READING: Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossian 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42
SERMON : "Just Don't Do Something, Stand There!"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
for the upcoming Sunday. Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
Sources: The Children's story is that of Charles Kirkpatrick,
"The Most Important Thing" (sermons4kids.com) July 18 2004 and
is used with permission. Inspiration for the sermon came from
files saved from the TELOS lectionary discussion group in 1995,
in particular the Rev. Dave Jagger "Lawyers All" and the Rev.
John Smallman, "Mary and Martha" (for July 23 1995).
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand)
* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 52:8-9)
L The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P And also with you.
L I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
P God makes those who rely upon him
like the green olive trees which grow in His garden.
L I will thank God forever because of what he has done.
In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim God's name.
P We wait upon God because He is good.
He does not disappoint those who wait upon him.
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Loving Father - by your word the world was created and through your love it
was made good. Attend us this day and help us to hear your word and to
abide in your love. Refresh our souls with your Spirit and strengthen us,
teach us, and so guide us, that we might bring praise unto your name.
* HYMN: "Take Time To Be Holy" - VU 672
CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Most Important Thing
Object: Go to MacDonald's or a similar place and get a small paper bag,
napkin, straw, packet of catsup, and a paper cup with a lid on
Theme Keeping ourselves centred on what is most important in our life.
Source Charles Kirkpatrick, "The Most Important Thing"
(sermons4kids.com) July 18 2004. With permission.
TITLE: The Most Important Thing (For July 18)
THEME: Keeping ourselves centered on what is most important in our
OBJECTS: Go to MacDonald's or a similar place and get a small paper
bag, napkin, straw, packet of catsup, and a paper cup with a lid on
As they went on their way, they came to a town where a woman
named Martha lived. She cared for Jesus in her home. Martha had
a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened
to all He said. Martha was working hard getting the supper ready.
She came to Jesus and said, 'Do You see that my sister is not
helping me? Tell her to help me.' Jesus said to her, 'Martha,
Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. Only a
few things are important, even just one. Mary has chosen the good
thing. It will not be taken away from her.' Luke 10: 38-42
Do you ever get hungry during church? Sometimes I get so hungry that I
just don't think I can make it through the sermon. This was one of those
mornings, so I went to MacDonald's and got a hamburger. If you will excuse
me, I am going to eat it right now. ( Start removing the items from the
paper bag one at a time, commenting on each one as you take it out. When
you have removed all of the items from the bag, show surprise and concern
that something seems to be missing -- the hamburger.)
Can you imagine that? I got so interested in getting all of these things to
go with my hamburger, that I forgot the most important thing. I forgot to
get the hamburger!
You probably think I am pretty foolish to have forgotten the hamburger.
After all, that was the most important thing. I am not the only person to
ever do something so foolish. That is what our Bible lesson is about this
As Jesus and his disciples were travelling, they came to a town where
Martha lived with her sister Mary. The sisters welcomed Jesus into their
home and Martha immediately began to work very hard to get supper ready for
Jesus. While Martha busied herself in preparing the meal, Mary just sat at
the feet of Jesus and listened to his teaching.
Martha was upset that her sister was not helping her, so she went to Jesus
and said, "Do you see that my sister is not helping me? Tell her to help
Jesus answered, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about too
many things. Only a few things are important, perhaps just one. Mary has
chosen that one thing and I will not take it away from her."
Many of us make the same mistake that Martha made. We get so busy working,
going to school, playing, or watching television that we often forget the
most important thing. We forget to spend time with Jesus! We must be very
careful that we don't get so busy doing good things that we leave out the
best! After all, Jesus is the most important thing!
PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Lord Jesus, help me to remember - that you are the most important
part of our lives. - Draw me closer to you. - Don't let me get
so busy with other things - that I forget to spend time with you.
and in the words that he taught us, let us pray:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us
this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we
forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen
* HYMN: "Tell Me The Stories Of Jesus" - VU 357
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Welcome and Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Special Matters
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
TIME OF SILENCE & AND INTROIT FOR THE WORD (v2 of 371)
Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear,
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me. Spirit divine!
A READING FROM AMOS 8:1-12
(NIV) This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: a basket of
ripe fruit. "What do you see, Amos?" he asked.
"A basket of ripe fruit," I answered.
Then the LORD said to me, "The time is ripe for my people Israel;
I will spare them no longer.
"In that day," declares the Sovereign LORD, "the songs in the
temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies - flung
Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of
the land, saying,
"When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the
Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?" - skimping the
measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: "I will never forget
anything they have done.
"Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it
mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be
stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.
"In that day," declares the Sovereign LORD, "I will make the sun
go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will
turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing
into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave
your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.
"The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD, "when I will
send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst
for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men
will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it."
L This is the word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
RESPONSIVE PSALM READING: Psalm 52 (VU 777) and The Gloria Patri Sung
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
World without end. Amen
A READING FROM COLOSSIANS 1:15-28
(NIV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over
all creation. For by him all things were created: things in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or
powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him
and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold
together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the
beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in
everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to
have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile
to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in
heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds
because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by
Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his
sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue
in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held
out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that
has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which
I, Paul, have become a servant.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my
flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions,
for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its
servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word
of God in its fullness - the mystery that has been kept hidden
for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To
them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious
riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all
wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
L This is the word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
* FAVOURITE HYMN
A READING FROM LUKE 10:38-42
(NIV) As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a
village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She
had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to
what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations
that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you
care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell
her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset
about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen
what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
SERMON: "Just Don't Do Something, Stand There!"
O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the
meditations of our hearts. Speak, O Lord, for your servants
I want you all to think of the gospel reading today -
- to think about Martha - busy serving Jesus and his disciples -
- and about Mary, her sister - her co-host - sitting quietly at his
feet listening to him speak, learning from him.
I want you to think about it and to ask yourself - which sister was doing
the right thing?
And I want you to ask yourself as well - which sister am I more like?
This past week several people in a scripture discussion group that I am in
discussed the Mary & Martha story - and each of them offered an opinion
about their actions - or their lack of action as it were.
Who was right in the situation in which they found themselves?
Mary - who Sat and learnt from Jesus?
If so, then who would serve him and his disciples?
Custom required that when you welcomed a person as a guest, you must do
certain things, or you are insulting the guest. Remember reading a few
weeks ago about Simon the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner and didn't
do the expected things. Jesus was quick to point out to him all the errors
he had made - how he had failed to greet him - and failed to wash his feet.
So here, Martha worried about and did what was expected. Mary didn't.
Who was right then?
But she would miss the opportunity to hear the word of the Lord from his
Isn't that more important than customs?
Who was right?
Before you start thinking that this question is an artificial one - the
kind thought up by theological professors and ministers to while away the
time - let me assure you that it is not. Situations crop up all the time
in our lives that ask us to make a decision like the one that faced both
Martha and Mary.
A few years back Charlene and I and Mark went to Ottawa to
celebrate with my brother Peter. For the very first time in over
twenty years my brother Peter, myself, my brother Michael, and my
Father all gathered in the same place - so it was an important
time - a time of reunion - a time of checking in - of reviewing
the past and of looking to the future.
We arrived on Christmas morning and went through all that you
might expect on Christmas Day - gift opening, a big meal, lots of
laughter and hugs, catching up on news, sharing things, doing
dishes. Enjoying the Spirit of the day and the company of one
Boxing Day - after lunch - all the kids there - each of them over
ten years old - played in the main house with their new toys and
with the computer and the TV and the VCR. They were very happy.
The refrigerator was full of food and drink - the counters
groaned with still more left-overs - and everyone settled in to
read, to rest, to talk and to relax.
My brothers and I retired to Peter's office - which was in a
rebuilt garage across the lane from the main house. There we got
into a long conversation about what it was like when we were
growing up - about how we felt about our parent's divorce - about
how it affected us in later years - and so forth. It was a very
serious discussion - the first one we had ever had together.
Around five in the afternoon a messenger was sent to the office
to tell us that supper was ready and that we should come in. We
sent a message back saying that we were busy but would come in a
About five-thirty another message came - to which we made similar
Finally, around six, another message arrived - the message
stating that we had better come in right away - that we had
simply ruined the meal that Peter's wife had prepared - and worse
- we were responsible for having the kids go hungry. When we
arrived in the house we were told that we were inconsiderate -
and, in a way that most of you who are married will no doubt
understand, we were made to pay for that inconsiderate
There is no question in my mind that we were a bit rude. But at the time -
and to this day - I felt that Michael and Peter and I had made the right
To this day, however, my step-mother and Peter's wife feel that we did not.
Who was right? Mary - or - Martha? My step mother - or my brothers and I?
If we are talking about right and wrong in some kind of absolute sense -
I'm uncomfortable choosing either Martha or Mary. My colleagues in the
scripture discussion group this week were equally uncomfortable.
No one wanted to condemn Martha outright for doing what was expected.
But no one wanted to contradict Jesus and condemn Mary either.
As we talked about this passage, we kept running into this need of ours to
judge. This need of ours to see one of the sisters as right - and
therefore to see the other as being wrong.
Most of us, I believe, are more like Martha than Mary.
We have things to do. Customs to uphold.
We agree with the phrase, "Don't just stand there, do something!!"
We are most comfortable in that role. Server. Worker. Accomplisher.
Those things can be measured and we can use them to justify our existence.
"Look what we did today for you, Lord. Aren't we good disciples."
Not often enough am I like Mary.
Spending time with the Lord.
Not "doing" something.
Too often not "doing" feels like "wasting time."
If I'm not doing something - then I start to feel guilty.
So to condemn Martha is to condemn me. To condemn most of us.
I'm not comfortable doing that.
However, to choose Martha, and condemn Mary, is apparently to go against
Jesus' own words in support of Mary. Jesus probably knew what he was
talking about. In a sense his comment to Martha is a but another way of
reminding her of something that God had said through the scripture many
years earlier - "We do not live by bread alone - but by every word that
proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."
Who are you? Mary? Or Martha?
Who do you sympathize with?
Who would you like to be like?
Ralph Milton, the editor of Wood Lake Books was commenting on the frantic
pace of most peoples' lives these days not so long ago.
He said that we should quit calling ourselves "human beings", and instead
start using the term "human doings!" He said we're much too busy all the
time. And of course he's right.
Even now - here in this sanctuary - we are too busy -- busy listening, busy
thinking, busy planning. We don't rest well. We don't meditate well. We
don't tune in to the still small voice that is within us very well.
Let me demonstrate that
by sitting down and being silent for a short time.
I want you all to meditate during this time
- to offer yourself to God
- to listen for what the Spirit might be saying to you.
(sit down, say nothing for 2 minutes)
How did you feel?
That was only two minutes!
Did you feel anxious for me to start preaching again?
For something, anything, to happen?
Did your mind spin during the silence?
Then you need to work on your Mary.
You see - we're all a combination of Mary and Martha,
but for most of us our Martha's have virtually taken over.
Oh - I know you're thinking that somebody has to do the work!
Well perhaps - but how shall that work get done?
And from where shall we draw energy to do it?
And how shall we know whether it is important work or not if we have not
taken time to think it all through - if we have not taken time to talk with
and to listen to our Lord?
We must work on choosing the better part.
There is always something to be done my friends. There is always a job
that must be performed. But when that something gets to possess you, to
leave you with no time for prayer, no time for quiet, no time for the work
of the Spirit, then it has become obsessive. And - let's face it - in our
culture - it has become obsessive.
In middle of all this Mary versus Martha stuff, where is the "Good news?"
Grace, you'll remember, can be defined as not getting what you deserve and
getting what you don't deserve.
In this story of Mary and Martha, where is that happening?
I believe that it is happening around Mary.
Mary, you see, doesn't deserve to just sit.
She is a woman with certain responsibilities to uphold.
She is co-hostess. She has a job to do.
But Mary gets to sit and listen to Jesus instead.
She doesn't deserve it.
It's not like the dishes are all done, then she sits down and listens.
She opts out of her responsibilities.
But she still gets the privilege of spending time with Jesus.
For us that equates out to Good News.
As much as it is against most of our inclinations, we all need to spend
time, just being with Jesus. Not doing, not evangelising, not ushering in
the Kingdom, not solving all the world's problems, perhaps not even making
up a fancy supper for our house guests or getting an extra coat of polish
on the furniture before our in-laws come for a visit.
The good news is that we don't have to be super "workers" for Jesus.
The time we spend prayerfully meditating, listening, being silent before
the Master is just as important as our "doing."
Instead of "just don't stand there, do something!" we can also say, "Just
don't do something, stand there!"
God is outside our customs and traditions.
Jesus knew what was expected when welcomed as guest,
but in this instance,
didn't seem to care too much.
Jesus was more concerned with sharing himself, with teaching, with building
relationships with people.
What God really cares about is relationships - our relationship with him -
and our relationship with others..
God wants to know the real us - and he wants us to know the real him,
to know him - and through him to have the power to really know - and to
really love - others.
You can be yourself before God, like Mary was.
You don't have to beat your head against the wall getting everything just
I, for one, find that very freeing.
God wants to know the real me; the real you.
And if you don't quite follow custom, if you don't take the accepted route,
as you get to know God,
it doesn't matter.
If it's really you, the you God made and the you God wants to know,
then I believe that God understands.
The story of Mary and Martha - and our reaction to it
shows us something about ourselves
it shows us our need to judge
and it shows us that there are choices to be made -
choices - not about what is right or wrong -
but rather choices about what is good and what is necessary
about what is wonderful and what is even better
Through this story, we not only learn about God,
but God also reveals us to ourselves should we care to listen.
In this case - for many of us - the message may be - , "Don't be so anxious
about getting things right - don't be so busy. Stop for a minute - maybe
even two. Look and listen. Enjoy the experience that is set before you.
There is grace here - receive it."
Ultimately that's what I hear in this passage. Be careful about yourself.
Know yourself better. Know what is important. What to give priority to.
It is not a matter of right or wrong my friends - it is a matter of
priorities - of first things first.
Isn't it time we slowed down a bit - to make Jesus feel welcome - in the
home of our hearts?
Let us Pray...
THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Singing #400 at the start of the prayer time)
Lord, listen to your children praying,
Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
Lord, listen to your children praying,
Send us love, send us power, send us grace!
God, give us the wisdom to slow down, to relax, to allow the peacefulness
which receives Jesus into our hearts. Help us to nourish the "human
being" in each of us, and give the "human doing" a much needed
rest.... Lord hear our prayer.... and in your love answer.
Lord - hear too the other prayers of our hearts - the prayers not mentioned
by me as I stand before you - the prayers that are deep inside us - as we
sit here in our chairs. Hear our prayers for healing - for peace - for
forgiveness - for quiet - for grace upon grace......... Lord hear our
All these things we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen
MINUTE FOR MISSION
* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer
L Bless O God these gifts we give, both those we have put on these
plates and those we have offered you in the silence of our hearts.
P Help us God to chose the good portion
and to live
and to walk the path
you have prepared for us.
We ask it in Christ's name. Amen
* DEPARTING HYMN: "Seek Ye First" - VU 356
* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body
* BENEDICTION AND THREE FOLD AMEN - VU 971
Go in peace,
- and may God bless you with the energy of Martha and the calm of Mary,
- may the Spirit grant you a strong sense of purpose and a willingness to
sit and listen and learn,
- and may the love of Christ fill you and flow forth from you
both now and forevermore. Amen
* CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.