“Welcome! But I Don’t Have Time for You”
July 17, 2016
Rev. William Bills
Should a pastor be paid for prayer time? If I want to sit in my office for an hour doing nothing but pray, should I be able to count that toward my hours worked? I was once told by a priest that prayer is the art of doing nothing gracefully. If I am doing nothing gracefully, can I still pick up my paycheck?
Does spending time with the Lord produce anything? If I am not producing anything, wouldn’t that be like wasting time? Time is a precious commodity. Some even say time is money. If I am not actually accomplishing anything or producing something aren’t I just wasting my time, and maybe yours, too?
If you were here last week you heard my take on the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer was: love God and love your neighbor. The story about two sisters, Mary and Martha, follows the Good Samaritan story. It offers an answer to the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
We inherit eternal life by making time in our busy lives for those we love, especially Jesus.
I looked at several sermons on Mary and Martha this week. I consulted a few commentaries. Most of what I read tends to focus on Mary and Martha and how they responded to Jesus when he came into their home. Mary, of course, drops everything and sits at the feet of Jesus, hanging on his every word, giving him her full attention. Martha welcomes Jesus into her home and then goes directly to work, cooking and cleaning and fussing over many things.
Mary is described as the contemplative, spiritual side of Christian discipleship, taking time out from a busy schedule just to be with Jesus, focusing on what he has to say, quietly listening and thinking deep thoughts.
Martha is the disciple who gets things done. She is a worker. She produces results. Martha exemplifies those who do the work of the Lord. And she is distracted. Her to-do list makes her anxious. The thought of wasting time makes her nervous.
It bothers Martha that Mary isn’t doing anything. Jesus is in the house and there is a lot to be done and there sits Mary, doing nothing. Jesus is traveling with seventy others. They have been on the road. They need to be fed and Martha is going to make that happen. Martha looks out of the kitchen and there sits Mary, doing nothing.
Martha is one of those disciples who are so intent on producing results that she isn’t afraid to tell others what to do. Ever met any disciples like that? They know what needs to be done for Jesus, they are hard at work doing it and they are convinced that you aren’t doing enough! So they start telling you what to do and how to do it. They even pray that God will lead you to do more, faster.
I am thinking, too, that Martha is the oldest and Mary is the youngest. Oldest siblings are always ready to tell younger siblings what to do. Martha is so intent on getting things done that she even tells Jesus what to do: “Lord, don’t you care that I am the only one getting any work done here? Tell her to get up and come to the kitchen and help me!”
So are you a Martha or a Mary? We need both. The church needs people who get things done and the church needs people who cultivate a deep spirituality. We all need to be Mary and Martha, in balance.
So many sermons and so many commentaries focus on Mary and Martha. Who else is in the story? Mary feels great because she gets to sit at the feet of Jesus and hang on his every word. Martha gets things done but she feels overwhelmed by her to-do list. We might reflect on these two women and decide that we need to be a little more like one and a little less like the other.
This sermon could end right here. Except that I find myself wondering how Jesus feels. He gave Martha a gentle rebuke for being so worried about all the things she needs to get done. He seems to appreciate the fact that Mary is paying close attention to him. He affirms Mary for doing nothing gracefully with him. Is Jesus upset because Martha is telling him what to do. Mary is paying attention to Jesus but Martha wants to take Mary away. “Tell my sister to get up and get in here and help me in the kitchen, Jesus!”
How is Jesus feeling? Not too long ago, in chapter nine, verse fifty-one, Luke said that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. Jesus is going to the cross. His days are numbered. He isn’t going to be around for much longer. Mary is paying attention to Jesus. Martha wants to take Mary away because they have more important things to do.
He is on his way to the cross when Martha welcomes him into her home and then basically acts like she has no time for him!
Martha is probably a single woman and head of the household. There is no mention of a father or a husband. It is her house. She’s responsible for everything. It was scandalous for Jesus to accept the invitation of a single woman. He takes the risk of discrediting his mission for Martha. But he graciously accepts her invitation. He wants to have dinner with her in her house. So in he comes and she basically says to him, “Welcome! But I have no time for you! I don’t want my sister to spend any time with you, either. We have more important things to attend to. We aren’t going to be wasting any time on you, Jesus.”
Wow! Imagine Jesus coming to your neighborhood. Imagine seeing him on your street. So you invite him in and then say, “Here, Lord. Here is the TV remote. Make yourself comfortable. I have other things to do right now. I have to cut the lawn. Then I am going to clean the basement. Then I have to take the kids to soccer and then piano lessons. You’re welcome in my home. But I really don’t have time for you!”
Martha only got a mild rebuke.
We need Marys and we need Marthas. We are busy and we are spiritual. We need to get things done and we need to spend time with Jesus. We can’t say, “Welcome into my life, Lord. But I have no time for you. I am so busy.”
Here are some of things Jesus had done before he came to Martha’s house. He had performed several healings and an exorcism. He cleansed a leper. He calmed a storm. He fed 5,000 hungry people. He had raised two children from the dead and gave them back to their parents. Twice he told people he would be rejected in Jerusalem, and then he would suffer and die. He chose to go to the cross. Martha must have missed all that for she says, “Come into my home! Welcome! But I don’t have time for you!”
If you’re Jesus, what are you thinking? That is hardly radical hospitality. Martha invited Jesus into her life and then she didn’t have time for him. She couldn’t make time for him. Her to-do list distracted her from Jesus. If you are Jesus you might be thinking, “If you don’t have time for me why did you invite me in?”
I appreciate you taking the time to be here today. Your time is a precious. There are only so many days in a year, or a month, or a week, or a lifetime for that matter. Your time is precious. Thank you for taking time to come to church, to sing, to pray, to listen to a sermon.
We are all busy people. Even our children and grandchildren are busy people. Whether it is at church, at home, at work or anywhere else, many demands are made on our time. Retired people tell me that since they stopped working they are busier than ever. Older people tell me time goes by faster as they get older. Our time is precious. Jesus knows that. He doesn’t want it all. If he did he’d take you to heaven right now!
How does Jesus feel when we make time in our very busy and very important schedules to just be with him? He might feel overlooked if we are always too busy for him.
What must I do to inherit eternal life? Love God and love your neighbor. If we love someone we make time for them. Jesus is your neighbor, too!
Make time to pray. Make time to read your Bible. Linger over a story or a verse that touches you. Meditate. Think deep God thoughts. Make time to worship. Make some time to waste gracefully with Jesus. You will touch his heart. He will be grateful that you found time in your very busy and very important schedule and wasted it gracefully with him.
If we make more time for Jesus we might not be so anxious, so distracted, so stressed out about every other important thing in our busy lives.