Title: Get Out of the Kitchen
Service: Multicultural – 3:00 p.m.
Scripture: Luke 10:38-42
Date: April 19, 2015
Author: Nora Conner
I read a story recently about a woman who boarded a plane, tired and frustrated before she even took her seat. Seated next to her was a woman with three small children, so she nodded politely and then buried her face in a newspaper. She sighed conspicuously as she stepped out of her seat so the woman could pass; she wrinkled her brow when the young daughter yelled in her ear. Her mood did not improve as the journey progressed.
Many of us have been there, haven’t we? Exhausted, preoccupied, perhaps feeling self-important. Ready to get home but stuck in a long line at the grocery store, maybe stopped on our way out the door at work when we’re already running late for our next appointment. And, sometimes, we find ourselves judging those around us…Don’t people even think any more? Where are their manners, anyway? Don’t they consider other people? Maybe you haven’t experienced this kind of frustration, but in American culture, people seem to always be in a hurry, rushing from one thing to the next, impatient, perhaps resentful of distractions.
The author, our friend on the airplane, continues her story, saying that after finally permitting herself to be drawn into some small talk, her troublesome neighbor said something that changed everything: “I lost my husband last year. He died. Last year.” The author continues, “She recited the simple facts of an unthinkable horror: ‘He was only 42. Still an athlete and a beloved coach. I always thought I’d go first. He always took such good care of himself. Some days I still can’t believe this is happening.” The author of the story says, “I shifted in my seat to face her, reached for her hand, and said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ And for the rest of the flight, I tried to make it up to her. She talked, and I mostly listened, wishing we had more time.”
A few moments ago, we heard words from the Gospel of Luke, a story of two other women, two women who loved Jesus, women who had to decide what their priorities were. They had to decide where they would be, what they would be doing, what would have their attention. We can easily judge with our 21st century hindsight, but if we’re honest, where would we be? Irritated and doing what most would be doing, or defying convention and doing what was really important? Would we be like Martha, doing what was expected, busy but resentful, or would we be like Mary, knowing and deciding for herself against the norm what the priority was? Would we be in the kitchen, or would we be at Jesus’ feet?
I believe that most of us here really do want to spend time with Jesus, and we do want to know him better. But what does that mean? What does it mean, really, to us, today? How do we do that? What does it mean for our day-to-day lives? Well, I believe that for us as Christians, it means that we are to grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus, connect with people who don’t yet know Christ, and reach out to others and be Jesus’ light in the world.
Getting to know Jesus—what does that look like? When someone is really important to us, when we love someone very much, we want to know everything about them, and we want to spend time with them. We want to honor them. If we want to know Jesus, we take this very seriously, and one way to get to know Jesus is through reading the Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:18 tells us that we are to “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” By reading Scripture and reflecting on the life and words of Jesus, we come to know him more. Even more than that, as we know and understand Scripture more, we can also help others know Christ as well. A. W. Tozer, a pastor, author, and spiritual mentor, tells us that even more than that, “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring (people) to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into him, that they may delight in his presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of…God…in the core and center of their hearts.”
And there is great joy in reading the Bible as well. As that favorite hymn so beautifully illustrates, the words we find there are the “Wonderful Words of Life.” Words of life and beauty, freely given by Christ, to all. Yes, in reading Scripture, we come to know more of the One who made us and loves us beyond all understanding.
Another way to get to know Jesus is to spend time with Him. We want to know Jesus, but we are distracted. We don’t know how to focus, to listen, to be still. We have so much right at our fingertips—too much. We can do it all…but we do too much. We deny ourselves even a moment of silence, not a moment of stillness. 30 seconds at a traffic light? Check your email. Taking a walk? Listen to your iPod. We treat downtime as our enemy.
You know, when we love someone, we want to spend as much time with them as we can. We look for opportunities; we give them priority; they are our focus. And we don’t just talk—we listen. We look forward to times where we can just be together. However, if you’re like me, it’s easy to get so busy doing that we forget to be. Many times in our lives we may have heard, “Don’t just sit there—do something.” And many of us have learned that lesson, perhaps too well. I’ve come to believe that God, however, tells us something different. I think that God, as God often does, turns things upside down. If God were telling us this, I suspect God would say, “Don’t just do something—sit there.” God loves us and desires a relationship with us. God wants to spend time with us, and God wants us to want to spend time with him. We don’t need to be like ants on a hill, rushing about from dawn to dusk. Sometimes we need to just be still.
Once I saw a poster of a cat, on its back in a sunbeam, all four legs stretched out as far as they would go, a look of complete peace and contentment on its face. The words on the poster say, — “I’m fine. Really.” People may think something is wrong with us when we allow ourselves to just “be,” but sometimes we need to be like that cat, stretched out in the warmth, resting in the presence of the Lord.
Some people call these things I’m describing spiritual disciplines or holy habits, and there are other ones as well. These practices are not magic ways to God’s favor—they are things that we can do that can help heighten our desire, awareness, and love of God. When practiced faithfully and regularly, they are habits or regular patterns in your life that repeatedly bring you back to God and help open you up to what God is saying to you.
However, as good as these things are, there is more to Christian living. As Thomas Merton put it, “Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life.” As tempting as it may be, we are not supposed to stop at “just Jesus and me.” What is, what should be, the result of a strong relationship with Jesus Christ?
An important aspect of Christian living is to connect with people who don’t yet know Christ. We are called to build authentic relationships with others. How are non-Christians supposed to learn about Jesus when they don’t know any Christians? How can they be expected to see Christianity as something to consider if they don’t have a chance to see how being a Christian impacts our day-to-day lives, that it’s more than just what you do on Sundays? Being open with a person who has come to know and trust you, showing that you truly care about them as a person regardless of their religious beliefs or life choices—these can be powerful witnesses that keep Christianity from seeming hypocritical. Being vulnerable enough to answer their question, “How on earth did you get through that situation?” with “Through the strength I have in Jesus Christ” shows that Jesus is real in our lives and that believing in him makes a difference. When they come to see our genuineness and compassion, when they know and trust us enough to see that Christ makes a real difference in our lives—that’s when they are open to hearing about our faith. There are few witnesses more powerful than our stories and our lives. Our world is a place of many faith options, even of no-faith options. People need to know, they are desperate to know, why Jesus matters.
It is common in these times for people to wonder, “Why should Jesus be the only and right and best path?” Seeing Jesus’ truth in our lives, seeing how what we believe does make a difference, seeing the effects of living out these beliefs—these may be the only ways some people will seriously consider becoming a follower of Jesus.
Another important part of Christian life is to reach out to others and be Jesus’ light in the world. We are called to show love, understanding, and compassion, to care for people in need. These needs can be physical, but they don’t have to be. Yes, people often need clothes and food, and those are important needs to address. But not all needs are that obvious. There are many people who have plenty to eat but who are starving to death on the inside. They are literally dying to know that someone cares about them, that their existence makes a difference. They may have experienced something devastating, and they need to know what, who, can heal their brokenness. Reaching out with a compassionate heart and a listening ear, a word of encouragement—truly caring about them—treating them as real people who matter to you and who matter to God, these can be acts which ultimately bring them to Christ.
I want you to imagine a scene with me. Picture a person standing alone in an otherwise crowded room. It could be a party or a business gathering, maybe a school event. There are people mingling and talking, and most people seem very much at ease. Except this one person. Standing alone, uncomfortable, wondering what to do. What if their only contact with a Christian happens when you walk across the room and introduce yourself and start a conversation? What if that is their only positive contact with a Christian? Sometimes lives are changed in moments that seem insignificant at the time.
Other examples are more dramatic. A few years ago, there were many news stories about Michael Ohr, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, a
first-round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens football team. He is also the subject of a best-selling book and movie, The Blind Side. Michael has the whole world ahead of him now, but his life had a very different start. One of 13 siblings from the poorest part of Memphis, Tennessee, his mother was addicted to crack cocaine, and he never knew his father. When Michael wasn’t in a foster home, he lived wherever he could find a place to sleep. He was homeless. One day, Sean and Leigh Anne, a wealthy couple who lived in upscale East Memphis saw Michael standing at a bus stop. It was snowing, and Michael, then 16, was dressed in only a t-shirt and shorts. They made quick a u-turn and picked him up.
As Sean recalls, “Leigh Anne cried the second she met him, and it was over.” They took Michael in, hired a tutor to help him address severe academic deficiencies, gave him a wardrobe and other essentials, and eventually became his legal guardians. Michael’s life was changed, was saved, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Were Sean and Leigh Anne feeling especially generous that cold, snowy day? Had they held a family meeting to decide how they could share their blessings? No. They had a strong relationship with Jesus Christ, and so they were in tune with God and with the world around them. And when this privileged couple saw a person in need, color didn’t matter, comfort zones didn’t matter. They responded. As Sean says, “We think God sent him to us. Earthly explanations don’t make sense.”
Reaching out, crossing conventional boundaries, connecting with someone in need, showing that you care—Christ did these things, and he calls us to follow his example. When you have spent real time with Jesus, when your life is in balance, when you have a Christ-centered life and Christ-centered priorities, you will recognize opportunities, and you will see distractions as chances to serve, as ways to connect with people and to connect them to Christ.
You know Jesus’ words in John 13, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” You may know the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” It has a good and powerful message. Do you also know an updated version of that song by the Christian rock group dc Talk, “Love is a Verb”? In referring to Jesus and his time on Earth, we are told, “Here is the example that we ought to be matchin’, because love is a word that requires some action.” Jesus does want time with us, he does what to be the priority of our lives. But he also intends for there to be an impact in the world because of this relationship. He expects us to demonstrate our love, to be his light in the world, his hands and his feet. To each other. To everyone. To the world.
Mary chose to spend time with Jesus, the focus of the gathering, the reason for the preparations. Martha was more concerned about the preparations than the reason for the preparations. And Jesus knew her heart. He didn’t say, “You’re distracted by getting dinner ready.” He said, “You are worried and distracted by many things.”
Where are you? In the kitchen? Wanting the right things, but not seeing how the distraction of the urgent causes you to miss that which you most long for? Or are you at Jesus’ feet, focusing on the “one thing”? Being there means we don’t have to be like the woman on the plane, wishing she could “rewind the clock,” trying to make up for lost time. When we “get out of the kitchen” and focus on our relationship with Jesus, we can be who we truly desire to be, who God intends for us to be. In relationship with him, and in relationship with the world around us.