About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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The First Church Of Martha
The Church Of Today

I have devoted much time and effort to church affairs in my life over the last 35 years, and after reading the story of Mary and Martha again in Luke 10, I see some parallels between Martha and our North American church.

If you dig into the text of Luke 10:38-42 you will see that Martha worked hard at serving her Lord. Yet Jesus felt that her serving was "distracting" (NIV) her from the important issue at hand, which was sitting at His feet with Mary, listening to what He had to say.

How could serving Jesus possibly be so distracting? First of all, the abundance of busyness distracted Martha from visiting with Jesus, even though this busyness was an act of service. Secondly, after becoming upset with Mary for not helping her serve, her frustration became a distraction to her original motivation to serve. I do believe Martha had good intentions.

It is interesting to note that Martha seemed just as upset with Jesus as she was with Mary. She felt that Jesus did not care that she was working so hard. Thus her frustration with Jesus became the biggest distraction of all.

I dont think Jesus really cared about the fuss Martha was making over Him with all of her work. Hed rather have both ladies simply visit with Him in peace.

So here are the parallels between this story and todays North American church. Like Martha, we are very busy in our service to Jesus. For example, we expend great energy building and maintaining our sanctuaries. We exert even greater energy maintaining the programs we involve ourselves in within these sanctuaries, much of which becomes self-serving, not Christ serving. This busyness is a distraction from our relationship with Jesus and the issues at hand. For many, "the work of the Lord becomes more important than the Lord of the work".

Like Martha, with all the busyness, we at times get upset with our brothers and sisters for various reasons. Divisions occur, destroying the very service were attempting to provide.

Also like Martha, some find themselves upset with Jesus while in the midst of the divisions. They not only separate themselves from their brothers and sisters, but from Jesus as well. It saddens me to have known people who have walked away from Jesus over things associated with distractions.

Jesus told Martha that she was "upset and worried about many things". (NIV) I think Jesus might tell us something similar today. Maybe Hed say, "Listen, youre way too busy, worried, and upset about self serving Christian endeavors. Forget about all these distractions. Return to the simplicity of your faith. Visit with me and introduce me to your friends". This sounds a bit like Jesus words to the church at Ephesus, when He told them to return to their first love. (Rev. 2:1-8)

Let me explain this another way. Emmylou Harris once said, "with the making of many records, we have lost the living room experience in our music". She was suggesting that the music industry became way too business like. The fun, enjoyment, and simplicity of making music was lost. Perfection in the recording studio replaced enjoyment in the living room. Financial statements replaced creativity, the real motive for writing and singing songs. Ive heard similar statements made by Christian musicians. They say weve made an industry out of Christian music, loosing the reason why we make the music in the first place.

To a degree the same has happened in the church. As we have built the industry of church, we have lost the living room experience. I use the word "industry", because in many respects the church has evolved into an industry, or a business.

You see, Jesus preferred Martha to visit with Him and Mary in her living room, instead of involving herself in busyness, even though her busyness was an act of service to Him.

I believe we need to return to the simpler aspects of our faith love of Jesus, love of the Bible, family, friendships, sharing Jesus on a personal level, and so on. The problem is that we have built the church into a massive monstrosity, an organization that has become a burden, and is distracting us from Jesus and the important issues at hand. The church was supposed to be like a living room, a place of support for believers. In many respects it is like a Wall Street business with high office towers, million dollar budgets, employees, advertising accounts, and so on. Im waiting for a church to issue shares in their business so I can add them to my stock portfolio, finally giving me a chance to retire in comfort.

Out of interest, for those who dont know, pastors in the United Church of Canada are attempting to form a union to protect themselves from their employer. I wonder who they consider their employer is, the church or God. I also wonder what the Apostle Paul would think of this. Actually, I believe I know what hed think.

How many times in the 1970s did I hear prophetic words asking us to be an organism, not an organization. Yet the tendency of man is to organize, to complicate, and to build memorials. And in many respects weve done just that.

I believe there is a time to sit in the living room and visit with Jesus, and also a time to serve Him in the kitchen. Im not negating the importance of serving Jesus. Still, our serving should not become a distraction to the important issues of faith, as it was with Martha. In my opinion, much of our church activity is a distraction, and has become self serving, promoting our own special interests.

I believe Jesus is going to do something about this, and has already began the process. Im not sure that His plans will be easy on us. Maybe Ill talk about this in another article.

 

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