************ Funeral Sermon on Luke 10:42 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 6, 2020
"Choosing What is Better"
Funeral of Virginia Senior
Didn't we just do this 6 months ago for Roy? It is hard to believe that now it is Virginia's turn. The news of Virginia's death was shocking, dismaying, surprising. But, then, life and death are not in our hands. Their timing is not in our hands. Here is a reminder, dear people, that we don't know when we will die. Here is a reminder that we must always be ready to die and meet our Maker.
I can tell you that Virginia was ready. She was ready to die. She was ready to meet the Lord her Maker. But I can also tell you that we -- her family and friends -- weren't ready for this to happen to her. That's why our response is shock, dismay, and surprise.
In this time of grief let us get comfort and hope and instruction from the Word of God.
We meet two ladies in our Bible reading: Martha and Mary.
One day they had 13 guests drop in for dinner. Jesus and His disciples had been traveling in the area and unexpectedly dropped in.
What would you do if you suddenly had 13 guests drop in for dinner? Perhaps you would decide to order out for Pizza or Chinese. Or, you would go to a fast food restaurant: KFC, In-N-Out Burger, Carl's Jr. Or, you would dig some tri-tip or hamburgers out of your freezer.
But none of these were options for Martha and Mary. They probably had to grind up some wheat and bake bread with the flour. They probably had to kill and cook a chicken or two and maybe even a goat. They probably had to milk the cow. They probably had to go to the city well for fresh water. Maybe they even had to do some house-cleaning. You get the picture: Martha and Mary were busy! They were busy serving.
We can say the same thing about Virginia: she, too, led a busy life of service. Virginia made it her mission in life to make and give everyone in church a birthday card (that is over 500 cards). She gave cards for anniversaries. Thank you cards. Hospital cards. All of them say on the back "created for you by Virginia." She loved sewing. For a while she did signing for the deaf. She baked bread for her family. She worked as a medical coder. She bought apples for the church staff. She tried my apple dumpling recipe (she said they were too sweet but Roy loved them). She came to my house for lunch a few weeks ago and gave us a jar of Olallieberry jam because she heard we love this. And she gave Ruth some hand and foot warmers. You get the picture. A life of busy service.
Back to Martha and Mary. Verse 40 says it all: "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." The Greek word translated as "distracted" literally means "to be pulled, dragged away." Can you picture a team of work-horses pulling a big tree stump out of a field? Distracted from what? Dragged away from what? Martha's service pulled or dragged her attention away from Jesus.
Martha wanted to listen but she only heard bits and pieces of the conversation. Being the good hostess that she was, she was constantly jumping up and down, doing all the work of feeding 13 unexpected guests. She wanted to listen but was distracted by the pressure of being a good hostess.
In direct contrast to Martha was Mary, her sister. Verse 39 tells us that Mary "sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said." It was customary in the Middle East for students to sit at the feet of their teacher. So, like a student, Mary sat at the feet of the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ. Mary wanted to hear Jesus and was eager to learn.
Martha did not appreciate this. While running back and forth she noticed that Mary was sitting down with Jesus. Here she was so busy with 13 unexpected guests for dinner and her sister was sitting down. So Martha went to Jesus and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" (vs 40).
Did you notice what Martha said? According to her, "my sister has left me to do the work by myself." In other words, Mary had been helping but now she thought it more important to sit down and listen to Jesus. She had been working; but now she said "Enough!" threw down her apron, and sat at Jesus' feet.
Too many times when we look at this story we view Martha as being bad and Mary as being good. But we need to notice that Jesus did not condemn Martha for her serving, for being such a good hostess. It is obvious that both Martha and Mary deeply loved Jesus. Both of them expressed their love and their faith in their service of Jesus.
We all should know that the Christian life is a life of faith expressed in works. This means that all Christians, like Mary and Martha and Virginia, should show their love and their faith in their service. We are called to minister to others in the name of Christ.
Jesus did not condemn Martha for serving. But He did admonish her for being so distracted with serving that she neglected "what is better." Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better ..."
What does Jesus mean here?
Martha's emphasis was on serving Jesus. Mary's emphasis was on listening to Jesus. Both are necessary.
You see, service can kill a person. Being busy with this or that can kill a person. That happens when a person, like Martha, is too busy to listen to Jesus. So Jesus says, "Martha, Martha ... only one thing is needed." What is this one thing? It is listening to Jesus. Mary had that one thing figured out. She knew she had to spend time with the Lord.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than listening to Jesus. Absolutely nothing else is as important as this. A new car, a fulfilling job, an immaculate house, happy guests, a booming business or practice, a relaxing vacation, invigorating exercise -- all of these are very important in life but they are unimportant next to Christ Himself. Remember what Jesus said? "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Mt 16:26).
"Only one thing is needed." Knowing Jesus, listening to Him, is the only really important thing in life; everything else is secondary.
Mary knew what she wanted -- she chose to serve and listen. Martha, on the other hand, chose to busy herself with all the work and preparations involved in looking after Jesus and His disciples.
Jesus says "Mary has chosen what is better." Work and service is a good thing -- after all, Mary did do some service -- but taking time to also listen to Jesus is even better. Actually, it is not just the better option; it is the best option.
Virginia, like Mary, has chosen what is better. With Roy she was in worship twice each Sunday. With Roy she attended Bible Study. Every Tuesday morning she attended a Ladies Bible Study. Service was important to her but even more important was spending time with Jesus.
Why are we to spend time listening to Jesus? Remember the time Jesus was transfigured on the mountain? You know what happened. In front of Peter, James, and John, Jesus' appearance and clothing changed. And, Elijah and Moses appeared and talked to Him. Suddenly, a cloud came and surrounded them. The voice of God came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him" (Luke 9:34).
We are to listen to Jesus because He is God's Son, God's chosen servant. His words are the words of life. To listen to Him is to drink from the well of living water. To listen to Him is to drink of the only water that quenches the thirst of our soul. If we don't listen to Him we are turning our backs on God's wondrous and free salvation.
Back in 1992 Virginia wrote a poem about leaving the Adventist Church. The poem's title is "The Shackles Are Gone."
The shackles are gone,
How did Virginia know this? How did she know legalism was wrong? How did she know God's grace was sufficient? Because she listened to Jesus. Virginia knew nothing in life is more important than listening to Jesus and hearing His words of life.
They’ve all dropped away–
The shackles of sin and despair
Of trying to manage day after day
Without putting my life in Christ’s care.
I was trying to be a perfectionist here,
When His Grace was sufficient for me.
I didn’t understand what my Lord really did
When He died there on Calvary’s tree.
He lived a life of perfection and love
And in Him my redemption would come.
His blood washed away all the sins of my life
By belief in the most Holy One.
I glory in Him and what He has done
And praise Him all through the day.
I sing out in joy, remembering how
He has shepherded me into His way.
I need to ask: Do you know Jesus? Do you listen to Him? Your life depends, it literally depends, on your answer to this question. Because if you don't know Jesus you face everlasting death in the fires of hell. Again I ask you, do you listen to Jesus? Do you hear His words of life?
Martha was too busy to listen. Mary chose to serve and listen. "Mary has chosen what is better." "And," as Jesus puts it, "it will not be taken from her." It is Mary's right and possession to listen to Jesus. Neither Martha nor anyone else can take this right from her. Similarly, this was Virginia's right and possession.
It is also your right to know Jesus and to listen to Him. No one and no thing has the right to demand so much of you that you no longer are able to do that. No job, no person, no possession, no activity, not even any kingdom cause or church activity, has the right to keep you from listening to Jesus.
Let us remember that only one thing is needed: listen to Jesus, know Jesus, because His are the words of life. Virginia knew this. Do you?
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