A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Life Together in Focus Sermon on Luke 10: 38-42 July 22, 2019

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, Utah on July 21, 2019.

Children’s Sermon: Have a hoola hoop, gather the children forward and have the hoola hoop laying on the ground. “We are going to pick this hoola hoop up with each of us only using one finger. Ok here we go!” Let them work together and see if they can do it. Offer hints and help if necessary. Once they have it lifted to waist level have them stop and hold it. “You did it! Working together and focusing on the same task, made this possible. Now that you have it lifted- I’m going to ask you some questions: If you don’t like to hoola hoop, or don’t know how, let go and step back. Ok come back and hold the hoola hoop again. If you like to read instead of watch tv step back. Ok come back. If you like to play outdoors more than video games step back. If you like video games more than playing outdoors, step back. What happens when we lose someone from our hoola hoop? It drops. We need everyone to keep it up off the ground don’t we? And despite the differences we just talked about-we all liked to do different things-we worked together to get the hoola hoop lifted. Our bible story reminds me of this working together, how we live together, even though we are different people. Martha and Mary were sisters who liked different things. Mary wanted to sit and learn from Jesus to show her love for him and Martha wanted to make sure that everyone had enough food to show that she loved Jesus. They both loved Jesus and both had good gifts to share. But Martha on this day, wanted Mary to be just like her and help serve and cook. And she was mad about it. Has that ever happened to you? When you wanted someone to like the same things and do the same things as you, but they wouldn’t? Yep. It’s happened to me! Martha was so mad that she told Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus knew that Martha loved him, and had many gifts as did Mary, but at this time was so worried about small details that didn’t matter, that she lost her focus on Jesus. Jesus reminds Martha that Mary is staying focused on what matters, Jesus, and so should she and so should we. Just like when we focused together to lift the hoola hoop, we can stay focused on Jesus by not worrying about who likes what, or is like us or different from us but how we work together to show Jesus’ love in the world. When we focus on Jesus, this is what we do. We focus on Jesus’ message of God’s love, grace and forgiveness for everyone. What helps you focus on Jesus? Prayer? Reading the bible? Helping people in need? This week say this blessing to one another in your house : +Jesus holds all people together in love+

A few years ago, I added yoga to my fitness routine mostly because as a distance runner, I needed something that would help me to stretch my tight hammies. And I need to work on balance. I have the grace and balance of a water buffalo, which is to say, none. I can trip and wipeout on a perfectly safe floor-and have! My mom recognized this in me at an early age and put me in every ballet class she could find but to no avail. I’m just not very coordinated. My mom used to say that I stood behind the door when God was passing out gracefulness. So, I took up yoga. What a train wreck I was at first. I would wobble and bobble, fall, look at certain poses and just laugh as there was no way that was ever going to happen. And I was certainly self-conscious. I would be trying to get into a pose and I would look up to see all the graceful people around me and inevitably, I would fall. The teacher would gently remind us all (probably mostly me) to find a focal spot and don’t look anywhere else to help you center. At first that didn’t even help me, as if I’m honest, I only focused on it for a bit and would become frustrated that I still wasn’t doing the pose like everyone else. The teacher would also say annoying things like “don’t compare yourself to others, this is your body, do what you can do and focus on that.” Sigh. You mean it’s not a competition to see who is the best at yoga? Mind. Blown. I kept going to yoga classes for some reason, even though I was uncomfortable, usually couldn’t wait for them to be over, and it only seemed to remind me of all my bodily weaknesses.

Then over time, something shifted. I started focusing on what I was doing and (mostly) quit looking around me at what other people were doing. When I did that, I could hold those uncomfortable and tricky balance poses. Now the second I looked over at the Gumby person on the mat next to me, I would fall. It’s all about focus, letting differences, competition, and worry, go. It’s about trusting in what God has given me, sinking into the promise that it’s enough, and that through Jesus, who I am is enough as are all the other people around me in that space. When I simultaneously focus and let go, not only in yoga class but in life and ministry, I can surrender to the flow of the Holy Spirit that surrounds me and us all that sweeps us up into what Jesus tells Martha is the only needed thing: Focusing on Jesus.

Focusing on Jesus seems so simple doesn’t it? We come to worship, we pray, we read the scriptures, the word of God, experience the Eucharist and then…we look up and get distracted and fall out of the balance of seeing people around us how Jesus sees them. We worry that not everyone looks like us, thinks like us, values the same activities that we value. We see other people’s differences as a problem or competition instead of a gift. We see change as threat and not as promise of a vibrant future. We see life together in a community as conflict and division and not beautiful diversity and unity.

The Martha and Mary story has been much maligned in interpretive history. It’s been touted as one sister is right and the other one is wrong, or as a model of discipleship for all women for some weird reason, or that Jesus is scolding Martha. But I would offer that those interpretations are not actually in the text. Jesus doesn’t tell Martha she is wrong in serving. After all, just a chapter before, Jesus sends the 70 out and tells them to rely on people like Martha for hospitality. And last week we heard Jesus say go and serve your fellow humans. No service isn’t the issue. Focus is. Where do you want to focus Martha? On other people? On details of lunch that don’t ultimately matter? On your anger and self-righteousness? Focus on me, Jesus says.

And what do we see when we focus on Jesus? We see what life together can look be. When we focus on Jesus, we begin to see people and creation through the eyes of Jesus, who sees us all as created in God’s image, as the beloved community. Not in sameness or homogeneity, but in a myriad of the diverse gifts needed to proclaim the kingdom of God in a world that is so set on the either/or of life instead of being open to a both/and mindset. Who’s in and who’s out, who’s like me, who’s different. When we focus on Jesus, we truly see each other and we see the truth of life together as the writer of Colossians stated in our reading this morning, verse 17 “[Jesus] himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Jesus holds all things-things we like and things we don’t like-together so that each day, we begin anew to let go of details, fears, worries, anxieties of changes, differences, what distracts us from loving our neighbor and proclaiming the good news of God’s love and grace. Jesus holds our tensions, holds the paradox and holds the mystery of life in the 21st century. Jesus holds our lives and holds us in life together, not for our own comforts and preferences, but so that as the people of God, our lives together through Christ make the word of God fully known to a world that is dying of division, anxiety and fear. Jesus holds us to each other and to God.

When we focus on Jesus, we witness the promise that began at creation: All creation in richness and diversity is good, humanity is very good and Jesus as Christ, the one who is, was and is still coming to us over and over for all time, holds us all together and hold us in the flow of the life  of the Holy Spirit and tethers us to the promises of God for abundant and eternal life, not someday but beginning today. So, we focus, we center our lives on the one needed thing for life together: Jesus. Amen.

 

Distractions, thank you notes and the one thing we actually need July 21, 2013

Filed under: sermon — bweier001 @ 6:33 pm
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Let me paint a picture for all of you of my last week. As you know I was away to Portland to run a half marathon and then on to Seattle to see my parents. I flew in late Monday night and needed to be early on Tuesday as I needed to connect with Pastor Rob before he left on vacation. So I had my head full of many details of church and home and on top of that I had scheduled for Tuesday a meeting with someone from the synod office for 11:30 which seemed like a good idea weeks ago but on Tuesday- not so much. I was on my way out to this meeting and I was running late, feeling like I didn’t really have enough time for this meeting and mentally going through all the things that I had to do for the week-including writing this sermon! I was busy, harried and focused on my own stuff. Then this caught my eye sitting on the table by the front door. Now being a former teacher anything with paint and glue immediately captures my attention. So I stopped for a closer look. I put down my purse and keys-even though I was running late- and really looked at these hand print flowers, the rainbow, the sun and the beautiful words of gratitude from the children of Brighter Future Learning Center. Then I took it to show Pastor Rob.
Now I don’t know if any of you have noticed but we have had some wonderfully meaningful, deep, thought provoking and Holy Spirit filled conversations here at LCM this summer about unity, worship, God’s mission and our participation in that mission. Many of those conversations have been fruitful, Christ centered and mission centered but some of them have been a bit distracted and busy with details. I am the first to admit that I easily get distracted by details and can lose the big picture. On Tuesday morning, Pastor Rob and I had just had a long staff meeting about many details here at LCM and my head was full from this conversation. Then I saw this poster. Just like that I was jolted into the central thing that we do here at LCM-love and serve God and the world. Our focus on this is crucial and while we don’t always get a tangible sign of that fact, on Tuesday we did.
Two weeks ago we opened our doors to this daycare not knowing if we had all the space or equipment that they would need. We didn’t have time for any real preparation and just had to go with the flow…… as did they. But we talked with them regularly, checking in and communicating with them, the Mad Science camp people who also use our space and the Green Mountain preschool director. We most certainly had some actions to take but we also had a lot of listening to do in order to be hospitable to all the people using the LCM building. We didn’t get hung up on the details but just moved forward knowing that the most important thing is that we provided care for these children and families in our community and communicated clearly that we are here for them.
The daycare didn’t care if we were the perfect space or not but were just glad that we were here and willing to help. LCM’s value to Brighter Future Learning Center families was not just in what we did, but simply in who we are in the Green Mountain community. And they are grateful for our presence and we are grateful for theirs. It’s been wonderful hearing children on the playground, getting to know the staff and parents and having the building not just full but full of life.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing,” says Jesus in verses 41-42. Popular to contrary belief about this story of the two sisters, Jesus is not scolding Martha for her tasks, her focus on gracious hospitality or her attention to detail-this is all part and parcel of how God created Martha and is good. Jesus is not elevating Mary over Martha-no in the Good Samaritan story last week we hear Jesus say, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus is clear that perpetual belly button gazing isn’t ok either. But Jesus is concerned that in all of Martha’s busyness and frustration with what Mary is doing or not doing that Martha is losing sight of the big picture-her relationship with God and others.
It’s very easy to lose sight of our relationship with God in our lives. We are told by our culture that working hard at our jobs, having a nice house for entertaining, or money for good food, that these things give us value to others. What can we offer someone else that is good enough? We work so hard to keep up the house, for instance, for visitors-cleaning it, pulling weeds or mowing the yard that when we do see our neighbor we often only have time for a head nod and a quick hi! What if we stopped and really asked our neighbors how they are? One of the lessons we all learned in Chicago was the importance of stopping and talking to someone instead of rushing by them. To hear someone else’s story, to share your own experiences and to pray with them and declare that God is present is powerful, connects us to one another through Jesus Christ and pulls us out of our own lives to walk alongside another child of God. Many of these people we talked to in Chicago did not have a job or a place of their own to live-yet they have deep value as a human created by God.
Or how often do we even as a community of God ( and I am talking about all churches) get distracted by the details of keeping up a building, making sure that we have certain policies in place, what kind of worship to hold and when, what color the carpets should be, what snacks should be offered and by whom, and a myriad of other details that we think gives us value to others when they walk in the door and we begin to focus on that as the most important thing. Is everything just right so that people will think we are worth getting to know? Now please hear that thinking of all of these details is not a bad thing-for it most certainly is not!!! But all have the potential of distracting and pulling us away from the need of one thing-to love The Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself-to offer real and authentic relationship to whomever God sends to us and whomever God has us encounter in the community. To welcome each other and all people regardless of what they say and do.
Reminders to get past the tasks-even good, missional tasks such as all the ways we serve our community here at LCM—- and move to forming relationships can feel risky, insecure and vulnerable in comparison to just doing an activity with familiar people in a familiar way. Jesus calls us time and time again to move out of our comfort zone to walk with those we know and those we don’t.
Jesus understands that it is easy for us to get stuck in the details of life and forget the one thing we need-God who loves us for who we are and not for what we do. I can get caught up in the doing and I need to be reminded every day that I have value not for the things that I do or say but for being a child of God. God wants you to be reminded of this fact as well-you are valued and loved simply by being who God created you to be. Jesus died on the cross and was raised again not for what we might do or say but for who we already are—-God’s beloved children. I need to be reminded of this over and over again and to hear Jesus voice saying, “Brigette, Brigette, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” Amen

Reflection stations-written prayers, font, card stock cross to write the things that distract you from God in your life to take home.