July 17, 2016 – Our Master’s Voice
Do you remember the old corporate seal for the RCA Company? If you’re old enough and you know what they are, you may have seen it on some of their records. It pictures an old phonograph player with a big horn where the sound comes out. A dog sits in front of the horn listening intently, and below are the words, “His Master’s Voice.”
Listening to the Master’s Voice is what Jesus was emphasizing in the gospel lesson today during His visit to the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus feet listening to His Word while Martha was busy with much serving. Listen again to what Jesus said to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary set her heart on Jesus and His word of teaching. We too share Mary’s need and so we too with one heart set ourselves at Jesus feet to hear the Master’s Voice teach us. We share Mary’s need to hear the word of the Lord and for us that means taking time for bible learning.
When Martha confronted Jesus with Mary’s just sitting at Jesus feet and listening to Him and not helping her with all the serving, the answer Jesus gave Martha is not what she expected. Martha wanted Jesus to send Mary to help her, but Jesus knew that Mary and Martha both needed more of what Jesus was giving by His words than what Martha was preparing with all her running around the house and kitchen.
But, note that Jesus, when He does answer Martha, He does so with obvious love. When He repeated Martha’s name it’s like what a parent does when they’re gently correcting their own children. It’s significant that Peter remembered this detail of repeating Martha’s name because it reveals the love that Jesus shows His followers even when the need to correct them arises.
Sort of like in the Old Testament lesson today when the angel of the Lord corrects Abraham’s wife, Sarah when she laughs at the idea that at her age she would have the joy of having a baby.
So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”
It is the word of the Lord that brings us joy and even brings us unexpected joy and joy that we think is beyond our having or deserving. When we sit at the feet of Jesus and take in His word, through Bible reading, prayer and meditation on that word, we’re in a position to receive unexpected and undeserved joy.
You know that owning a Bible does a person no good unless they read it, study it, and meditate on it. There’re people who never read the Bibles they own. But instead they treat them like a good luck charm. They leave them sit out on a table or bookshelf to look at and hope it, somehow, sort of rubs off on them. Doing that is treating the Bible with superstition. The Bible’s not meant for that, but rather it’s to be dug into and spent time with so it can produce the fruitfulness in a person’s life God wants to give us.
Owning a farm doesn’t make a man a farmer. He’s a farmer only if he cultivates the land and harvests the crops it produces. The same thing bears out with the Bible also. What it is that Mary was given at Jesus feet is still there for anyone who will take the time to sit and read scripture. Then, like the farmer who’s rewarded with fruitful crops in due season after planting and watering the soil, the one who reads the bible will also receive the reward of growing in the grace of the Lord.
Focusing on the Lord’s grace is the only way we have to give anyone the good news that God wants them to know. Which is, that God loves them. That message, as Jesus was trying to teach it to Mary and Martha today, only comes from taking time with scripture. You don’t first have to have full comprehension of God to study the Bible, but you do read the Bible to have an understanding of God and His love for you.
Understanding God’s love can only come from studying the Bible, because that’s how He’s chosen to speak to the world. And the promise of new life in His word is a promise for us like for Mary. What Mary had chosen, Jesus said, would / not / be / taken / away / from / her. When we do as Mary did, when we take time to focus on Jesus and His word, we too receive the reward of that same promise from Jesus. That God’s word will not be taken away from us.
As we enter into bible reading we realize that in that study-time Christ Himself comes and meets us. He serves us in bible study; we’re not serving Him. And that reminds us that; we can’t do anything for Christ without first receiving from Christ.
Jesus came and served us through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. As Paul pointed out in the epistle lesson today, 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
Jesus continues to serve us by giving us the promise of life everlasting, reconciled with the Father through the Holy Spirit because of what Jesus has first done for us in His own death and resurrection. When we come to communion, we receive that very promise into our by mouths by the presence of His body and blood. And that promise, He delivers to us by grace through faith alone.
When we forget that Jesus came first to serve us, we end up as Martha and not as Mary. In today’s lesson well-meaning Martha permitted her distraction and worry to keep her from listening to and hearing from Jesus. We place everything in our lives at the feet of Jesus and His Word. We should allow nothing, not even our service to Him, to separate us from Him.
Let me close with a story a woman told about her husband coming home from bible study. “One evening my husband sat himself down in his chair and told me about the series of questions he had answered in his Bible study for the day.” “Question one asked me to list the values most important to me,” he said. “I put my personal relationship with Jesus Christ as number one and with you, my wife, as number two. The second question asked me to list my free time activities. I put watching television, house and yard projects, and planning my work. When I got to question three, it asked me to compare what I had said was most important in my life to what I actually did with my time and to draw my own conclusions.”
When he did that, she said, he realized that the way he was spending his time didn’t add up with what he said was most important to him.
Maybe we could each try asking ourselves those questions sometime this week when we have a few minutes. What do I value? What is on my list of free-time activities? And what happens when I compare those things? Let those questions serve to remind us of how important it is to spend time in God’s word and listening to Him.
And we can do the same thing in our congregation. Let’s ask those questions when we’re planning things here. Are we spending our time on Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel?
Remember we started out today talking about listening to the Master’s voice. That’s what we do any time we spend time in scripture; we listen to our Master’s voice. Our Master’s voice gives us comfort and peace in the chaos and worry of this world. The voice of Jesus is the voice we hear in the Bible. Let’s each take time this week and, in the scriptures, sit at Jesus’ feet as Mary did, and receive there from our Master what He wants to give us… New Life through His word. In His name, amen.
Sermon #836 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Genesis 18:1-14
18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the round. 3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Epistle Reading Colossians 1:21-29
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Holy Gospel Luke 10:38-42
38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”