9th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 10:38-42 Sermon 
July 29, 2007

Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
256 “Father Of Mercies, In Thy Word”
----- “One Thing Needful”
252 “O Word Of God Incarnate”
193 “On What Has Now Been Sown”


TEXT (vs. 41-42): “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.”

“The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me; l stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.” That’s one of the first songs I can remember learning in Sunday School when I was a boy. Of course we sang other songs too, but everybody knew that one. In fact, I can remember that we fairly shouted those letters, “The B-I-B-L-E.”

Sunday School always began with what we called “opening exercises.” The little chairs were in the front, and bigger chairs were behind them. Lora Wallwey would stand up on the little stage in our church basement. She would ask the children what they wanted to sing, and there were always more than enough requests.

Then it was birthday time. If you were having a birthday that week, you brought a penny for every year. We had what we called a “missionary bank” which was a little man; and every time you gave him a coin, he’d tip his hat as a “thank you.”

Following that, we’d have a very short introduction to the Bible story for the day, which is what we’d talk about in class; and most of the time it followed the theme of the church service later on.

Then it was time for our offering. Two of the children were chosen to pass the wicker offering baskets (which looked strangely like the bread baskets we’d use for church suppers). Then we’d sing “Lord Jesus bless our offering,” have a short prayer, and Lora Wallwey would dismiss us by rows to go to our classes.

Lora’s sister, Elsie Wallwey was my first Sunday School teacher. (This was a case where two sisters were married to two cousins, hence the same last name). We had little wooden chairs arranged in a semi-circle in the room, and she sat in the middle. We were each given story cards, which had a color lithographed picture on the front to illustrate the story, and on the back was the lesson.

I remember listening intently to the story, and how fascinating it all was. Joseph and his coat of many colors…Daniel and the lion’s den…the Good Samaritan…Moses in the bull rushes…Jesus in the manger…Jesus in the temple…there were so many interesting and exciting things. And I soaked it all up.

It was for my sixth birthday in 1960 that I received my first Bible of my very own. And yes, I brought it with me this morning to show to you. It hasn’t been treated as nicely as it probably should have been, but it has withstood the test of time; and even though there are several loose pages, they are all still there. On the inside it has written: “Presented to Danny Schroeder, December 14, 1960, with love, George Sebade, Beulah Sebade. (That was an older couple from our church who baby sat me). My name was stamped in gold on the front, which is pretty much worn off now.

I noticed there were blank pages at the front and end of the Bible, and I was puzzled as to why they were there. So I asked my mother. She told me that I could use them to write down my favorite Bible verses. So I took my Bible, and you can see that I wrote in the front, in very big letters, in pencil, the following:  “Bible verse: for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  And in the back, I tried to illustrate the Trinity; but instead of a triangle, I mistakenly made a five pointed star, and labeled each point: Father, Son, And, Holy, Ghost. Only a child could take a mistaken illustration and make it all work out.

This Bible went with me every week to Sunday School and Church. I had it at Vacation Bible School, and it even suffered through the rigors of a number of years of Bible Camp. Inside I’ve kept one of my early Sunday School projects; this is a book mark made out of red construction paper with a bit of gold paper glued on, which has the imprint of a cross on it.

Thank you for allowing me this little trip down memory lane. When I read the story about Mary and Martha, which is our Gospel lesson for today, I can’t help but think of those early years in my life. I can see how important it is to be sitting at Jesus’ feet in spirit; and how important that “one thing needful” is.

The story is a short one. It is only five verses long. But the lesson it teaches is very profound indeed. It reaches to the very depths of human nature and makes each one of us do some serious soul searching.

Mary and Martha were two sisters who lived, along with their brother Lazarus in the town of Bethany, about ten miles east of Jerusalem. They were extremely devoted disciples of Jesus; but more than that, they were also good friends. Jesus was able to go to their home, and use it as a place for some rest and relaxation. He could go there to sort of “get away from it all,” so-to-speak.

Martha, trying to be the good hostess, busies herself with the meal preparation. In so doing, she is completely overwhelmed and distracted away from their guest. In her mind’s eye, the meal was the most important thing. There would be time for Jesus later. Martha was being the typical “fuss budget” as is often said.

So when he arrives and Mary goes and sits at his feet hearing his teachings, Martha gets upset. She comes in, and in a scolding manner, she wants Jesus to basically order Mary to help her in the kitchen.

But Jesus puts the priorities in order. In verses 41-42 of our text, we read: “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.”

We can really identify with Martha, for we are caught up in a similar dilemma in daily life. We are constantly occupied with making a better life. From early childhood to post adolescence we are busy with schoolwork. Then comes our first real job and the internal pressure to advance our career. A spouse and children give us further reason to try to succeed. Later on there’s the preparation for retirement. Sometimes it seems that every stage of life is simply a preparation for the next phase we going into. Our dilemma is that while we are continually preparing for the future, there’s the present to deal with.

Our dilemma is that while we are preparing for the future, Jesus is with us now. Jesus is asking us to set aside our earthly worries and concerns long enough to listen to him. We listen to Jesus Christ because he is the highest treasure we can have. Jesus gives us real pleasure. The teachings of Jesus renew us and give us a permanence we can’t bring to ourselves.

I heard it said once that Martha wanted a religion, while Mary wanted a relationship. For Martha, it was enough for her to have Jesus in her house. She wanted that contact with him, but she didn’t want to take the time to build that personal relationship. Her worldly cares distracted her and took precedence. For her, a religion was good enough.

John chapter 6 is what’s known as the “Bread of Life” chapter. Listen to a few verses:

Verse 27: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Verse 35: “Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Verse 40: “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

These words describe a relationship, and not just a religion. Mary knew what was important in life. The meal they were going to eat would soon be gone. And then what? She knew the difference between the temporary earthly things and the relationship which would endure into eternity.

What do we want? Do we want a relationship, or are we satisfied with just a religion? Is Jesus a convenient figure of our church that we keep on a shelf, and only go to him when we feel we have the time? Or is he a part of our daily lives?

All we need to do is some honest self-examination. When we’ve allowed other things to stand in the way of our relationship with God, then we have broken the first commandment. We have not loved the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength. Other activities suddenly seem much too important for us to make Jesus a priority. And when we do this, we become worried, and anxious, and on edge. We successfully let the upsets and cares in our lives replace the Prince of Peace.

But Jesus continually invites us to sit at his feet. He is our Lord and Saviour. He brings peace to our lives. Through faith in him as our Saviour, our many sins are forgiven, and we become heirs to God’s eternal paradise in heaven. There isn’t anything or anybody that can do this apart from Jesus. When we feed on Jesus through faith, then we have the food which endures to eternal life. Nothing Martha could whip up in the kitchen could even come close to this. Jesus is the only source of life, and it is only through faith in him as our Saviour that our relationship with God is complete.

I used my early Sunday School days as an illustration this morning because of what was happening to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but a relationship with Jesus was being built. Lora Wallwey was building that relationship during opening exercises. Elsie Wallwey and my other Sunday School teachers were building that relationship. That relationship was being built during our worship services. And when George and Beulah Sebade handed me my first Bible, that was the very foundation for my relationship with Jesus my Lord.

I also used my Sunday School days to point out how important the Bible is. Historically, the Lutheran Church has been a Bible church. When we at Mighty Fortress wrote our constitution, we affirmed that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and the only rule and norm of our faith and life. When we first started meeting together over three years ago, the very first thing we purchased was a case of NIV Bibles. We even made sure they had red covers to match our hymnals.

So many people have drifted away from the Bible, thinking that it is outdated and does not have relevance to daily life. Some believe that the things God says are wrong and sinful don’t apply to today’s society. Some believe that the Bible is the mark of a dusty and dry, old and dead religion.

But we don’t, and we haven’t, and we aren’t about to relegate the Scriptures to somewhere in the distant past. The Holy Bible is still the inspired and inerrant living Word of our living God, and it speaks to us today as it has to those in past generations.

What’s more, is that the Holy Bible is the vehicle the Holy Spirit uses to bring about repentance and faith in the hearts of people. The Holy Spirit uses the words recorded by the Prophets, Apostles, and Evangelists to reveal Jesus the Saviour to all people. As important as missionaries are to the Christian faith, they wouldn’t have anything to proclaim without the Scriptures in hand.

The Apostle Paul, when writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-47 outlines both Timothy’s relationship to his Lord and the importance of the Bible, when he says: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Today, the Bible is being distributed like it never has before. It has been translated into almost every known language. And when communism fell and the USSR ceased to exist, Christians from all over worked feverishly to get Bibles into those countries where the government had previously tried to silence the voice of God.

Why all this work to distribute Bibles?  When you hand someone a Bible, you are handing them an invitation to sit at Jesus’ feet.  When you give a Bible, you are giving someone that “one thing needful” Jesus is speaking about in our Gospel lesson for today.  You are giving them the food which endures to eternal life.

The Bible doesn’t just give someone “religion;” rather it builds a relationship between a person and their Saviour.  It doesn’t matter if that person is sitting in church, or in a hotel room, or in a prison cell, or in a hospital room, or somewhere in the jungles of Africa, the Word of God speaks to everyone regardless of their individual circumstances.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” T hose words recorded in John 3:16 that I penciled on that blank page in my first Bible are the words of a relationship between Jesus and the world, between Jesus and you, between Jesus and me.

“The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me; l stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”


(a hymn based on Luke 10:38-42)

Metre: 87,87.D
Suggested tune: O du liebe meiner liebe
SBH 69, LBW 93, TLH 145, LW 90, LSB 423 

1. One thing needful, this one treasure
Teach me Saviour to esteem;
Other things may promise pleasure,
But are never what they seem.
Earthly burdens vex and chafe us,
Giving no true happiness;
This one treasure you provide us,
Gives us joy, our lives to bless.

2. Do you seek this one thing needful,
Leave all cares that hindering prove;
Turn to Jesus and be heedful,
Fix your heart on things above.
Jesus, God and man united,
Is the worthiest lot and best;
With God’s fullness be delighted,
Him our comfort and our rest.

3. Then with Mary’s full surrender,
I would offer you my heart;
At your feet my tribute render,
As my chosen better part.
Mary’s love and strong emotion
For her Saviour and her Lord;
Sought to serve him with devotion,
Worship him in one accord.

4. Therefore Jesus, my endeavor
Is to be forever true;
Let no earthly love whatever,
Hinder me from loving you.
Should the world forsake and leave you,
May I ne’er from you depart;
In devotion love and serve you,
Saviour, now I yield my heart.

5. Henceforth you alone, my Saviour,
Shall be all-in-all to me.
Search my heart and my behavior,
Cast out all hypocrisy.
Keep me from all paths unholy,
And all sin which does allure;
Throughout life, keep my heart lowly,
Focused on your Gospel pure.

--Rev. Daniel K. Schroeder

(Permission is granted to distribute and use this hymn freely.)