Distractions (a sermon video and manuscripte based on Luke 10:36-42)

Sermon Title: Distractions    Scripture Lesson: Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)    Date: July 21, 2013

The sermon manuscript follows the video:


Arthur Windhorn has written a poem about our day and age.

This is the age of the half-read page;
The quick hash and the mad dash.

This is the age of the bright night with the nerves tight;
And the plane hop with a brief stop.

This is the age of the lamp tan in a short span.
The brain strain and the heart pain;

The catnaps till the spring snaps and the fun is done.

I know, that sounds kind of cynical. But there’s lots of truth in that poem. An article in the magazine, PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, had this to say:

“In the next 12 months, we will consume around 20,000 tons of aspirin…That totals 225 tablets per person, per year, or 2/3 of a tablet per person, per day. If you go by these sales figures alone, it would suggest that most everyone in the United States has a headache most of the time.”  (Arthur E. Dean Windhorn, One Thing Is Needful,

Are any of you counted among those who have a headache most of the time?

There are some who suggest that we live in an “Information Age.” We have more information at our disposal than any generation before us.

I like the way David Cartwright puts it.  He says we don’t live in an “Information Age,” but rather an “Age of Distraction.” Everybody and everything are out to get our attention. And one way to do that is to distract us from whatever we may have been doing or are trying to do.

Here’s a case in point.  It’s something that causes me a sometimes intense sort of headache.  It’s that stupid scroll at the bottom of television newscasts.   I’m sitting there, trying to pay attention to what the broadcaster is reporting, while the days latest headlines are running across the bottom of the screen.  “Just ignore it,” you might say.  I’d love to, but my wife sits with me reading the scroll like it is a teleprompter and she is reporting the news.

But it’s not just the news scroll.  It’s the PC popup messages, Facebook, Twitter, the Ipad, and “Text Messaging.”  Oh, I participate in some of this stuff…don’t get me wrong.  But there are days when I just want to run away and hide, but it is impossible to get away from all the distractions.  Just the other day I noticed a woman in the lane next to me, driving her car, texting with one hand, and fixing her makeup in the mirror with the other hand, holding the steering wheel with her elbow.

It’s the “Age of Distraction.”  David Cartwright says, “We flit from one thing to the next before we’ve finished the first. Sometimes it’s even difficult to accomplish simple things like making a cup of coffee. We don’t even seem to be able to go through the process without stopping in the middle and doing something else that has caught our attention. We find ourselves doing things like forgetting to pour the water through the filter because the trash caught our attention and we took care of that instead. (David R. Cartwright, How Not to Become Distracted,

It’s hard not to be distracted.  I found something called “The Preacher’s Prayer,” but its sentiment is something we could all pray each day.  It says, “Slow me down, Lord. I’m goin’
too fast. I can’t see my brother when he’s walking past. I miss a lot of things day by day when it comes my way. Slow me down, Lord, I’m goin’ too fast.”

Most of us are way too easily distracted.  We are moving way too fast.  And as a result, many of us find ourselves suffering from stress related headaches and other tension induced sicknesses.

Usually I feel the headache coming on strong on Wednesday morning, at the church office, during the summer months.  Dottie, our lovely Administrative Assistant, comes to me with the worship flyer in hand.  “Can you think of anything else to put in the bulletin?”  She asks, “It doesn’t appear that we are doing very much during the summer months!”

My first thought use to be PANIC.  “How can we be a church if we are not doing much?  There has got to be something we can discover, announce, and/or fabricate to make it look like we are busy, busy, busy.”

What I have come to discover is that the LIFE of the church… (The New Testament word most often translated “church” is ekklesia, which simply means “the gathering.”)… What I have come to discover is that the LIFE of the church is not determined by our busyness, but by our connection through Jesus with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Our LIFE does not flow TO God by an abundance of our activity, but through the intimacy of grace that has been gifted to us by God.

I think this is what Jesus is trying to communicate to Martha.

If our “Age of Distraction” were to have a patron saint,  Martha would be our gal.  It is so easy for us to empathize with Martha’s plea:  “Tell Mary to get off her duff and give me a hand.”

Martha has been busy preparing dinner for their distinguished guest – a guest who in her mind was worthy of extra effort and dedicated work.  Meanwhile, Mary was goofing off.

“That’s not fair!” we say to ourselves.  “Mary is shirking her responsibility and making more work for poor Martha. She is being thoughtless and self-centered.”

That’s why we are so surprised and even a little upset when Jesus reprimands Martha, but not Mary.  In fact, she insists that Mary has, in fact, chosen the good portion. (Robert McClelland,  Mary Has Chosen The Good Portion,

The setting for the story is the home of Martha and Mary—two sisters who lived with their brother Lazarus in the village of Bethany, about two miles outside Jerusalem.

At first glance you’d think that Mary and Martha would be more similar than different—after all, they were sisters, raised in the same home, with the same parents, and afforded the same basic opportunities in life.  Nevertheless, they were very different.

It kind of reminds me of the story I once heard about two brothers.  They were twins, raised in the same home, given the same opportunities.  They went to the same schools.  They had the same teachers.  Their parents equally loved them both.  But one of these grew up to be a famous television evangelist—and the other one?  Well, he turned out all right!

That’s kind of the way it was with Mary and Martha.  You’d think they’d be the same, but they were very different.

Consider Martha.  She was a very industrious individual.  You know the type—always moving, always working, always involved in some sort of service-oriented endeavor.  She was the kind of person who always labored to give her best!

As Jesus and his disciples relaxed, Martha worked at being a good hostess.  She was a busybody, fluttering about the house serving the disciples, trying hard to impress Jesus and make him feel at home in her house.  She was doing everything—cooking, cleaning, serving snacks, and trying to freshen up everyone’s coffee.  She was determined to leave a favorable impression on Jesus.  She surrounded the Lord in a whirlwind of service and ministry—and became overwhelmed and ultimately distracted by the desire to do good deeds serving Jesus.

Mary is cast in a completely different light. Instead of striving to impress Jesus by her activism, Mary sits quietly at his feet—listening to his teachings.  Mary hadn’t helped clean the house.  She hadn’t helped wash the dishes.  She hadn’t help cook the supper.  She hadn’t even helped when it came time to set the table for dinner.   In fact, it appears that Mary didn’t lift a finger to help out even a little.

Martha felt a little indignant.  She was extending all the effort.  She was exerting all the energy.  She was doing all the work—but nobody seemed to notice. She became angry, hurt, and frustrated.  It was almost as if Jesus was more interested in the reflections of Mary then in her own acts of kindness and deeds of service.  Here’s the bottom line: Martha was working to herself indispensable to the Lord.  She felt that Jesus needed her more than she needed him.


Martha was the kind of person who valued activity more than advancement, movement more than growth, and motion more than progress.  Poor Martha!  She had become distracted.  She had become so busy doing good things that she had neglected the most important thing. One of the most difficult truths for many of us to grasp is the knowledge that we can be pulled away from the Lord while we are trying to minister in his name.


What’s the difference between Mary and Martha?  It is not that Mary was lazy while Martha was industrious.  The point is that Mary was focused on Jesus while Martha was focused on what she was doing for Jesus.  If Jesus had said to Mary, “Go get me a glass of water!”  Mary would have jumped up and ran to the kitchen to get that glass of water.  But her efforts would have proceeded from her relationship with the Lord.  That’s the key!


Notice how Jesus responded to Martha’s complaint.  Note the tenderness of his rebuke.  “Martha, Martha.  You are worried and bothered (READ DISTRACTED) about so many things.  Only one thing really matters.”

Martha had lost perspective on what was really important. “Martha, Martha…. Only one thing really matters.”


What was that “one thing” that “really matters?”  It was a relationship with Jesus.  Sitting at Jesus’ feet, talking to him, listening to him, worshiping him—that’s the good part, that’s the best part, that is the most important part of Christian life.  Intimacy with Christ ought to be the number one priority in the life of every disciple.


That’s where this story challenges me.  Sometimes I try to do many things for God without stopping to see if that’s what he really wants me to do.   Peter Lord put it like this: “Wouldn’t it be terrible to spend your whole life trying to make God an apple pie only to discover that God didn’t like apple pies?”


There was a time that some of you might remember when almost every child in America had at least three sets of clothing.  They had school clothes, play clothes, and church clothes.  A child’s church clothing was commonly referred to as their “Sunday best.”


Wearing one’s “Sunday best” communicated more than simply a style of worship fashion—it also said something about the way people viewed God.  Wearing one’s “Sunday best” conveyed the idea that God wants, God deserves, and God expects the very best we have to offer.



Martha gave Jesus her “Sundays Best!”   She gave what she thought Jesus wanted, deserves, and expects.  The problem is that Jesus didn’t ask for any of those things from Martha – and he doesn’t ask that from us, either.


Mary did not give her BEST to Jesus!  You see Mary realized that what she had to give Jesus wasn’t as important as what he had to give her.  She realized that she needed Jesus more than he needed her.  Mary was not occupied for Jesus.  She was occupied with Jesus.


This is probably a good lesson for Modern Christian Americans to learn.  We have been conditioned to be mostly “doers.” We place strong emphases on the notion that what counts is what we do for Jesus.   I once heard a fellow say that what we believe is not nearly as important as what we DO.  Now think about how sick that can make us.  It’s like saying that it doesn’t matter what the farmer plants – it’s what he reaps that counts.


Disciples are not those who do things for Jesus.  Disciples are those abide in Jesus.  Disciples are those who feed their soul on Jesus’ word.  Disciples are those who live in his presence.  The goodness and generosity of a disciple is not a gift that we give to Christ.  The goodness and generosity of a disciple is a quality of life that proceeds from a relationship with Christ.


We don’t live FOR Jesus, we live FROM Jesus.


In the Gospel of John, Jesus says:

Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abides in the vine; no more can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches: The person who abides in me, and I in them, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.[1]


Disciples are not those who give their lives to Jesus, they are those who receive their life from Jesus.


Disciples are people grafted to Christ’ presence like a branch on a vine.


Disciples value intimacy with Christ as the ONE thing that really matters.


Martha had good intentions.  The problem is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Good intentions are not enough.  Hard work is not enough.  Our best efforts are not enough.  Our Sunday best is not enough.  Giving him our life is not enough.


The Gospel—the good news of Christianity—is not about giving our lives to Jesus.  It is all about giving up our lives so that Jesus’ life can be expressed to us and through us.


Martha was giving Jesus her best.  She was cooking, cleaning, serving and feeding.  But she was also distracted.  She was worried and upset. “Martha, Martha—only one thing is important!”

Many of us are striving to give God our very best.  We are working, attending, ministering, and tithing.   We are worried that our “best” doesn’t seem to be enough.  We’re right—it’s not enough.  Jesus doesn’t want our best.  He doesn’t even want our all.  On the contrary, Jesus offer ALL OF HIMSELF to us, not just that we might be SAVED, but more so that HIS life might become our life.


Listen:  “Only one thing is important!”  “Only one thing is needful!”  “Only one thing really matters!”  Jesus says, “Abide in me and I in you. You cannot bear fruit unless you abide in me.”


[1] John 15:4-5 (adapted from KJV).


God’s Favorite Place on Earth
by: Frank Viola
publisher: David C. Cook, published: 2013-05-01
ASIN: 0781405904
EAN: 9780781405904
sales rank: 31412
price: $8.57 (new), $8.58 (used)

When He came to earth, Jesus Christ was rejected in every quarter in which He stepped. The Creator was rejected by His own creation. “He came to His own and His own received Him not,” said John. For this reason, Jesus Christ had “no where to lay His head.” There was one exception, however. A little village just outside of Jerusalem named Bethany. Bethany was the only place on earth where Jesus was completely received.

God’s Favorite Place on Earth
is a retelling of Jesus’ many visits to Bethany and a relaying of the message it holds for us today. Frank Viola presents a beautifully crafted narrative from the viewpoint of Lazarus, one of the people who lived in Bethany with his two sisters. This incomparable story not only brings the Gospel narratives to life, but it addresses the struggle against doubt, discouragement, fear, guilt, rejection, and spiritual apathy that challenges countless Christians today. In profoundly moving prose, God’s Favorite Place on Earth will captivate your heart with its beauty, charm, and depth. In this book you will discover how to live as a “Bethany” in our world today, being set free to love and follow Jesus like never before.


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