My First Sermon
Today I had the opportunity to preach for the first time ever. I know – crazy thought! Most people that end up in seminary, especially working for a seminary, have at some point in their life and calling had the opportunity to preach the word somewhere at some time.
Well I’ve had lots of opportunities to teach workshops, lead small groups, lead worship, and give talks, but I’ve never actually gotten the chance to preach the word. So part of my new position as Coordinator of Worship at Asbury includes preaching a short homily once a month at our Daily Eucharist services. Since I was brand new, I skipped September – so today was my first day.
We preach the Daily Office right out of the Book of Common Prayer for Daily Eucharist, so I didn’t have to come up with a text. I was given Luke 10:38-42, so here it is. Enjoy!
Last week I was listening to a leadership podcast by Andy Stanley. In this episode, he was talking about his experience with discovering what he called Key Stone Habits. Together with his leadership team, Andy had defined six habits that his team needed to regularly practice in the culture of their church. Then he invited the team to pick just one of those six habits, answering the question “If everyone would only ______, everything else fall into place.” The habits included “make it better”, “replace ourselves”, “Collaborate”, “take it personally”, “stay fit”, and “remain open-handed” – but he wanted each person to think about which one of these six would be so needed in their organization that if everyone made it a priority, all of the other five would simply and naturally fall into place.
So for instance: If everyone would only work to make it better, or if everyone would only take it personally, then all of the other habits would fall into place.
It’s interesting, the idea of one thing, that there could be just ONE THING of utmost importance that could lead all other things into their proper place.
So, in Luke’s passage today, Martha and Mary seem to have two very different responses to encountering Jesus. As we see in the text, Jesus and his disciples were passing through their village on their way to Jerusalem, and Martha chose to open up her home in hospitality. She encountered Christ and responded with a desire to serve and open up her home to him. Of course, being a faithful Jewish woman, it was most expected of her to show warm hospitality to guests, much more for a famous rabbi that everyone had heard about. So she set her hands to work.
You can just imagine her offering them water for their feet after a long day’s journey through the desert, oil for their heads, cleaning up her home, preparing a meal, or perhaps even a feast, for it wasn’t only Jesus but his disciples too, at least the twelve if not many more, and of course for her own family, as well.
All the while, her sister, instead of helping in the hospitality like a good Jewish woman would be expected to do, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus.
Verse 39 says that Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.” Now that statement is loaded with implications to unpack another time. But while Martha was busy doing her ministry of hospitality, which was a good thing, which was right and even culturally expected of her, Mary does something quite unexpected: she takes the posture of a disciple; she sits at Jesus’ feet to listen; she submits herself to his teaching and instruction.
Luke appears to be emphasizing two very different ways of responding to Jesus: the one calls Martha into action and service; the other that calls Mary to sit and listen, to discipleship. Mary is drawn to Jesus with a longing to sit at his feet, listen to his words, be attentive to all that he has to give in the short time he is with them.
Martha is drawn to action, to preparation and service – but the word used here literally means “to be pulled in all directions at once; absorbed; distracted.” There’s this feeling that Martha is just completely overwhelmed – (we never feel that way, do we)
And quite legitimately, Martha responds in her frustration – Mary! Why aren’t you helping me? This isn’t fair! Lord, do you not care?
Jesus’ response is simple: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted about many things”; basically, you are stressing yourself out, you are overcome with anxiety, but only one thing is needed.
Just like Andy Stanley envisioned the one thing, the one key stone habit that, if made a priority, would set everything else in order, Jesus identifies that one thing – Mary chose better.
Remember, what Martha was doing wasn’t wrong. Her ministry of hospitality was absolutely right, it was good, it was what was expected, her gift and ministry of hospitality – but still Jesus says that Mary chose better.
I think that Jesus is talking about key stone habits. Which one of these habits would work in such a way that if we made it the first priority in our lives it would lead all others to fall in line? I think that’s what Jesus really means by “better”; not that Martha’s calling to service and ministry through hospitality is any less than Mary’s calling to discipleship, but that sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to what he has to say, submitting to him, and being filled with His word and grace, this is the key stone habit – the one thing that, when made top priority in our lives, put first above everything else, allows all others to fall into place.
Perhaps Jesus is saying to Martha: Look at Mary – her priorities are straight. I know you’ve got a lot of work to do, and it is all good work; but first come. Sit with me. Listen to me. Be with me. Put your attention first on me. Let me fill you. Then, after putting first things first, go! Serve! Get into your busy day, start checking off your to-do list, pour yourself into your work, your studies. Then, I will go with you. Instead of anxiety you will have peace. You will have rest instead of stress.
In all the busyness of work, study, and life, put first things first. Let your time with Jesus be your Key Stone Habit, that when put first as a priority in life, it allows everything else to fall into place. Come and sit at the feet of Jesus. Come to his table and receive what he has for you today. And put your trust in Him, that all other things will fall into place. Amen.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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