This was the first of three Sundays where I was at the Mulberry (KS) and Arma (KS) United Methodist Churches. This was the 8th Sunday after Pentecost and I used 2 Kings 4: 8 – 17, Colossians 1: 21 – 29, and Luke 10: 38 – 42 as the Scriptures.
I was reminded of the story about the two vultures sitting in the tree where one vulture turns to the other and says, "I am tired of waiting; I’m going to do something." Waiting is part of life for vultures, for they could not survive otherwise.
But waiting is somehow not in our makeup. Occasionally, our lives are made enjoyable because we are impatient. The excitement of the Indiana Jones movies comes from the transition between scenes as Indy is caught in one predicament after another.
Still, for the most part, we do not find it convenient to wait. Our news and view of life is based on sound bites, short scripts that we can ingest. It is said that the average attention span is around 15 minutes. If a politician wants to make a point, it has to be done in less than 15 minutes or we lose interest. A great deal of time and money has gone into the "fast food" industry. If we are in a hurry to eat at home, we "zap" things in the microwave. And if our lives are rushed so much that we don’t have time to even microwave things, then there are businesses which will deliver a complete dinner to your door (though I don’t know such a business here in the Pittsburg area).
Our impatience even enters into our church life as well. Many a pastor is judged not on the content of his sermons but only on the length of the message. Fortunately for me, as one of my preacher cousins has told me, my sermons are just the right length. But sometimes in our own church services, we begin to watch the clock rather than listen to the words. And many times we find ourselves saying, "I can’t come to church today but I will be there in spirit." Sometimes we can’t come to church. We might be on the road traveling (though I would hope you go to church somewhere) and I don’t think a person who is physically exhausted should come to church. But too often, when we get up on Sunday morning, it is that little ache which keeps us from going to church.
We find ourselves trapped in a paradox. Society demands a pace that we often cannot maintain and we find ourselves seeking a moment of rest. Yet, while Sunday was meant to be a day of rest, it was also meant to be a day of celebration of God’s presence in our lives.
So while Sunday still serves as the day of rest, we find ourselves too weak to celebrate. And when we begin losing touch with those things that give life meaning and purpose, then all the work and pressure put on us by society begins to takes it tolls. Jesus asked to consider the pace of our lives when he said "What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?"(Luke 9: 25)
Consider the Gospel message for today. Martha is busy in the kitchen and dining room getting dinner ready. This is a formidable task because there was a few more guests than normal and she wanted to make a good impression. Wouldn’t we all, especially considering who was visiting.
But there was Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, along with the other disciples. Consider how Martha felt, trying to get everything done, with more things to do than there was time and what was her sister Mary doing just sitting there listening to Jesus.
No wonder Martha exclaims "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me."(Luke 10: 40)
But, what does Jesus tell 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." (Luke 10: 41)
Jesus’ message is that our relationship with God and the time we spend with him is more important than whatever else we might do. This message suggests that we change the way we behave in society.
Human nature in Jesus’ time was no different from human nature today. In our rush to get things done, we miss the important parts of life. The prophet Amos said to the people of Israel, "Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it." (Amos 8: 12)
I think that was what Paul was trying to tell the people at Colossae.
And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him — provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. (Colossians 1: 21 – 22)
Even with their faith in Christ, they were having trouble understanding when the promise of a life in Christ would come. Paul was cautioning not to turn back to their previous live because they did not see immediate results and to never lose hope, even if it meant waiting for the Lord.
When we turn to God in prayer, we often find that our prayers are not answered immediately. Often times, we are not prepared to hear the answer. Perhaps we did not hear the answer because we were too busy. We must pause in our daily, not weekly, lives so that we can hear His answer. In the resource that I use for my daily devotions comes the following
Complete serenity of mind is a gift of God; but this serenity is not given without our own intense effort. You will achieve nothing by your own efforts alone; yet God will not give you anything, unless you work with all your strength. This is an unbreakable law. ”The Art of Prayer”
While we may not understand the time frame that the Lord works on and we may find it very hard to wait, we know that there are rewards for what we do. The Shunammite woman offered to help Elisha and the reward for her help was a son, even though she and her husband probably felt they would never have children. Her waiting was rewarded. It is hard to tell but if Martha had taken time to hear what Jesus was saying, when He was done, everyone there would probably have pitched afterwards and the dinner would have come out okay.
Now I will not be the first pastor who has ever said this, nor will I be the last to do so. And I know that there are those who already start each day dedicating the work of that day to the Lord. Still, I want to remind you, as you go through this week, to take a few moments to enter into prayer. And when life gets a little hectic, stop and ask yourself "Are you waiting for the Lord?"