Anyone here ever get distracted? I know my kids do, like all the time. We could be in the middle of a conversation, middle of a sentence even, and suddenly they are onto something completely different, like something funny popped in their head or some game tip that will help them beat whatever level they’re on in whatever game they’re playing, or something interesting passed their line of vision and that becomes the new hot topic. They really get distracted easily.
But don’t we do as well? I think anyone here who has a smartphone will know how easily it is to get distracted. Or anyone who has ever looked up a video on Youtube and glances over at the suggested videos on the side. Or anyone who has ever had to be focussed for more than like 5 minutes on anything ever, will know what it’s like to get distracted, especially if they’re a millennial.
It could be just glancing out the window and being distracted by how nice of a day it is outside, like I did a lot while writing this sermon. Or it could be your stomach growling and you think how nice it’d be to have some fried chicken in front of you right now, which is also something I did a lot while writing this sermon. Or it could be that an old friend walks into your office and you end up just chatting for hours when you really should be writing a sermon. Ok, that one didn’t happen to me as I don’t have any friends.
But distractions do happen all the time. They keep us from our work, they keep us from the task at hand, they take our focus off what it should be on, and we might procrastinate. We perhaps slack off. We probably will just leave the sermon-writing to the last minute and you get… you know… my sermons.
But those of us who are lucky might have a friend that can get us back on track. Perhaps a classmate or colleague who notices that you’re distracted and gives you a nudge back into the right direction. A spouse perhaps, who notices your blank glaze and gives you a swift elbow right into the ribs… that thorn in the side. Right there.
I think that’s what happening in today’s gospel story, with the very famous Mary and Martha sisters who end up being good friends with Jesus. Here we see that this their first encounter, and Martha as we know is very busy being busy, and Mary is seemingly distracted away from the work that needs to be done, and just sits there at the feet of Jesus.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I did what Mary did and if Martha who noticed was my spouse, I don’t think I’d ever hear the end of it. So Martha’s reaction here is completely understandable. I know I wouldn’t want to be the one doing all the work, and we know there is a lot of work to be done. They have guests and the list of preparations to be hospitable is endless. I mean the table needs to be prepared to have all the food on it, the food needs to be prepared before putting it on the table, the preparations for the preparing of the food need to be prepared before you can prepare the food! It’s endless!
And Mary is just chillin, laid back, with her mind on Jesus and Jesus on her mind. So Martha tries to remove Mary’s distraction, tell Jesus what the deal is, and that Mary really needs to get up and do her part in all the work.
And Jesus reacts in a way that I don’t think anyone expects. At least, not anyone who hasn’t read this story like a billion times already before. Jesus tells Martha that it isn’t Mary who is distracted, but Martha. Dun dun duuuuunnn….
But how can that be? Martha is the one who is working, she is keeping herself busy, she is focussed on the task at hand. How on earth could she be the one who is distracted?
Because, Jesus says, in the efforts to be hospitable, Martha isn’t being hospitable. In her attending to her guests, she isn’t paying attention to her guests. Essentially, she isn’t listening to Jesus. She is doing, she is acting, she is busy, yes, but she isn’t listening. Now, don’t get this story wrong, Jesus isn’t saying don’t be hospitable, don’t do stuff and don’t be busy. But know why you’re busy. Do things for the right reasons. Be hospitable out of the love and relationship you have for and with those you’re being hospitable to. Listen to Jesus and his calling for our lives, pointing us in the right direction, nudging us back on track, and elbowing us back into focus.
And that makes me wonder, how often do we listen, or not listen as it were? How often do we stop and see how life is sometimes the distraction so we need to take the time to just be? How often do we fill our days and weeks with doing and doing and doing and not remember what or who we’re doing it for?
These past few weeks have been extremely busy for me. Not only was I trying to stay on top of my daily tasks, but it was like there was an unusual amount of extra things that life kept throwing in the way. As a pastor, a dad, a so-called husband, there just seems to be no end to the list of things of varying degrees of urgency that need my attention.
But as I was writing this sermon, and I was being truthful about all those distractions, I found myself feeling so tired, so drained of energy, so unable to even think about what needs to be said. And it hit me. Actually, it spoke to me. Jesus, that is. At least I think.
I felt Jesus telling me to just relax. Be calm. And listen. Listen to the Word as it tells me about relationship. Listen to the sounds of community and worship. Listen as God speaks to me in the midst of the busyness, telling me that even if I can’t get everything done or even if I can get everything done but they aren’t absolutely perfect or if the best I can do is a sermon like this one, that I am still loved, I am still worthy, and I am still welcomed into the kingdom of God.
And that got me thinking about our church. Not just our congregation here at Grace, but our National Church, the ELCIC. It had its National Convention last week (that I forgot to update you all on), where much business was attended to. And one thing that is always talked about at these conventions is the issue around money. In that, we don’t have any.
Usually the presentation is all about doom and gloom and acting as a wakeup call for us to get our butts in gear, or at least our giving butts in gear, and pony up some money or we won’t have a national church in the near future. Then emphasis is put on all the work that the National Church does for Canada and the world, and what a shame it’d be if all those years of tradition just go down the tubes.
And that used to be scary for me, thinking that we might not have a church in the future, that we don’t have enough money to pay our national support staff, that our customs and traditions might be lost in the wind.
But in reflecting on this text, are we distracted by these money problems and not listening to Jesus? Are we too focussed on the future that we want, that we aren’t listening to the future that God is giving us and leading us in? Are we caught up in our own way of how things “should be” that we’ve lost sight of what, by God’s grace, the church could be?
Again, I’m not saying that Jesus is telling us to give up, but rather Jesus is asking us to listen. Listen to what Jesus is saying. Listen to what God is doing. Listen to how the Spirit is moving in and around us, bringing us joy, peace, and love, and showing us the all inclusive and welcoming kingdom to which we all belong, regardless of how busy our schedules are.
In this season after Pentecost, let us not forget our calling to be focussed on Jesus, God’s Word Incarnate, that we might move into whatever the future holds full of hope, peace, and reconciliation with God and each other, for the sake of God’s gospel. Thanks be to God. Amen.