Pastor Randy Milleville
Have you heard about this new craze that is sweeping the country? Yeah. I’m sure you have. It’s a new game for your smartphone called “Pokemon Go.” You can download the Pokemon Go app for free, and play this game where you try to capture as many Pokemon’s as you can – so you can go to a place called a gym – so you can train your Pokemon’s to duke it out with somebody else’s captured Pokemon’s. All the while you’re accumulating points. And incubating eggs. I have no idea what that’s all about!
But did I get any of that right? Anybody here playing Pokemon Go? I don’t know – Pastor Becca tried to explain it to me. SO if I got that explanation wrong, you can blame it on her – or actually it’s my understanding – or maybe my misunderstanding of what she told me.
Anyway, it’s only been a few weeks that this thing has really caught on. But I guess there are some dangers associated with playing this game. Some unintended consequences. Let’s listen to a news broadcast from earlier this week.
Did you see what was going on there? People so glued to their phones that they’re running into poles – and each other. And getting hurt. Some of these folks are sporting their Pokemon injuries as though they were a badge of honor!
And just in case you didn’t know – Zion is a Pokemon stop. You can capture a Pokemon here. Of course, if you’re playing the game, you already know that. I kinda wish they had planted that character inside so people would have to come inside to capture that Pokemon – especially on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning. You want a Pokemon? You’ll have to sit here for an hour first. Anyway—it would get people inside the building, wouldn’t it?
But here’s the thing. Pokemon can be a major source of distraction. People become addicted to this game – and they’re distracted because as they’re walking down the street they’re staring at they’re phones and not watching where they’re going.
So if you’re playing Pokemon – don’t let yourself be distracted. Be careful out there.
I couldn’t help thinking of that this week when I heard Jesus say to his friend, Martha, “Martha! You are distracted by many things.”
Now – if you were paying attention – if you yourself weren’t distracted – while I was reading our Gospel lesson just a few moments ago – then you know that our reading today is that marvelous story of Jesus at the home of his friends Mary and Martha.
Most of you know the story. Martha hurried about doing all the household preparations necessary to make Jesus feel at home. At the same time, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he had to say. Martha finally got fed up – leaves the kitchen – goes into the living room, and say, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? You tell her to come and help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. You know, sometimes Nancy talks to me like that when she says, “Randy, Randy!” And I say, “What! What!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and – distracted – by many things; but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary has done only one thing – the one thing that Jesus is talking about. She sits at the feet of Jesus. And she listens. She listens to what Jesus has to say.
Martha is working her tail off in the kitchen – flour up to her elbows – and Mary takes time simply to be with the Lord. It’s a wonderful story with a very important message: As important as some things are – we can become easily distracted by these things – when the one thing – the most important thing – is spending time with Jesus.
A religious poll asked people this question: “Do you believe in the Second Coming of Christ?” If the respondent said yes, a subsequent question was put to them: “What would you do if you knew Jesus was coming back today?”
One young man replied, “Look busy, Man! Look busy!”
Hey! Most of us don’t have to look busy. We already are busy. Doing good things – at our jobs – for our families – for our communities. Doing good things for the Lord and for His church! Good things. Like Martha – doing good things on behalf of her guest – Jesus.
But I want to say to you today that sometimes – sometimes – the good gets in the way of the better. Sometimes the good gets in the way of the great. Sometimes, the good gets in the way of the one things that is needful. We can be so easily distracted by the good that we neglect the one thing that is really important.
Let me tell you a story told by a pastor by the name of John Gable. He tells about Al and Betty Johnson who live on a farm some distance from Rapid City, S.D.
Interesting thing about Rapid City. My family and I stayed at a hotel one Saturday night on our cross country trip back in the late 90’s. The next day was Sunday, and when you have two pastors in the family – where do you go on Sunday morning? No—not out to breakfast – although we did that too. To church! We went to church! Even when you’re on vacation – you go to church. OK? Got that?
The folks at the church were friendly, and one of them asked us which motel we had stayed at. When we told them, they all went “ewwww.” Yeah. That hotel in Rapid City was one of the worst hotels I have ever stayed at in my life.
Now that has nothing to do with my sermon – or the story I started about Pastor Gable’s story about Al and Betty Johnson – who lived some distance outside Rapid City, SD. But I just felt like telling my story about that awful hotel in Rapid City, SD. See how easy it is for us pastors to get distracted from the main message of the sermon?
Needless to say, there isn’t a Wal‑Mart near where the Johnson’s live, so whenever the Johnsons have a reason to go into Rapid City, they keep a running list of things they want to do and need to buy.
A while back, Betty’s mother was flying in for a visit. Al made a list of all the things he needed to do in Rapid City on his way to the airport to pick up his mother-in-law.
When he finally got home late that evening, he was so pleased to tell Betty about all he had accomplished. He had gotten new tires put on the truck and found everything she wanted at the mall. He had even bought her a new dress that he couldn’t wait to show her.
Finally, she interrupted him and asked, “Al, where’s Mom?” Poor Al’s face turned ashen, and then red. It seems, in his determination to complete the list, he had forgotten to go to the airport. He had forgotten the only real purpose he had for going to town in the first place.
Poor Al. Say that with me. “Poor Al.” It’s easy to do, to be so busy that you forget the one thing you’re supposed to do.
Martha was hurrying around doing those little things that are so important when you have guests in your home, and we know Jesus appreciated her efforts. So when he gently rebukes Martha – and I’d like to think that he had a smile on his face – he says, “Martha, chill out. You are worried and upset – and distracted – by many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better . . .”
Only one thing – one thing – is needed. That is what Jesus said to Martha. Only. One. Thing.
By now, you may be asking what that one thing is. Some of you may remember, because I’ve preached on this one thing before. In fact, I preach on the one thing all the time.
Are you ready? Christ is that one thing that is needed. This is what Mary understood – and Martha seemed not to understand at first. The main thing about Christianity is our focus on Jesus Christ. Believing in him – trusting him – listening to him – learning from him.
Believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Trusting Jesus to be the only way by which we are reconciled to God. Trusting Jesus to be our source – our only source – for God’s love, mercy, peace, pardon and forgiveness. Taking time to listen to what he has to say – and then learning what that means as you live your life day by day.
Now, all of that then should lead us to doing good things for others for the sake of – and in the name of – Jesus Christ. Doing good – and if you want to use the words – being busy – for the sake of Jesus Christ – is how we witness to our faith in Jesus Christ. These are important because being a Christian without a witness – is like Pepsi without the fizz. Doing good is how we show others that we love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But being busy and doing good are not the main thing – focusing on social ministry is not the main thing. These are not the one thing – about Christianity–as important as they are.
The main thing about Christianity at its heart is the recognition that Jesus Christ is the Lord of life. He is our Leader. He is the One who saves us from our sins.
And he wants us to spend time with him. No matter how busy we get with the rest of the things that are going on in our lives – Jesus wants us to spend time with him. In worship. In prayer. In the reading of Scripture. Spending time with other Christ followers.
So, whether you’re distracted by Pokemon Go – or you’re distracted by people who are distracted by Pokemon Go – or whatever your distractions are – let me invite you today to learn this from this story about Mary and Martha. The one thing – the one thing that is needed – the most important thing you can do – today and every day – is to take a few moments each day and sit at the feet of Jesus. Amen