Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Preoccupied with the Word. (Luke 10:38-42)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Dear Redeemed in Christ:
Imagine you are in line in a store with someone who replies to the question, "What do you do for a living?" with the answer, "I'm an investor."
Do you give this person a hug or a punch in the stomach? What thoughts and images run through your mind?
Is this an investor in pork futures or the stock market?
Is this an investor in gold bullion or junk bonds?
Some of us have been badly burned by investors. We are still trying to recover from the investments they proclaimed. We have become weary of anyone telling us to place all our eggs in their basket of opportunity for guaranteed returns.
But even if we turn and run when we are solicited to invent in a company or a product or a commodity or a financial derivative, we are all investors — even if we still hide 20 dollar bills in our mattress.
We are creatures who were created — wired — to invest in something — in someone.
The almighty maker of heaven and earth made us — to trust, to serve, to follow, to invest not only in the NASDAQ, but in the Almighty himself and the work of his hands (this world given to us to manage as responsible, thankful stewards).
And so we see ourselves and all those around us as investors who put their stock in some things that are "good, right and salutary" and some things that are deceptive, dangerous, and even deadly.
Look around. Some in our lives have invested themselves in saving the planet. Others have invested themselves in supporting the crown of creation by advancing medicines for smallpox and AIDS and malaria around the world.
But what about you? What do you find yourself investing in? Take a look at your calendar. Take a look at your checkbook. Take a look at how you spend your time and energy. Take stock of what would be the most devastating thing to loose.
What do you find yourself invested in?
The Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, the 10th chapter:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 ESV)
Martha had given in to investing in the things we are also tempted to give in to: the promise that if we are busy enough with our family, if we are busy enough with our kids, if we are busy enough with our friends or work — then we will earn for ourselves God's unending praise and a bigger crown in heaven than our neighbor down the street.
"But Martha was distracted with much serving."
Maybe it's happened to you recently as you extended an invitation to a family member, an across-the-street neighbor, a co-worker, a friend to join you for a Bible study here at Redeemer. "Oh, I would love to come." is the response. "But I'm so busy. I have to …" and then the un-ending list of this world's demands.
That's where Martha had ended up. The "have to's" of her life. The "have to's" of being the perfect host for Jesus and his salvation.
Maybe this morning you find yourself caught up in the un-ending "have to's" of life. The list that never gets shorter. The demands that never stop telling you it's all about your serving and your doing and your investing in your friends and work, in your family and your church family — and in your Savior and Lord.
Yes, we are called to serve our families. Yes, we are called to serve our community and friends. Yes, we are called to serve Christ and our neighbor-in-need. But as Martha learned the hard way, investing — serving others — must take its proper place.
Because God in Christ calls us first to be preoccupied at the feet of Jesus. To hear and receive in a quiet and strong confidence his Word.
And that's something our old, fallen, all-about-me nature can't do, and will never do, and will always fight against.
What's the difference between the true, gracious, saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and the empty, imitation gospels of the world and all the world's religions?
That life-changing difference is to be seen in Mary's God-given understanding that when it comes to salvation's investment, the true Gospel, the real Messiah — redemption revealed by God in his Holy Word — it's all about — will always be about — God's own, from the heart, investment in you.
God invested all that he had in you, despite your fallen, rebellious, have-to-have-it-my-way nature. Despite your lack of understanding when it comes to how salvation actually works. Despite your daily transgressions against him and your neighbor.
Christ — his perfect life and sacrificial death in you place — is God's great and gracious investment in you, and the person sitting next to you and the person down the street from your home that is sleeping in this morning.
God gave up. God gave over. God handed over his precious, only-begotten Son into the hands of evil men — for you and your salvation. No pre-salvation negotiations or deal-making. God invests in you - simply because that is the kind of gracious, merciful, "always more willing to forgive than we are to ask for forgiveness" God he is.
With the eyes of faith, Mary sees that. She is content with that. She is quietly confident in believing that in Jesus and his redeeming Word, she is, right there and now, God's dear child and an heir of heaven — even when it comes to her response to his healing Word. That's why she keeps her eyes on her Lord and her ears open to his Word.
This morning Christ and his holy Word calls us to turn the table on the devil, the world and our old, sinful flesh and see Christ as God's saving investment, and his Cross, his sacrifice for us, his Word as our only comfort, our only certainty, our only solid rock and defense.
As weak and sinful people, we confess finding ourselves too often believing it's all about our service and our work and our investing that makes heaven smile upon us.
But Christ calls us to daily remember our Baptism and continue to sit at his feet.
Because without his abiding presence, without his life-changing Word, our homes are mere houses, our congregation is just a social club, and the Bible is just another handbook for moral living.
Without Christ and his Word, water at the font is only water. Bread and wine from the altar is just bread and wine. And Sunday morning is nothing but a parade of our great works.
Only when we respond in faith to the Word of Christ as he comes in the Scriptures, as he comes in Baptism, as he comes in his holy Supper, can we get a glimpse into heaven's take on being truly free to invest in, to serve our neighbor selflessly, for the sake of our neighbor.
Do you want to give something to Christ? Do you want to invest in his salvation? Then come and give him — your many sins. Because Christ and his Word is the only redemption that can never be taken from us.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit