How many of you have ever heard of Nipper the dog? How many of you have heard of the picture named “his master’s voice”? Nipper the dog was the terrier mix who was the star of the picture his master’s voice. It was a picture used for advertising when the first gramophones came out. In the picture you see the dog curiously tilting his head because there is a voice he knows coming out of the giant brass horn. It was his master’s voice. That voice is all that mattered to the dog. That picture was made around 1900.
Fast forward to the 1940’s and the image of the American family is children sitting on mom’s lap while dad tunes in his brand new radio to FDR’s fireside chats. Everyone listened intently and for a brief moment the rest of the world stopped around them – only one thing that mattered was the voice they were hearing.
Our story for today centers around two ladies. Jesus tells them both to hear the one thing needful – by getting unburdened and by sitting at Jesus’s feet.
Jesus and his disciples were on a missionary journey and they find themselves in a suburb of Jerusalem at the house of a lady named Martha. And Martha was the kind of lady that could be looked up to. She was always busy. She did well for herself. Martha was a good host. Jesus arrives at her home and she makes the place hospitable for him.
Martha walks into the kitchen. She has wood on the fire because she wants to make some bread for Jesus but she’s running low and needs to get some from outside. As she’s walking out the front door there’s Mary sitting on the floor by Jesus. She ignores it this time. Comes back in with more wood. Arg! She forgot to get some water. She grabs a big clay pot starts walking outside. Only she forgot the bread and now it’s burning. The pot tumbles off her head and the water goes everywhere. Every time she walks through the living room, there is Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet. Did you hear me struggling Mary? Mary doesn’t answer. Whatever. She tries to set the table realizes she doesn’t have enough place settings. Wait I forgot that Jesus usually likes his lamb cooked this way.
The Bible uses the word overburdened to describe Martha’s disposition. You could say she was distracted but that likely doesn’t do it justice. Distracted just means that you have your attention on multiple things. Overburdened is that you carry so many things that you break down, give up, and stop because it’s simply too much to carry.
And out of that emotion comes an ill thought phrase about her sister and a command to her Lord. “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do the work? Tell her to help me!”
Would you like me to make that phrase more abrasive? Here it is, “Jesus tell Mary to stop listening to the Word of God because I need to finish baking this bread.” Can you imagine telling someone not to listen to Jesus? Her overburdened heart caused her to forget a key point about her Lord. The Son of man didn’t come to be served. He appreciated it when people did – but first and foremost he came to serve and give his life. The Word of God became flesh to speak the Word so don’t stand in his way.
Now let’s not come down too hard on Sister Martha. She wanted good things for Jesus. Jesus addresses her with love, “Martha you are anxious and worried about many things – Mary chose what is better, it won’t be taken away.” Jesus wants them to avoid this overburdening so that they could focus on the one thing needful…His Word of love.
Overburdened. A young family on the Caledonia Facebook page this week made this post “What am I doing wrong nothing is good enough. No experience is special enough. How do I teach them to be grateful for what they have? Take everything away? Leave them with only the essentials? Stop doing the special things? I feel like I am not making memories like intended, but making more opportunities to whine and complain because they wanted one more thing, By the way my kids are 5 and 6”
That’s an overburdened young mom and some overburdened young kids. Did you catch the issue? “I feel like I am not making memories intended”. Maybe you are overburdening yourself with activities so the kids act up?
A young family travels from one side of the state to the other. Mom with one child and dad with another. Its great we’re making memories right? Mom walks out the door, “bye hunny” no hug no kiss. Dad runs to work, “bye”. No reading books – no time for dinner together. By the time Sunday comes too tired to sit together in worship.
You hear about people burning out? What is that? It’s overburdening and most often is connected to a pull away from the Word of God. Take a second this week and look into the eyes of your spouse or take a look in the mirror and ask am I overburdened? All the things you do, the work, the hockey, gymnastics, dance, nonprofit board, ect. All of it is good. But out of balance you’ll stop. You’ll give up. It will break you. Overburdening pulls you away from the one thing that matters.
Friends, God did not come to be served. For your burdened heart see the God whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Faith is not a rat race but a free and unburdening gift for your overburdened life. As you sit here listening to God’s Word he lifts your cares through Jesus. He tells you that he loves you for eternity even if the meal aint done right and the kids don’t make it to places exactly on time. He says I forgive you for not budgeting time correctly. He takes our time off of us and says let me tell you my schedule – to come into the world when the time had fully come and one day take you to heaven regardless of how you spent your time here. That’s his free and timeless gift. That’s the one thing needful that he wants you to hear that he told to Mary and Martha.
As unburdening as Jesus’s gifts are – we still have schedules. We still have sports. We still have school and work. And those are good things. So today in view of God’s self-sacrificing gift let’s take some time to learn how we will as Christians sit at Jesus feet to hear the one thing needful.
1st – Christian families are going to schedule out their time to pray together.
2nd – Christians are going to say there’s one thing needful above all else so worship on Thursdays or Sundays is part of the fabric of our existence.
3rd –Even as our families are divided by schedules. Our spiritual life goes with us wherever we go in devotion and prayer.
That’s the identity of Christians in this world. People who want to hear the word of God but still have burdens today. Let’s sit at Jesus feet hear the Word and see our biggest burdens and our earthly ones be lifted by the one who carries all. One thing needful – we know it we want it – God grant it to us more. AMEN