What Mary and Martha Teach Us About Worship

Friday, September 13, 2013

In Luke 10:38 and John 12:1 we read a short story about Jesus attending a dinner party hosted by his close friends, Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus. If you are familiar with this story you will remember that Martha is busy preparing and serving the dinner for their guests while Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet. In her frustration, Martha approaches Jesus to complain that Mary is making her do all the work. Jesus' response is the opposite of what she had hoped for. In fact, Jesus tells her that what Mary is doing is more important. I can just imagine the look Jesus must have been given by Martha to that comment. Jesus wasn't being indifferent or insensitive to Martha's efforts. Martha was being indifferent to what Mary was doing.

As I read this story I began thinking about worship and what the modern Church can learn from it. Like Martha, it is so easy for us to become focused on getting Jesus to respond to us rather than us responding to him in worship. As humans, the tendency is to make worship about us rather than about him. Martha forgot that the dinner party was about the honored guest, not the hostess. How many times have we come away from a worship service disappointed because we didn't get what we wanted out of it that morning? Mary, on the other hand, kept the focus on the right place. She understood that she wasn't the point. Martha felt Jesus wasn't showing enough appreciation for what she had done for him. Mary felt that she wasn't showing enough appreciation for what he did for her so she gave him everything she had. Martha was focused on what she could get from Jesus. Mary was focused on what she could give to him.

As we gather together this Sunday to worship our Lord, we have a choice. We can approach worship like Martha: focused on Jesus hands; seeking his applause for our efforts. Or we can worship like Mary: focused on Jesus face; seeking his embrace. Worship is not about getting him to respond to us, but rather getting us to respond to him. It's not about God enjoying our presence, but about us enjoying his presence.

I love the words to the famous hymn, "Rock of Ages" by Augustus Toplady that says, "Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace. Foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die!" Worship like Mary who held nothing back, didn't care what others thought of her, and whose sole motivation was to bless her Master. Don't worship to gain his applause. Worship to give him the applause he deserves.
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