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God Is Worthy

Choosing the better way
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Discovering God (part two)". See series.

Introduction: Every minute together

This past week I stood at a graveside with a small circle of people as we laid to rest one of the great saints of our church. We told stories there of how much better our lives were for the chance to know this man. Every one of us knew something of him. None of us knew all. But it was his marriage partner who knew the most. As we walked from the grave, she gave me an envelope containing a personal gift enclosed by a simple note. "Please enjoy dinner with your lovely wife," the note read. "Every minute together is precious."

My first thought, I confess, was pretty self-focused: What splendid timing. Amy and I are coming up on our 22nd wedding anniversary. I'm going to take her out for a delicious meal with this gift. Then, as I sat in my car reading the note over again, the deeper significance of those words on the card started to settle in. The woman who had penned them had been with her own spouse on their 22nd anniversary. She'd been there with him on their 32nd anniversary, too, and on their 42nd, their 52nd, their 62nd, and their 72nd year of married life. For most of her more than 90 years on this planet, she had built her life around the love of this man. She had raised and buried children with him. She had faced storms and sunshine alike with him. She had soaked in and loved more of his heart, mind, soul, and strength, than anyone else on earth. But for her, it was still not quite enough. "Please enjoy the opportunity," she had urged me with trembling pen. "Remember, every minute together is precious."

Home for the holidays

When we meet Jesus in our Scripture lesson for today, we see that no one in his company fully understood just how precious the time with him they had truly was. Luke chapter 10 says, "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way [to Jerusalem], he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him."

We know from other passages of Scripture that the village in question was the town of Bethany, just over the hilltop of the Mount of Olives, barely two miles away from the place where Christ's body would soon be laid to rest.

We don't know for certain why Jesus made it a habit to come and stay in this house where Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus lived, but the Bible suggests it was his pattern whenever he went up to Jerusalem for the holidays. Was it being in the midst of the trinity of love there that felt faintly familiar to him, given where he'd come from? Was it because Martha knew how to whip up a meal that reminded Jesus of the eternal banquet he knew awaited him when he returned to his true home? Was it partly because Lazarus was such a divine companion, explaining perhaps why, upon hearing of his later death, the Bible says that "Jesus wept" (John 11:35)? Or was it, as I suspect, something about Mary that Jesus especially enjoyed and from which you and I might possibly learn?

Picture with me a house, perhaps something like the one you may go to for the holiday. The house is bustling with noise from all the people thronging there. You can see Lazarus sprawled out on the living room floor in front of the coffee table, reaching up for the chips. The disciples are draped all over the furniture, absolutely glued to the football game. Martha's in the kitchen "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made" (Luke 10:40). She's basting the turkey with one hand, stirring the gravy with the other, and wishing she had another hand to butter the beans. But the Bible says that Mary wasn't with either of her siblings. She "sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said" (Luke 10:39).

What I want you to understand is that these positions are all familiar ones for these players. Jumping ahead another year or more, we read in John's gospel that "Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany." In other words, just a week before Jesus will be crucified and laid in a grave, he chooses to stop over in this same home again. The Bible says that "Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table." Are you getting this? What's Lazarus doing? He's kicking back again. What's Martha Stewart doing? That's right. She is preoccupied with her cooking show again.

And what is Mary doing? You can see it: Mary is focusing all of her attention directly on Jesus again. The Bible says that "Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair" (John 12:1-3 ). She could not possibly have known that she was, in effect, anointing Jesus for his coming burial. But there is something that Mary does know—something that it is very easy to miss in this world of Lazarus-like diversions and Martha-like distractions. It is what that woman I met near another grave this past week understood very clearly, too. Mary understood that when you are in the presence of someone truly worthy, every minute is precious.

Thou art worthy.

Now, I don't want to start a fight in your home this Thanksgiving, so let me be clear about something. There is nothing wrong with putting your feet up and watching the game now and then. There is also something wonderful about those people who mash the potatoes or make the pumpkin pie. This world would be a lesser place without the people who know how to rest and those who know how to work. But most of all, it needs people who know how to give their full and unfaltering attention to the One in the room with whom every minute is truly precious.

When you're with your family and friends, you are with people who are worthy of this focus from you. If you are more interested in the outcome of the game than you are in that child who wants to show you something they made, or if you are more obsessed with getting the gravy just right than you are with that person who is telling you a story that is actually unveiling a part of her heart, then think again about what you are doing. You may get a lot less than 72 years with such a person. Who knows? You may not have another 72 hours. Don't go to the grave with regrets. Ask yourself now: What, or rather who, is worthy of my greatest attention in the hours ahead?

At that feast in Bethany long ago, Lazarus was too wrapped up in his diversions to see it. Martha was too distracted by her preparations to get it. But Mary understood that every minute she had with Jesus was precious. Remember that for yourself, too. The holidays are a fabulous time to renew your focus on the most amazing One who will be in your home this season. I began this message series by quoting A. W. Tozer's famous contention:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us …. History will positively demonstrate that no religion [or society] has ever been greater than its idea of God …. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our [vision] of God is … inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more [and more] nearly as he is.

Our list of thanksgivings will be too short, our catalogue of grievances too long, our weight of discouragement too heavy if we do not, like Mary, fix our gaze upon Jesus and open our ears to his words. Think with me one more time about the magnificent nature of the One who has come to this house this morning. He is the all-sufficient One who needed nothing and no one other than himself to be endlessly joyful and content; and yet he created you and me that we might have the unsurpassed honor of knowing him. God is the one perfectly good being in this universe we occupy, the one who lavishes his grace and mercy on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. He is the ultimate standard for good character, for good government, for good parenting, and for the good life, and we lose our way without him.

In a world where every person you know sooner or later lets you down, God alone is absolutely trustworthy. He is the one sure and dependable reality in your life. He is the one Person whose promises you can confidently and completely count on as your hope in this life and for the next. You can trust him because God is also loving at a level you will never meet anywhere else. Other people may care for you in a qualified way. Other people may be for you as long as you look this way or behave like that. But he will never leave you nor forsake you. He wills and works for your good at every moment of every day.

Never let your concept of God decay into a trite sentimentality. Never forget that God is also holy beyond compare. The most intelligent, powerful, and virtuous person earth has ever produced is like a disease-carrying insect when compared to the mind-blowing glory of God's holiness. And yet when he could obliterate us by simply appearing in all his glory before us, God has, amazingly, chosen to be self-sacrificing toward us. He laid down the supreme comfort and superb companionship of heaven in order to come find you. He laid down the robes of his awesome splendor and took on mortal flesh to come alongside you. He laid down his body upon the cruelest instrument of death ever devised by man to purchase forgiveness for you. And if you have asked him into your life, then he is now present and powerful in you. He has already defeated the power of sin and death in your soul and given you a new identity.

This is the God I have been trying to help all of us discover afresh in recent weeks. It can all be summed up in this simple confession: God is worthy above all. For Christians, a vision of God's worthiness moves us to worship. The word worship is, actually, a contraction of the original word worthship. Worship is the act of recognizing and responding to God's worth.

The Book of Revelation declares that one day those of us who have put our trust in Christ will find ourselves moved to worship God in a way for which we are just beginning to be trained in this life. We will be called to an everlasting feast at the ultimate Thanksgiving table. We will look around us and see angelic beings of simply staggering beauty and intelligence, bowing in wonder before the all-surpassing splendor of our God. "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power," they will sing (Revelation 4:11). "Worthy are you, O God, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Revelation 5:12). We will know then as we can only begin to discover now, how truly worthy he has always been of our full devotion.

This world will always tend to divert and distract us from focusing on God's worth. The Bible says that Martha came to Jesus and asked: "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "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" (Luke 10:40-42). Don't let this world take from you a holy obsession to know God, to listen to God, and to live in God more deeply. It is truly the better way—the only way—to find the wisdom, power, and grace you and I and our world so desperately need. So enjoy the people God has put around your table this week. And always remember Jesus above all else. For the grave lies out there. The clock is ticking. The note he has written you in his Word urges you to remember: "Every minute together is precious."

Dan Meyer is pastor of Christ Church.us, a nondenominational, multisite church with locations in Oak Brook and Lombard, Illinois.

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Sermon Outline:

Introduction: Every minute together

I. Home for the holidays

II. Thou art worthy.