S. Pentecost 6.19 “Having Jesus for Supper” Luke 10:38-42

    Have you had Jesus for Supper at your place lately? How’d it go? That’s the question in our Gospel today; I’d say it’s the ultimate question. I’d say your Life depends on it.

    I anticipate resistance to this thesis of mine, which’ll go something like this: “But, Pastor! Jesus doesn’t hang with me like Mary/Martha! I live in a different time, you understand! He was only around for a few years way back when, 1st century Palestine. I don’t see how this Gospel affects me at all.” Two things to say to that objection… Thing One: if you could only read Matthew 28:18-20 like the early and Reformation church read it—how Luther read it! you would see that Jesus isn’t sending us all out on some wild sheep chase here, to go and hunt up converts for Him (as if He needs our help!). No, despite how it’s been twisted the last couple hundred years in that direction (largely for marketing purposes), that’s not what Jesus says, if you can read. Matt. 28 promises: when the Apostles have gone where He’s sent them (Matt. 10, the real Great Commission shows they’re sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, BTW, not to Gentiles and Samaritans, only to the Elect) then we can be sure of this: wherever the Word (and Sacraments) of Christ Jesus are, there Jesus Himself is with us always to the end of the age, hanging, feeding, saving just as powerfully and truly as He did with Mary and Martha and Company—all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling with us bodily in Jesus Christ, True God, True Man!!!

    Which leads to a second objection you may have that goes like this: “Well, sure, Pastor; that may be true where the Gospel is proclaimed, (and the Sacraments administered) but there are plenty of unreached places in the world, plenty of folks who’ve never heard the Gospel! I’ve seen the maps put out by Synod’s Board for Mission Services. There’s lots of houses and Supper tables Jesus has never visited and (without us getting our mission hats on) never will!” That objection leads to Thing Two that we have to say about Jesus coming for Supper to your house: Did you not listen when the vicar read the Epistle lesson today? Does he stutter? What do the Scriptures say? “The gospel which you heard was preached to every creature under heaven!” This is the Word of the Lord! Do you not believe Him? Or what part of “every creature under heaven” don’t you get? Every creature means every… creature! I could give you a half dozen other bible passages, off the top of my head (Old and New Testament!) that say exactly the same thing, just as bluntly. But few modern Christians believe this, though all the Church, from the first to the 16th centuries, believed it, no problem. See, the problem is not Jesus failing to show up at some houses. The problem is most houses not caring, giving Him the bum’s rush and forgetting that Jesus was ever here…

    Our Lutheran Confessions say this very clearly (which all Lutherans are obliged to confess or else really should find another church whose confession they can embrace). Formula of Concord Article XI (Election) paragraphs 57-62 (which we just studied in our last Wed. evening class) asks: “What do we do with lands and people without God’s Word?”and answers: Two things!: Thing One: see it as God’s well deserved judgment on them for despising the Word (because the Gospel is preached to every creature under heaven, already!) and Thing Two: see that we do the same damnable thing—that we often give Jesus the bum’s rush when He shows up at our house, and so believe that whole justification-by-grace-alone-through-faith-alone-with-no-works-of-our-own thing for Christ’s sake…

    Those Two Things said, I think we might be ready to appreciate how crucial our Gospel reading today really is! Since Jesus is coming for Supper to all our houses (and to this house in just a few minutes!) we really should see the two ways that encounter can go (and I believe these are the only two ways it can go)…

    The first way is Martha’s way (that day—she seems to have changed her ways in John’s Gospel, later, thank God!), and hers is the road more traveled by: this way, you get distracted with much serving, many tasks you feel you must do. It’s easily done! To her credit, Martha does realize it’s really Jesus, the Lord who’s come for Supper. But she quickly forgets why He comes—whose Supper it is. How come? Because: Martha’s distracted with much serving, Luke says.

    Now this is the most popular way to treat Jesus’ coming to our house, because the “distracted with much serving” way is our default setting as sinful beings. Martin Luther calls it the opinio legis that is the inborn conviction that we have to do something, for Christ’s sake! to make Jesus like us, to make ourselves worthy of salvation. We think Jesus is coming to check up on us, to see how nice we make the house for Him, how hard we work in the kitchen to prepare a lovely meal to impress Him, how polite we are to Him and family. As if our serving is the Main Thing, the crucial thing that determines whether Jesus will want to stay with us or not.

    This is the Way of the Law and we smuggle that way into everything we do, and sadly even into the way we do things in the Church, in God’s own house. This Way of the Law is wildly popular even in the modern Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod which seems to me more the “Church of St. Martha Distracted With Much Serving” than the “Church of St. Mary Sitting At Jesus’ Feet Not Doing Much Of Anything, Really, Except Taking In The Word… (if we ever start another mission church, that would be a long but good name for it. Either that or St. Judas (not Iscariot!) Lutheran Church works too…

    Now, don’t get me wrong: the Law is holy, just, and good. I’m all in favor of it! It should be preached in our churches as good and holy as St. Luke does this morning. Jesus likes a tidy house, no doubt. He isn’t criticizing Martha for doing nice things for Him. No. He’s critical when Martha would take Mary away from sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing His word. He’s critical when Martha puts the serving ahead of believing and so forgets Jesus is at Table as the One Who Serves!!!

    Which leads us to the road less traveled by, Mary’s Way, the Way of Sitting At Jesus’ Feet Not Doing Much Of Anything, Really, Except Taking In The Word. This is the Way of Faith and it looks like the road less traveled by in Frost’s poem: all covered with weeds, leaves, fallen trees, kinda dark, scary, a road down which we’ll have to Just Drive Over That Scheissenstein…

    Mary sees Jesus is here to serve us the Good Food of the Word, Himself—the Bread of Heaven, our soul’s Delight. And she is captivated by that. She forgets everything else, because when you have that, when you have Jesus for Supper, what else do you want?

    Shrill voices will come to us from the kitchen as we sit at Jesus’ feet, not doing anything but taking in His Word. They cry: “you aren’t missional enough!” Or, “you don’t care about the lost enough!” Or,  “you don’t work hard enough for the kingdom!” But Jesus silences those voices with His “One Thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the good part, which won’t be taken from her.” Nor from you, nor from me; for Jesus is here, now, Word Made Flesh, with the Feast that is Peace, surpassing all understanding, guarding hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.