Taking Our Worries to God – Sermon for July 17, 2016

Taking Our Worries to God – Sermon for July 17, 2017

NOTE:  There is no audio at this time when guests preach.

9th Sunday After Pentecost
July 17, 2016
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Luke 10:38-42
Jane Jakoubek, Preaching

The holy Gospel according to Luke, the 10th chapter:

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.

The Gospel of the Lord!

Like most people I know, I can’t get the images from the news reports out of my mind…Orlando, Dallas, Syria, France…the list goes on and on. The hatred, violence, and suffering leaves us reeling, off-balance, unnerved…and yes, frightened, worried, uncertain about what we could do that would make any difference. And these things come on top of the usual round of things that make daily life complicated and challenging—concerns about health, our loved ones, responsibilities we have at home or work or beyond.

In the midst of all this, our Gospel comes to us in a simple story. Jesus is visiting the home of his friend, Martha. Making her guest feel welcomed leaves Martha overwhelmed, distracted by the many tasks that are involved.

Many of us know how she felt. Haven’t we found ourselves overwhelmed by everything that is in front of us? Martha doesn’t suffer or fume in silence; she seeks help. She wants Jesus to notice; “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” She wants Jesus to pay attention to her, to see everything that is piled on her, and to care about it. Then she gets directly to the point, “Tell [my sister] then to help me.” Many of us have lived out this scene in our own lives. Haven’t we found ourselves trying to get someone to pay attention to us and to come help us?

This is where Jesus comes into the story. Jesus doesn’t ignore her. Jesus doesn’t get angry. Jesus doesn’t judge her. No, Jesus calls her by name, “Martha, Martha!” Can’t you hear the deep compassion of his heart reaching out to the deep pain in her heart?

And then Jesus tells Martha what he sees; “you are worried and distracted by many things.” These may seem ordinary words until you contrast them with how Jesus names what he see in other situations: he condemns the scribes and Pharisees for standing and praying where others will see them or giving alms in a way that calls attention to themselves; he tells the woman at the well that she has had five husbands and the man she is with now is not her husband. The Gospels show us a Jesus who sees through to our very hearts and lives, who knows what we carry in our deepest, most secret places.

When Jesus responds to Martha first with her name, we hear him speaking to her with the voice of God’s compassion and deep love. And when he names the condition of her heart, he doesn’t call her a sinner or a hypocrite—he says “you are worried and distracted by many things.”

What’s wrong with being worried and distracted? After all, isn’t that a place that most of us find ourselves now and again, if not chronically? We have so many responsibilities; the daily news brings all the problems of our troubled world to our attention over and over. How can we NOT worry? And with so much going on, how can we NOT be distracted?

If Martha reminds us of ourselves and we too often find ourselves worried and distracted, then Jesus’ words are as much for us as for Martha. When Jesus points Martha away from worry and distractions, where does he point her? Jesus tells Martha, “there is need of only one thing.” One thing. One thing! Jesus is saying to focus on the one thing that we really need. How does Jesus tell Martha—and us—what that one thing is? He points to what Mary is doing…listening to him. She is focused on God’s message for her in this moment.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t tell Martha that preparing food, serving guests, and cleaning up are not important. After all, Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding feast and fed a crowd of 5000. Jesus teaches his followers that God knows we need food and clothing. What Jesus is trying to get Martha and all of us to understand is that when we focus on him—focus on God—then God will provide.

This is where prayer comes in. Prayer is the bridge between us with our worried and distracted lives and the God who created and loves us. Every time we find ourselves worried about something, we have a God who is ready to help us with it. Every worry is an invitation to pray:

Lord, keep my children safe as they travel this summer.

Lord, be with the families of the Dallas police officers.

Lord, be with the African-American community.

Lord, show me what I can do when I am around people who are filled with fear and hate.

Lord, give me the courage to speak up when I hear immigrants or gays or blacks put down.

God doesn’t care about the words we use or whether the prayer sounds like the prayers we read in church. God wants us to speak from the deepest places in our hearts about the things we care about most. It can be a quick sentence, “Lord, let me get home safely tonight,” or it can be a longer pouring out of the deepest ache of our heart, the kind of prayer where we talk to God the way we would talk to our most caring friend. Ask God to take the situation and care for it, bring healing, bring hope, bring peace. The Jesus who responded in love to Martha will respond in love to you.

And if we take our worries to God, we can do the same with those distractions. Lord, I am getting distracted right now by everything I have to do today. Help me to see your face in the midst of all the people I’m going to be encountering. Let me hear your voice leading me today. Lord, help me to focus on the work you want me to be doing right now to bring healing, compassion, your love and peace to this moment, these people, this situation.

Last Sunday, Pastor Amy showed how the story of the Good Samaritan speaks to us in the midst of racial hatred and violence. Today’s Gospel adds to that, showing us a God who is waiting for us to share the worries and distractions that weigh us down.

Let’s close with a prayer for the week ahead: Lord, you know are minds and hearts are weighed down by so many things. Help us to hear your invitation to bring them to you. Help us to bring them to you as easily as we would our closest friend. Help us to know you are listening. Help us listen to your voice leading us forward through everything that surrounds us. Thank you, Lord, for being with us this week. Amen.