Active Listening



A sermon preached by
Joseph Welker, Jr.

Active Listening

Luke 10:38-42

August 19, 2007

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk
of Kildaire, Presbyterian family. While effort is made to give credit for work
done by other, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not
given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered.
Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the
emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from
proper grammar and punctuation.

Jesus and his disciples are on the road and they have been very busy people
with the hard work of teaching, preaching, and healing. In addition to the 12,
70 others have been sent out on the mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God. And
before our passage today, Jesus has told that powerful story of the Good
Samaritan that has warned us for 2000 years of the danger of getting so caught
up in ourselves and even our religious practices that we fail to do what God
would have us do when we come across those in need. Loving your neighbor is more
than a word, it is a deed. If you are going to talk the talk, you had better
walk the walk.

Which is why the story of Mary and Martha reminds me of one of those speed
bumps in my neighborhood. Here we are, cruising along in Luke’s gospe-an action
filled gospel teaching us to go and do… and then comes this story of Mary and
Martha that seems to contradict most of what we had heard and assumed about
following Jesus.

Jesus and his disciples have come to town. Martha invites Jesus to come to
her home for a meal. He will be her honored guest. She is doing what I think
Jesus would have most of us do-offer hospitality and food to those on the road.
Showing love of God and neighbor by warming up the oven, baking fresh bread and
preparing a meal for this rabbi who needs a meal to eat after a long journey and
hard work.

But here, in this story- it can be sort of confusing. Martha’s sister,
Mary-instead of helping out in the kitchen is out in the living room-sitting and
listening to Jesus. Can you see her? Just sitting and listening…sitting and
listening… listening…actively listening.

Martha, though doing good and right things- has no time to listen. She has
work to do to get a meal prepared. This is not an ordinary meal… this is a meal
with Jesus. Normally, it would be a simple meal, but this one should be special.
A little extra effort was called for when a special guest comes to

Martha is, according to the text, busy and distracted as she gets
ready for the meal. Mary is out in the living room with Jesus. It’s not that
Martha didn’t want to be with Jesus, but you know, a special meal just doesn’t
happen all by itself. It takes work, preparation, time and effort. There were no
microwaves or refrigerators… no catering service or carry outs!

Of course, John Ortberg in discussing this story raised a good question: "Who
said she had to provide this high level of hospitality? It wasn’t Jesus. Where
did this voice come from that said, "you must do this"?" Maybe it was her
culture. Maybe it was the stereotypical role of women. [Maybe it was her faith
tradition] Maybe it was a little voice inside her head. Maybe it was her mom.

Maybe it was her reputation, what she was known for. (Her name in Aramaic
meant-hostess-hostess of the house). Maybe her last name was Stewart. She is in
the kitchen. She doesn’t have to be, and Jesus doesn’t want here there, but
there she is. She has a desire to be in the presence of Jesus, but finds herself
distracted, maybe out of fear, or pride or envy or anger. She is listening to
some other voice beside his." [1]

When Jesus hears her echo those voices and her frustration-
"Lord, do
you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her
to help me"
(tell her to listen to me and my voices-not you!-do you catch
the irony of her request?)… Jesus answers her, in my mind, with a kind, calm and
gentle voice: "Martha, Martha you are worried and disctracted by many things;
there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not
be taken from her."

And in that, I hear Jesus not only trying to correct Martha but also inviting
her to leave the pots and pans in the sink, let the food sit… let the meal be
delayed… to stop for a few minutes to sit and listen… to join her sister and be
fed by the words of our Lord…[ to the same Lord who also said to others, "Come
to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest."]
There will be plenty of time for doing. Right now, Martha-seeing how distracted
you are-perhaps it is time for you to be still, sit and listen.

Today, in this service of contemplation…I want to invite you to a time of
quiet rest. In the next few minutes, I want to guide you through a guided
meditation that invites you to sit at the feet of our Lord and listen… to
actively listen to what our Lord may want to say to you this day…

Centering Meditation

So, I want to invite you to move now within yourself to a quiet place as we
listen together… to be still… and listen to the silence in the room…I invite you
to get comfortable, close your eyes, relax your bodies …Breathe deeply, exhaling
the tensions of the day. Peel off your work,school and home concerns as if they
were a bulky coat you don’t need indoors. Remove the distractions from your life
that upset you or pull you in so many different directions. Imagine inviting
Jesus to your home for a meal… For a moment, let the dishes remain at the sink
and join Mary at the feet of Jesus…

Focus on Jesus… who embodies the unbelievable Grace of God. Consider why you
are here sitting at his feet… perhaps because you are like the deer at the
stream, tired, thirsty and in need of something to fill your thirsty soul…
perhaps your life is filled with anxiety and stress leading to burnout… imagine
yourself sitting there with Jesus, drinking deeply from God’s bottomless cup of

Imagine yourself in conversation with Jesus…. Jesus is listening to you… your
concerns… he listens to you as he listened to Martha share her concerns…Then he
has a word for you as he did for Martha-what is he saying to you?….Imagine being
led by Jesus into the presence of a loving God who wants to lead you to the
green pastures and still waters as God seeks to restore your soul.

As you breathe in, imagine that the oxygen entering your lungs, your
bloodstream is the love of God. Focus on the incredible acceptance you
experience every time you turn to God and surrender the control you normally
think you need to have over your life. But the unconditional positive love God
has for us is more constant and reliable than the air we breathe, even before we
give over the controls of our life.

Try to see yourself as Jesus sees you– through the eyes of Grace. What
messages does your mind send you that you don’t deserve this unconditional grace
and love? (pause) What barriers keep you from viewing yourself with the
unconditional acceptance of God? Imagine those barriers falling down. Walk into
a place where you accept yourself as God accepts you.

As you sit in the presence of Jesus and feel God’s loving embrace, perhaps
you are ready to share the broken places in your life that needs healing grace.
What are they? Are they within yourself… with another person… or even with God…
Share them with Jesus… know that Christ wants to make you whole so you can live
life a full and joyful life, ready to face whatever life brings…Christ wants to
fill you with grace and peace that overflows…. As you open yourself to God’s
unconditional acceptance and God’s healing, be assured that God is faithful.

Don’t despair if you can only take small steps toward accepting yourself or
changing everything about your life at once. God isn’t through with any of us
yet. Even in the story of Mary and Martha-it was simply a first step that would
lead them to a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with Jesus and a more
fulfilling life. Know that God is with you on your journey of grace. Know that
Christ is with you. Be still and know that God in Christ is with you… rest in
the love of God.

When you are ready, focus again on your breath. When you feel totally relaxed
once again, when you are breathing easy, long and deep, slowly open your eyes.


God is Closer than You Think p 51


Leave a Reply