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Archive for July 29th, 2015

Intro:  One of the current crazes among us Lutherans is Playmobil’s “Little Luther” figurines, from Germany.  In two years we will be observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon has conversations with a figurine of Mr. Spock whom Sheldon calls “Tiny Spock”. I wonder what Little Luther would say to a Lutheran Pastor…


“Little Luther,  you said yesterday that the Bible is basically all we need to grow the Church. Yes, the doctrines are good for growth, such as Law and Promise, justification and sanctification, but we know so many strategies, polling, surveys and the such to grow the Church.  You certainly can’t be against that?

little luther

“Pastor, you have a “the Word, but” problem!  You seem to truly know little Luther! As if  preaching and teaching the Word is non satis est, not enough, not satisfactory! Read again in the Book you are holding. I will be the apostle for you:  “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”(2 Timothy 4: 1-2) 

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Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel according to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Martha was busy with much serving.   Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of saving doctrine,  results in mere activism and busy-ness as evidenced in Martha, and with it resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then the work week.  See Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer with contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her: “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  She even pointed ou to the Lord the obvious stench of the tomb.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world.

In the Collect (Prayer) of the Day above, we pray that the might serve Jesus, “…faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus“.  Serving, learning, and hoping in Jesus Christ is our life in Him and describes Christ’s life today and to come.  Lazarus represents everyone’s life without the Lord:  dead, spiritually and physically.  In the tomb, Lazarus could not really want to be alive or make “his decision for Christ”, only the Lord’s Word makes alive for us.  As it is clear in the Bible, “…we were dead in our trespasses” and only Christ in His Word to Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, makes us alive, faith holding tight to Christ, 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2).

The Apostle Paul continued in his letter to Ephesians,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Mary, Martha and Lazarus show us the immeasurable riches of Christ Jesus’ grace.  A saint is a role model, not of mere moral goodness but of the Lord’s goodness, His grace toward sinful man and woman. Amen.

 

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