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The Word of the Lord


03:05:00 pm, by Robert Arbogast , 1522 words  
Categories: Ordinary Time 2013

The Word of the Lord

Sermon Preached by the Rev. Robert A. Arbogast
Olentangy Church, Columbus, Ohio
July 21, 2013

O Word of God, O Jesus, our Lord: We fumbled our way through another week, and we’re ready to try again. Because of you. We keep falling down, and you keep picking us up. We keep getting lost, and you keep showing us the way. We keep getting hungry, too. And then we binge. On money and power. On comfort and sex. On drugs and drinks and TV shows. We binge, but we’re still hungry. Jesus, fill us up today. Fill us with your Word. Fill us at your Table. Fill us with yourself. Satisfy our hunger. Then keep us hungering for more of you. Amen.

Scripture Readings
Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42


Lord, you have formed us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.
      —St. Augustine, Confessions

I like a house with an open floor plan. At my brother’s house, the space from the kitchen to the eating area to the living room is wide open. So a few weeks ago, when my brother and I were rolling up grape leaves, we weren’t cut off from the other people in the house. We were busy, but we were still part of the conversation. I think that’s a good way to set up a house. 

I don’t know how Martha’s house in Bethany was laid out. And maybe it had nothing to do with how the house was designed. But for whatever reason, while Martha was busy with all the duties of hospitality—

And you know how that is. Before company comes, the house has to be picked up and cleaned. Because what we live in is not good enough for company to visit in! And after they arrive, the work isn’t over. We have to get the good dishes down. That’s when we find out they need to be washed. Because they haven’t been used in a while.

And, of course, since we have company, we want to serve the tastiest food. And that requires constant attention. Because you don’t want the stew at the bottom of the pot to get burned. And because you want the bread to come out of the oven at just the right moment.

So Martha was busy. First, she had to get the house ready for Jesus. Now she was getting dinner ready. And she was missing out on the conversation. She couldn’t hear a thing Jesus was saying. Mary, meanwhile, was sitting on the floor in front of Jesus. Right there with the men. Listening to the rabbi. She left the women’s work to her sister. That was too much for Martha.

Martha was raised right. She knew how a house worked. And she knew about hospitality. So she knew what her obligations were. And she didn’t object. What she did object to was her sister. Because Mary was completely disregarding her duties. She was disregarding the way things are done.

Maybe not for the first time. And maybe Martha never had much success in getting Mary focused and on-task. So this time, she asks Jesus for a little help. Lord, tell her to get up, to get in the kitchen, and to help me! But he was with Mary on this one.

Jesus didn’t require much. He didn’t expect fancy food. He didn’t demand the good dishes. The only thing he had come for was to spend time with his friends.

Of course, there was more to it than that. Jesus wasn’t just a friend. He was a teacher, too. But he wasn’t just any teacher. He didn’t teach in the usual way. He taught with authority. There was power in his words.

The way Martha was busy in the kitchen, busy with all the preparations, you might have thought people were starving. But no one was starving. Not for lamb stew and warm bread. No, the real hunger in that house, the real hunger in that village, the real hunger in that corner of the world, was a hunger for the Word of the Lord.

Amos had warned them. Warned them eight hundred years earlier. Told them judgment day was coming. Told them they would go hungry. But it wouldn’t be lamb stew and warm bread that was be lacking.

No. They would be hungering for, they would be starving for, the Word of the Lord. With none to be found. Not a syllable to be heard. Not even the faint echo of a fading voice. There would be silence. Silence from God. And they would become desperate. They would search everywhere. But the silence would overwhelm them.

Mary, kneeling on the floor in front of Jesus—Mary knew the silence. They all knew the silence. That’s why so many people had gone out to the Jordan wilderness. Gone out to John the Baptist. Because John was a prophet. Because John was speaking the Word of the Lord. And they hadn’t heard the Word of the Lord for a long time.

John had told them someone greater was coming. And now that greater One was here. And he had come to their house for dinner. And Mary was not about to get so wrapped up in the dinner preparations that she couldn’t listen to Jesus. So she left Martha to herself, left Martha in the kitchen. Because lamb stew and warm bread weren’t the only things being served that day. Mary knew where the real feast was. And she didn’t want to miss a word.

Isn’t that why we’re here today? Isn’t that why we come here every Sunday? Because we’re hungry? Hungry for Jesus?

In point of fact, we are more hungry for Jesus than we are for anything else. As the ancients said, Our hearts are restless until they find rest in the Lord. But I don’t think we realize it. I know I don’t. That’s why we try to fill up on all kinds of other things. Web pages and work. Hot coffee and the morning news. Shopping trips and extreme adventures. Which means that, like Martha, we’re busy with a lot of things. But we’re missing out on the one thing we really need. Because our deepest hunger is for the Word of the Lord. And the Word of the Lord is Jesus.

The Word of the Lord is Jesus. Which means that what we need more than ever is to draw near to Jesus. And to be still before him. And to receive from him all he has to give.

And here’s a bit of good news. The timing and the setting for meeting with Jesus do not have to be “just right.” We can meet up with Jesus anytime, anywhere. In the morning or in the evening. On our knees or behind the wheel. Reading the Bible or reading a murder mystery.

Which doesn’t mean that all times and all settings are created equal. For some of you, the best time and place could be a half hour in the morning at the kitchen table, before anyone else is up. Or it could be just before bed, in a quiet room, in a comfortable chair, with a light shining onto your lap, where a psalm is open before you and a pad of paper with a few questions you want to ask and a couple of things you want to thank Jesus for. Those are special times, special settings. Not so different from Sunday mornings.

Sunday mornings. Sunday mornings are specially designed for meeting with Jesus. We come here, for example, not because we can’t meet Jesus somewhere else. No. We come here because it’s a place set apart from all the demands and the busyness of everyday life. (As long as we remember to turn off our phones!)

And once we get started on Sunday mornings, we are surrounded by, saturated by, the words and the themes of Scripture. In the Bible readings, of course. But throughout the liturgy. In the words we speak, the words we sing, the words we pray, the words we say to each other. And all these words bring us close to Jesus. Because they tell his story. And because the Holy Spirit uses these words to whisper “Jesus” in our ears.

And then there’s the Sunday morning Table. Not a fancy meal served on elegant dishes. Just ordinary stuff. Some bread. Some juice. Because we aren’t hungry for food. We’re hungry for Jesus. And this is how he feeds himself to us in a holy mystery.

Jesus is our life. That’s why our deepest hunger is for him. That’s why we look for him everywhere. That’s why we set aside special times and places to meet with him. And that’s why we keep coming here Sunday after Sunday. Whatever else keeps pushing us and pulling us, we keep coming here. We come out of need. We come out of custom. We come knowing that Jesus will be here in our midst. Jesus the Word of the Lord. The Word who is our life.

In the Name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.




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