Sermon from November 21, 1993
Now it happened as they went (As Jesus was travelling) that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word (listened to him speak). But Martha was distracted (overwhelmed) with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha , Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28)
We have a good lesson today to prepare ourselves for the upcoming Thanksgiving-Christmas cycle that the US is in. It is a good lesson about keeping our priorities straight, and of recognizing what really is happening in our lives as we begin this all-consumptive American season.
First, I would just like to comment to you about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a day set aside by the United States to offer thanks to God for the bounties He has so richly poured upon us. It remembers the Pilgrim forefathers of this nation and their thanks to God offered in the midst of some very harsh and trying times. This notion of Thanksgiving Day as a day dedicated to offering thanks to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is sometimes forgotten. Today Thanksgiving is touted as the “traditional” beginning of the Christmas shopping season. We would all do well to humbly think back to the purpose of the Day and use it to give thanks to God.
Since the Christmas Fast has already begun, can we Orthodox celebrate thanksgiving? My answer to you is absolutely yes! We can offer special prayers of thanksgiving on that day whether or not we eat meat, whether we feast or fast! We can remember the words of St. Paul in 1 Timothy 4:3-4 that food was created by God “to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving…” Let us remember the original intent of the day and give thanks to God. After all, to be a Christian is to be a person filled with thanks to God for all He has done for us. What we eat or don’t eat on that day will have little to do with the gratefulness with which we are to approach God. It is after all the condition of the heart by which God judges us not what is in our stomach is half empty or half full.
Let us give thanks to the Lord this Thursday as is appropriate for us as Christian people. Remember Martha and Mary in today’s Gospel lesson. Martha was distracted and stressed out by the amount of work she had to do and so she totally missed who the guest was sitting in her house. She was angry at Mary for not being hospitable, but Mary at least recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and sat to listen to His word. Martha was so busy serving that she commits an ultimate act of inhospitality in asking her guest Jesus to resolve her familial dispute. Our Lord tells Martha true hospitality consists in paying attention to the guest, not in putting yourself into an uproar nor in domestic performance. If the guest is a prophet, then correct hospitality is to listen to his word!
Jesus nicely turns the point from one of providing someone a service to receiving a gift from someone. Jesus as the giver of God’s grace has something to give to each of us, if only we would stop and listen to what He says.
This year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, take time to remember who the honored guest is. And if you are in any doubt, I will tell you it is God, not uncle Joe.
How will you offer thanks to God this thanksgiving?
How will you welcome the Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas?
There will be chance to keep the feasts in your homes. There will also be the chance to assemble here at the Liturgy and other services to give thanks to God, and to listen to His Word. Remember that which is truly important. Receive the Lord into your homes and hearts as He would want to be received, not as you are want to receive Him.
It is the final line in the Gospel lesson today that tells us how the Lord Jesus wants to be received.
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”