What’s Important?

What’s Important?

mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen.

of us are familiar with the account of Mary and Martha in today’s
Gospel. Jesus had set His face to go to Jerusalem and Mary and
Martha’s house was on the way. No doubt there was much to do
when Jesus dropped by on His way to Jerusalem. After all, He traveled
with quite an entourage, larger even than those of some egomaniacal
NBA stars and questionably-talented recording artists.

was busy serving. Mary, on the other hand, was busy learning from
Jesus instead of helping Martha. Martha saw this as laziness on
Mary’s part. She asked Jesus to rectify the situation.
She expected Jesus to tell Mary to lend her a hand.

surprise in all this—especially to those in this world who think religion
is all about what you do for God—is that Jesus praised Mary and scolded
Martha. “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.”

again, we see Jesus turning everything upside down. You see, rabbis
in first century Palestine did not have women disciples. It just
wasn’t done. Nevertheless, here is Mary learning from the master
rabbi and, wonder of wonders, He does not send her away. In fact,
He commends her for wanting to learn more about the Kingdom of God.
We can’t appreciate how revolutionary this was because we live in
culture that encourages both men and women to get all the education
that they can get. This is one of many events that show us that
Jesus isn’t influenced by the culture of any time or any place.

clear message in Jesus’ words is that listening to Jesus is far more
important than feeding Jesus. More significantly, listening to
Jesus is more important than anything else we do. Listening to
Jesus is the most important thing we can do because His words give us
salvation. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Romans:
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing
through the word of Christ.”
[Romans 10:17] The
words of Christ work faith and it is faith that receives the blessing
of salvation.

our fallen, sinful world, there are times that the urgent takes precedence
over the important. People do get sick on Sunday mornings.
Accidents and other catastrophes can come our way on Sundays.
Not only do these things stop people from listening to Jesus on any
given Sunday, but they also require some medical personnel and emergency
responders to be on call on Sunday. The world is what it is and
things sometimes prevent us from listening to Jesus.

let’s be honest: Is an urgent situation the reason that most
people miss out on Jesus? How many people miss out on Jesus because
it is easier to get a tee time on Sunday? How many people miss
out because they stayed out too late on Saturday night? How many
people miss out because they have guests—maybe even unbelieving guests—and
are literally in the kitchen just as Martha was? How many people
miss out because it is a good day for swimming, boating, or picnicking?

from church is a clear indication that something is more important to
us than meeting with Jesus and getting His gifts. Figuratively
speaking, we are staying in the kitchen or wherever else we might be
with Martha. Meanwhile, Jesus is preaching and teaching in the
other room.

can speak with absolute confidence when we say that what happens in
the Divine Service is more important than what happens anywhere else.
Church is where Christ proclaims His message—the same message that
He gave to the seventy-two who went out ahead of His face, “The
kingdom of God has come near to you.”
[Luke 10:9] The
Kingdom of God comes near when the Holy Spirit works through the Word
of Christ to rescue sinners. That only happens when that Word
is heard.

is in church that we sinners hear the Gospel: That God loved us
so much that He became fully human like us. In His love for sinners,
He lived the perfect life that we can not. In His love for sinners,
He suffered the pain of hell as He hung on the cross forsaken by God
the Father. In His love for sinners, He died. His perfect
life and sacrificial death provided forgiveness and righteousness for
all mankind—you, me, and everyone of all times and all places.

guaranteed and sealed all these things by rising from the dead and ascending
to rule at the right hand of God the Father. Those who believe
in Him for the forgiveness of sins will live with Him forever.

is about Christ and there can be no Christianity without Him.
He is not only the most important thing that has ever happened to the
world, but all other things shrink to nothing compared to Him.
Only Christ remains with you throughout life and even into—and beyond—your
death. Only Christ has made a pathway through death into eternal
life. Mary knew this. Apparently, Martha did not—at least
not at that time.

was nothing intrinsically wrong with Martha’s activity. It was
simply wrong at that time because Jesus was there, teaching in the other
room. There are certainly many good and wonderful things to do
in this world. There are many things that God has given us to
do for the benefit of our neighbor, too.

even our best works become evil if we use them as an excuse for not
listening to Jesus and receiving His gifts.

is dangerous to ignore Jesus and reject His gifts. We are like
batteries. A battery can hold its charge for a short time, but
if it is used without being recharged, it will eventually lose its power.
In a similar way, our faith can continue for a short time, but it will
eventually die if it is not recharged with God’s gifts.

gives us the blessings of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation with
His gifts. The Holy Spirit has promised to come to us and sustain
our faith in the Word of Christ. We receive that word as we hear
it and read it. We receive that word with the water of Holy Baptism.
We also receive that word by mouth as the body and blood of Jesus Himself
enter us in the Lord’s Supper.

Word of God promises that the Holy Spirit will work in these gifts.
We have no promise that the Holy Spirit will work in any other way.
These gifts are so special that we have given them a special name.
We call them, “The Means of Grace.” Without the Means of Grace
our faith will fade and die.

clear point of the account in today’s Gospel is that listening to
Jesus is more important than anything else. There are some who
say it would be a lot easier to have faith (or a stronger faith) if
they could personally listen to Jesus. That is the reason that
the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write this Gospel—and inspired the
other evangelists, the prophets, and the apostles to write the rest
of the Holy Scriptures: So that we could listen to Jesus.
Jesus does not come to us in our walks through the woods or in our visions
or dreams, but in the words of this book as we hear it and read it and
meditate on it.

the Gospel lesson a couple of weeks ago, Jesus Himself said:
“The one who hears you hears me,
and the one who rejects you rejects
me, and the one who rejects me rejects
him who sent me.”
[Luke 10:16] With these words, Jesus
Himself promises that when we hear the faithful preaching of God’s
Word, we are listening to Him. With these words, Jesus also tells
us that we ignore faithful preaching at our peril.

is a theological term that applies to today’s Gospel. That term
is “Gospel Imperative.” A “Gospel Imperative” is something
that sounds like a command, but is really something we already want
to do. For example: A hungry family has been milling around the
house for an hour waiting for something to eat. Finally, the cook
sticks his head out of the kitchen and hollers, “Come
and get it!”
Strictly speaking, this is a command. However,
no one says, “Aw, phooey… now
I hafta go eat!”

Jesus tells us to listen to Him, it is a Gospel Imperative. As
we listen to Him, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith and we receive
forgiveness, life, and salvation. We hear Jesus speak through
the pastor’s mouth and say, “I
forgive you all of your sins.”
We are present in the home
of Mary and Martha and we hear Jesus say, “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.”

Jesus works through the pastor’s hand and mouth and says, “I
baptize you in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
At other times Jesus
works through that same hand and gives you a piece of bread and a cup
of wine and says, “The body of
Christ, given for you,”
and “The
blood of Christ, shed for you.”

is the purest Gospel as Jesus places all of Himself with all of His
forgiveness, comfort, and love into you. This is what Jesus wants
to give to us when He tells us that listening to Him is the most important
thing that we can do.

is impossible to be a “Lone Ranger” Christian for very long.
You can’t discuss the Word of God by yourself. You certainly
can’t baptize yourself. You can’t receive the body and blood
of your Savior by yourself. Jesus Christ has created His church
to be a gathering of people who come together to receive Him and His
gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write: “Christ
is the head of the church, his body,
and is himself its Savior.”
[Ephesians 5:23] How gruesome
would it be for someone to have a head and no body? Nevertheless,
some people do that very thing with Christ. They try to have Christ
without the Church. They try to have the Head without the Body.

the church is full of hypocrites and sinners, of which you and I are
poster children. Yes, it is sometimes difficult to get along.
Even so, the church is the place where Jesus reveals Himself to us and
showers us with His gifts. Let us take to heart the directive
that the Holy Sprit gives us in the book of Hebrews: “Let
us not neglect to meet together, as
is the habit of some, but encourage
one another, and all the more as you
see the Day drawing near.”
[Hebrews 10:24-25]

day does inevitably draw near, and I encourage you to continue to draw
near to the Lord each week, and to encourage others in your lives to
draw near as well. For Jesus is here for you; Jesus is here for
them; Jesus is here for those who are near and far off, to give His
gifts of faith, forgiveness, and salvation. In His Holy name,