Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 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.” 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.” Luke 10:38-42
Martha has good intentions. However, Martha is not just anxious and troubled, but also, she is mistaken. Martha is aspiring to be the perfect hostess and who can blame her? She has welcomed the King of kings and the Lord of lords into her home and feels the pressure to properly serve Him. Where Martha gets it wrong though is in thinking that she is the one who is to serve Jesus.
Lutheran Service Book contains psalms, orders of service, hymns and even Luther’s Small Catechism. Though most generally ignored, it also includes an introduction that lays out a brief but excellent theological framework for Christian worship. Here are a few excerpts that are particularly germane to the account of Martha and Mary:
Our Lord is the Lord who serves. Jesus Christ came into the flesh not to be served, but to serve and give His life as ransom for many…Our Lord serves us today through His holy Word and Sacraments. Through these means, He comes among us to deliver His forgiveness and salvation, freeing us from our sins and strengthening us for service to one another and to the world…The Lord’s service calls forth our service – in sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him and in loving service to one another.
(Lutheran Service Book, p. viii)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Martha’s desire to serve Her Lord. She just forgot that He was first there to serve her. Our homes are full of busy individuals, whose callings include much time for service through their vocations at work, home, church, and community. The foremost service though is not what we do for our family or employer or even our Savior, but the service that He offered to us on the altar of the cross and through the Word preached and the sacraments administered to us today. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit would strengthen us to not be distracted with our service, but to take time to sit at and listen to the Lord’s teaching. That is what happens in the Divine Service. Our Lord is the Host and we are His guests. He is the One who serves us with His gifts of forgiveness, life, salvation and strength for our daily lives. Having been served by God, then we are sent forth in service to God, our family, our neighbor and the world in response.
Prayer – Almighty and everlasting God, of Your great mercy in Jesus Christ You have granted us forgiveness of sin and all things pertaining to life and godliness. Send us Your Holy Spirit that He may so rule our hearts that we, being ever mindful of Your fatherly mercy, may serve You in holiness and pureness of living and may give You continual thanks for all Your goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan