10

So this is a portrait of what our relationships are to look like, as we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord; as we share together in Christian fellowship.

3. We need to spend time together

And that’s because, as in any example you want to talk about, relationships require time. Without investing time in each other’s lives, you can’t receive the love and support you need to help you along in your Christian life. And just as importantly you can’t give to others the love and support they need.

Hebrews 10:24-25 makes this point. “24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In the middle of saying “stir one another up” and “encourage one another” the writer says, don’t neglect to meet together. We have to be together to do these kinds of things.

Also in the book of Acts we see a thriving New Testament church, which is a model for us. And they certainly spent time together. Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They were together doing all these things. Acts 2:46 goes on to say, “And day by day, [they were] attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes . . .”

My desire for our church is that we have a deep and caring community here. Churches can have varying levels of fellowship, and what I want for us is that we continue to grow in this area more and more.

But I have two concerns. The first concern is that the Sunday morning service is not enough. I guess different ones of you will have to make your own evaluations. But certainly if the Sunday service isn’t enough, we do have some other options:

  • There is Sunday school, but this is usually more study focused.
  • We have youth groups for the youth.
  • We have share groups – and I wish that more would or could be a part of these. I would be happy to start a new one if there is interest. There is also the idea of having one during the Sunday school hour.
  • We can invite each over to our houses more and more.
  • We also have a “fun and fellowship team” to plan events for our Christian fellowship, but currently no one is on it! So we need some help here.

Just briefly, my second concern is that we set aside the time needed to invest in each other’s lives. And this is a challenge with our busy lives of overscheduling and constant stress. We need to work on this. Such busyness not only keeps us away from each other and therefore weakens our relationship with each other, it also distracts us from giving proper time to our relationship with God.

So, let’s remember who we are. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord. And let’s live this out in how we relate to one another. And let’s create the space and time we need to be able to be true brothers and sisters in the Lord together.

William Higgins

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