Is Martha not doing like the Good Samaritan in serving the Lord Jesus, her neighbor? And is Mary not keeping the first and greatest commandment in loving the Lord above all else and listening to His Word?
The home of Mary and Martha is the house of faith and love, the holy Christian Church — to which the Lord Jesus comes with His beautiful feet, shod with the Gospel of Peace; and there He is given and received by mouth and ears, with hands and heart.
Martha labors while Mary listens. There is a time and place, a reason and a purpose for both. These two sisters dwell together in one house and have one Lord whom they worship and serve by faith and love. But dear Mary, here, has the better part: She listens and receives in faith; and she also loves much, because she is forgiven much, and because she lives by the Lord's gracious Word and loving service.
All of Martha's labors depend upon the same Divine Service as Mary's listening, and her labors serve the same Divine Service for the sake of faith (her own and her sister's). Her love depends upon the Lord's love. Her service depends upon His service. Her words and works depend upon His Words and works. Her faith depends upon His faith and faithfulness.
The same is true for you — as it was for Mary, also, who gladly listened to the Lord and received the gifts He freely gave her.
If you strive to labor for your own life, as though your life depended on your own works and accomplishments, then you will never cease being worried and burdened by so many things, which you cannot bear and never will be able to bear.
Therefore, do not labor as though to achieve life for yourself, nor as though to gain your Lord and keep Him by your efforts. But as He has come to you in love, and as you have received Him, and as you do and shall receive Him, so then labor to extend His grace, mercy and peace to your sister and your brother.
Do not suppose that you should not work, but do the work that God has given you to do. The Lord has not called you to labor for your righteousness, life and salvation, but neither has He called you to laziness. Neither idolatry nor idleness belongs to your Christian vocation. Rather, six days shall you work, and the Seventh is your Sabbath Rest in Christ, sanctified for you by the Word of God and prayer. Then leisure serves listening, and rest serves receiving, as the Lord speaks to you and provides for you all that is needed.
That is the purpose unto which you labor throughout the week (whatever your particular job may be), that you, your family and your neighbors may rest in the Peace of Christ, in the preaching of His Gospel, in the eating of the Lord's Supper at the Lord's Table, in the Lord's House on the Lord's Day. That is to say, all your energy and effort derive from the strength and service you receive from that Holy Supper, and then by the same strength and service you return again — with your neighbor and your kin — to that Table of Christ in faith and love.
Whether you cook or clean, sew or sell, teach or toil, write or read, or whatever you are given to do in your particular station of life, it is for the provision and support of that one thing truly needed, and as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for that same free gift of God in Christ: the preaching of His Gospel of forgiveness and the administration of His life and salvation. Consider that each day, no matter what your job may be.
That is how the house of Father Abraham and his daughters, Mary and Martha, lives. You receive the Lord and welcome Him into your home, but then your house becomes an Emmaus, wherein the Lord is your Host, your Waiter, and your Meal.
There at home with Him, sitting at His feet and reclining at His Table, you are the Lord's Body and Bride, because you receive the Lord's Body and Blood. And you serve the Lord in His Body — no less so than the ministers of Christ serve His Church — by loving and serving your neighbor in body and soul; by providing shelter and clothing, food and drink, medicine and care, a place of safety, comfort and rest.
So, faith does not work, but love does not rest; for love is always working that faith may rest even in the midst of hardship. That is to say, love is always working for the neighbor, that the neighbor may rest in Christ by faith in His Gospel.
And it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is actively present and at work in both faith and love, both for you and for your neighbor.
Father Abraham and Sister Martha welcome Him, receive Him, and serve Him with loving hospitality. But faithful Mary and even incredulous Sarah receive Him, too, and they are served by His Word and promise of salvation.
To all of them, and to all of us — for you — the Son of promise has been given, who is the One Thing truly needed, which shall not be taken away from you.
Father Abraham washes His feet, and Sister Mary sits at His feet to listen, and there she also anoints His feet with oil (for this is that same Mary).
You also may wash the feet of Jesus and anoint them with oil, by loving His servants, His sisters and brothers, who serve you. And there at His feet, dear one, listen to His preaching; receive His hospitality; rest in His sure and certain promises; and live in His love. For here, with Him, you are at home.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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