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Luke 10:1-11:13

10.15.2010

Two more observations from today’s reading, this time from Luke:

10:38 | I enjoy the story of Mary and Martha probably because I started out confused and frustrated by it.  The culture in my hometown was very achievement and responsibility driven.  These are not bad things, but my peers and I to some degree based our self-worth on how many extra-curriculars we had, how many advanced classes and tests we’d taken, how many leadership roles we filled.  To do otherwise was to risk being subtly judged as ambitionless and lazy. 

I’ve come to better understand the reality behind this story more.  My pastor talks about what he calls ‘irresponsible responsibility,’ where we let what we’re supposed to do keep us from doing what is right.  Martha, in this way, seems a less deceptive version of the man who wanted to wait until after he had buried his parents to follow Jesus.  Martha can’t let herself be in Jesus’ presence because she feels the need to make sure everything is just so for Him.  But Jesus wants us to be considerate and responsible servants because of our love for Him, not instead of it. 

Jesus wants Martha, and us, to stop trying to make things right for Jesus and just be with Him.  We can’t clean things up enough for Him.  We can’t bring Him enough sacrifice.  We can’t repay Him for His death on the cross.  When we try to do those things, we just end up trivializing who He is and what He’s done.  Jesus went to the cross so that we wouldn’t have to scramble around taking care of responsibilities in order to enjoy the presence of God.  He just wants us to enjoy the presence of God.  Martha, like so many of us, get the cart befor the horse and pursue an unnessecary means instead of a readily available end: relationship with God.

11:9 | Memory verse and memorable song lyric, this verse both suffers from a common misunderstanding of prayer and serves to correct that misunderstanding.  The idea that we can ask and receive whatever we want makes us think that God is a genie.  As Lewis notes, giving people the power to change the world through the tool of prayer is just irresponsible.  Imagine the havoc we’d wreak (remember John and James and the rain of fire from heaven they wanted to call down on the Samaritan village yesterday…).

But this verse comes on the heels of the Lord’s prayer.  Although the ESV translation is slightly different, the most common phrasing asks God for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. 

If I’ve shared this here before, I apologize for being ‘that guy’ that shares the same anecdotes and illustrations over and over as if they’re the panacaea to all the world’s problems.  If I haven’t, or if you haven’t heard this before, be prepared to be blown away by my brilliance and insight:*

A lover of classical music decides that he wants to learn to play his favorite songs on the violin.  He goes and buys a violin so that he can play along with his records.  At first, he’s awful, sounding nothing like the music coming from the record player, and his playing almost detracts from the beauty of the original.  But as he gets better, he starts to hit every fifth note or so and even learns a few melodies.  After many years, his playing is so beautiful that it’s indistinguishable from the tune on the record and is enough to bring him to tears and allow him to appreciate the beauty of his favorite songs from the inside.

This is what prayer is like.  We pray with God not so that we can tell Him what to do, but so that we can learn to bring our hearts in line with His.  This way, when we ask and seek and knock, we’re asking and seeking and knocking for the things He wants us to want.  His will becomes our desire.  Then we will receive what we want because we will want what He was going to give us anyway. 

All together now:

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness,
And all these things shall be added unto you.
Allelu, Alleiuia.

Ask and it shall be given unto you.
Seek and ye shall find.
Knock and the door will be opened unto you.
Allelu, Alleluia.

————

* Not really.  I can’t remember where I got this from, but chances are it’s Lewis.

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