Scripture - Luke 10:38-42
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, commends Mary for sitting at his feet, listening to his words: Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her. Like your friend Mary, we long to hear your word, Lord. Amen.
We live in a world of crazy reality TV shows with plenty of drama. Just take a look at The Bachelor, The Real Housewives series, or Love Island & you will see outrageous at its best. We have experienced political seasons play out as a divisive & outlandish spectacle – 2019-20 doesn’t look to change things much! And we live in the midst of financial instability & religious volatility. Yet, there is something deep inside all of us that desires another kind of crazy. It is a crazy love. Our souls are thirsty for a love that is everlasting. And yet, reality shows, political parties, & public institutions alone cannot quench this thirst. We need something more.
I have the privilege of being a father to Bryan & Scott, who are now 35 & 33 years old. But when they were kids, they spent most of their summers playing baseball, soccer, & riding their bikes. Whether on the field or in the backyard, I always knew that within 20 minutes of playing in the summer heat someone would say, “I’m so thirsty!” And so the debate would begin as we discussed what they should drink. My preference as their father was always water. But of course they would rather have Kool Aid or soda, which are filled with sugar & come in lots of kid-friendly flavors, like Rockin’ Raspberry, grape, or fruit punch.
What is your favorite drink of choice? Coffee, tea, soda, or a sports drinks? I have to admit that I’m a Diet Coke (not Pepsi) lover, & it has a special place in our refrigerator.
Oh yes, & then there’s water. Science tell us that water is not only thirst quenching but has many benefits for our bodies in general & vital organs in particular.
Water: prevents dehydration; regulates body temperature; carries nutrients & oxygen to our cells; provides moisture to the skin & other tissues; helps prevent constipation; cushions joints; helps strengthen muscles; & helps to curb your appetite.
It contains no calories, fat, or cholesterol, & is low in sodium. Now that part sounds good! An average healthy adult needs to consume at least 8 glasses of water each day, & even more in the summer heat. My doctor has insisted that I drink more water & less diet soda every day. I bet we could all drink more water to quench our physical thirst.
Likewise, there is a spiritual thirst inside each of us. In our humanness we try to quench this spiritual thirst with television, sports, politics, relationships, & often money. How do you quench your spiritual thirst?
John Piper in his book, God is the Gospel, asks about spiritual thirst this way: “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, & with all the friends you’ve ever had on earth, & all the food you ever liked, & all the leisure activities, & all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, & no human conflict or any natural disaster, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”
In other words, would you take all the pleasures of life without Jesus? Would you take it?
This seems like an easy question to ask in church, but if we are honest, it is a tough question to ask in our humanness. Just like we know water is the best beverage for us, but don’t drink it like we should, we are also tempted to take all the pleasures of the world & leave Jesus behind.
Here is why. Most of us have tasted the world & most everything it has to offer, but we have failed to nourish ourselves with the fullness of the love of Jesus, so we settle for substitutes.
We pray & ask God to pay our bills because we have not tasted the fullness of an abundant God who can lead us toward generosity.
We pray & ask God to fix our bad relationships because we have not tasted the fullness of God’s love that is immeasurably more satisfying than what we as human beings can give to one another.
We pray & ask God to take our physical ailments away because we have learned to settle for a body fixing when what God really desires is a heart fixing that will last forever even as our bodies age.
We have tasted the world & most everything it has to offer, & often Jesus seems so far away. We are distracted & settling for substitutes just like soda, tea & coffee instead of living water.
In our Scripture today we encounter this predicament as 2 sisters, Martha & Mary, are anticipating a knock on their door. They have learned that Jesus is on the way. Mary & Martha are excited about Jesus’ coming. They have experienced his miracles, his magnificence. They are like family to one another. Yet, Mary & Martha each respond in different ways when Jesus arrives. Martha immediately goes into action, ensuring the house & food are suitable for Jesus. Martha’s gift of hospitality necessitates a special meal, fresh water, & the table being set just so. I picture Mary with butterflies in her stomach & she is so excited that all she can do is look out the window & anticipate Jesus’ arrival.
Are you more like Martha or Mary? (Show of hands.)
The story continues when Jesus arrives & Mary sits at Jesus’ feet & listens. Yet, in verse 40 Martha is distracted with all the preparations. I wonder if Martha is anxious & troubled about more than the meal. Martha may have had some bills that needed to be paid, a relationship that was troubled, or even health issues that are unresolved. We, like Martha, understand what it is like to be in the presence of Jesus & still be distracted.
So picture this: Martha is walking around Jesus. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha is fatigued. Mary is nourished. Martha is consumed by the work of her hands. Mary is centered on the needs of her heart.
Can you picture yourself in that room with Jesus? I can. I am often Martha, meaning well but focusing on the things that need to be accomplished for Jesus rather than on the joy of being with Jesus. Maybe you know what that is like.
Like Mary, our deepest thirst is for relationship rather than routine. We need the presence of God beyond the posture of religious righteousness & cultured congeniality. Yet, in a world full of substitutes how do we quench our deepest thirst?
First, we must sit at Jesus’ feet & have a drink. In this time of biblical history, culturally it was unsuitable for a woman to sit at the feet of a rabbi, a male teacher. Mary’s radical act of love is certainly not out of obligation, but out of adoration. She risks social shame for the sake of quenching her essential thirst. She longs to be with God above all else.
How will you make room for Jesus in your life not out of obligation, but out of outpouring love? When will you stop, rest, & bask in God’s presence in prayer, study, worship, & silence? How will you eliminate distractions & take a long drink from the well of living water at least once a day? Take a moment & write down one action you can begin to take this week.
A second way we quench our deepest thirst is to invite others to drink with us. Like Martha, I grew up learning the value of hospitality. We often had friends & family to drop by for a visit. I remember our big party of the year was always the Saturday before Christmas. Dozens of people visited to eat food, watch football games, & enjoy deep belly laughs of joy. Our family shopped, cooked & cleaned for days in advance. But, moments before the first guests arrived my mother would change into her party dress, put on her favorite music, & prepare to enjoy the fun. Never mind that some closets never got cleaned & shoes were stuffed underneath the bed. Welcoming people into our home & lives was a gift worth sharing. Communities of grace are a place to quench our essential thirst. Whether it happens over a meal at home, with coffee at the local shop, or in the Family Life Center, true hospitality makes people feel seen, heard, & valued. That is living water.
I can just picture Jesus flipping the proverbial ‘water bottle’ & saying, “Drink from my well of living water first & then share my love with others.”
That, sisters & brothers, is crazy love. Let us pray.
God, help us to open ourselves up to you. We confess that we’ve tried to impress you & others with our works. We have been in the kitchen distracted. God, we need to come to your table & drink from your fountain of everlasting love. For those of us who need a drink of your living water for the first time, Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. For those of us who have been at the table but have been too distracted to bask in your presence, help us to come back to you. Lord in your mercy, forgive us. For those of us who have been too busy to share your love with others, help us to strip away our distractions & make room for the new relationships you put in our path. Be, Lord, our eternal love & thirst quencher. Amen.