August 9, 2022

Faithful Listening and Dedication 17-07-2022

17th July 2022 (Pentecost 6)
Sermon Title: Faithful Listening and Dedication
(Colossians 1:24 – 29 & Luke 10:38 – 42)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

Today’s text focuses on Jesus’ teaching about the importance of grounding our lives in faith. Martha and Mary are important to Jesus. Jesus and the disciples come to their village and are welcomed, invited into their home, and provided with food and fellowship. Mary places herself at the feet of Jesus rather than taking the culturally assigned role of providing the physical necessities of hospitality. It was a surprising turn of expectations in those times, because the spot was the traditional place for the male disciples of a teacher at that time. However, Jesus affirms Mary’s choice to learn from him. 

To those who perceive God at work in Jesus, there is much more going on than normal observers. Jesus is the promised Messiah who will reign all over the world with God’s never-ending love. Mary’s insight into Jesus’ mission shows one thing that is needful for a disciple of Jesus – hearing and responding to the word of God.

We are called to listen to God’s word, and then let it shape our lives each day. In God’s reign, Christ is our centre and holds all together. Which customs and traditions are blocking us from faithfully listening and responding to God’s word? In what ways are our faithful listening and dedication demonstrated and conveyed in our faith journey? May we place Jesus in the centre of our life by reflection on Christ and the way of God’s reign.

When Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made, her speech was centred on herself rather than Jesus. Though she refers to Jesus as ‘Lord’, she was concerned to engage his assistance in her plans rather than Jesus’ words or Maria’s needs. 

Sometimes people’s needs can be out of focus and misplaced. Even Christians are dedicated to fulfilling the world’s expectations rather than Jesus’. At the crossroads of decision making, Martha had chosen necessary hospitality and social obligation, but Mary made the choice to hear Christ’s Word. Jesus would not take away from Mary the blessing and opportunity. Life has one essential need to hear and obey the Word of God. 

Martha needed to change her priorities or at least had to admit that Mary’s choice was a better part to Mary’s faith status and her life. In today’s text, Jesus’ commendation and his approval of Mary who did “the one thing needful” are heard. On the other hand, Jesus called Martha’s name twice and said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed.” Jesus did not point out that Martha’s service was wrong, because faithful dedication and hospitality are also significant. While Jesus is still honouring the choice she makes, He calls Martha to come closer to His word and reign.

Love for God is shown by devotion to his Word in the midst of life’s demands. Christ changes all priorities, cutting through our distracting customs. May we focus our life on God’s Word in any circumstance rather than social obligations. 

Jesus referred to Himself as “one who serves”, and Martha’s services were themselves manifestations of discipleship. In this instance, her problem lied in forgetting the fact that Jesus is Lord and guest, and her hospitality was distracted.

When anxiety in well-doing becomes the measure of our hospitality, then the church might forget Jesus who needs to be centre in our all gatherings. When Christ is proclaimed as instrumental or decoration to the church’s worships and events, then the community might cease to attend to the Word that first called it into being. Focusing on Jesus and listening to the word of God need to be priority in our precious services and all events.

Martha represents the ministry of diakonia, and Mary represents the ministry of the word. Faithful listening from Mary and faithful dedication from Martha help us understand the development of the ministry of diakonia and the ministry of the word. The ministry of service and the ministry of the word require each other.

In our busy lives, we can perhaps easily relate to Martha, who seems to be working hard while her sister Mary is “just sitting” and listening to Jesus. Many people will be coming to worship with a sense of being overwhelmed by busy situations. However, it will be important in worship to find ways to move through all circumstances, to stop sometimes, take a deep breath, and celebrate the presence of Jesus who seeks to enter our hearts and our lives each day. It is not about problem solving, it is about listening and dedication. May we focus on the presence of God rather than earthly busyness and glorify God by listening, praising, praying, and faithful dedication.

Colossians 1 puts Christ at the centre of everything. The universe came into being because of the action of God in Christ. The universe is being reconciled to God through Christ. When Paul says he is filling up what is still lacking regarding Christ’s afflictions, he is not saying that Jesus’ suffering on the cross was insufficient. Paul had encountered suffering. Yet Paul was able to rejoice in what he suffered. He was enduring suffering on behalf of Christ. The world hated Jesus Christ; and now they persecute His followers. Paul was willing to suffer on behalf of the church because he saw himself as the church’s servant. God gave him a commission to proclaim the gospel, and suffering was included with the commission.

In the dark and confused world, knowing the truth about the power of the gospel and the person of Christ is the believer’s best protection against deception. Jesus Christ lives in all who trust him. Not only does Jesus live in us; he is our hope of glory. Christ is the centre of everything, and ministry is the hard work of bringing all believers to maturity in Christ. Paul’s aim in enduring the suffering and hard work is to present everyone mature in Christ. May we hear and respond to the word of God and become mature in Christ. 

I believe that all your hard work and services are motivated and enabled by God’s energy, which so powerfully works in us, our church, and all faith communities. The goal of spiritual experience is not to chase the spiritual trends, it is spiritual maturity.

The Lord calls us to focus on Him when we gather on Sunday, to move from our place of being worried and distracted by many things to one where we listen to and obey God’s word, the good part that will not be taken away. There we will connect with the source that brings both peace and energy to all our ministries and services.

Healing and recovery come from unexpected places, and hospitality is reciprocal in this wounded world. May we experience God’s healing and recovery in this broken and wounded world by faithful listening to Jesus and mutual hospitality. God’s living word and mutual services provide us with transformative power. May we experience mutual respect and recognition in the love of God.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)