Lent is a Gift… Will we choose to open it?

Luke 10: 38-42
At the Home of Martha and Mary
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a
woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called
Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was
distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him
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 few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from

SERMON FEB 18, 2024
1 ST Sunday in Lent
Sermon by Doug Halley, guest minister.

Lent is a Gift…Will we choose to open it?

When we think about our church calendar, it really revolves around two
major events, doesn’t it? Christmas…. and Easter. Of course, there are
other important events as well: Epiphany… the revealing of Jesus
Christ to the world. Pentecost…the giving of the Holy Spirit. But
Christmas and Easter are the crown jewels of the calendar… and so
prominent that they have their own periods of preparation… the four
weeks of Advent and the 40 days of Lent.
This is the 1 st Sunday of Lent, a time that began this past Wednesday…
Ash Wednesday when we are reminded of the sober fact that without
the saving grace of Christ, we are destined to return to the dust from
which we came.
I like to think about Advent and Lent as gifts… precious gifts… just
waiting for us to open them. They have the power to enrich our
spiritual maturity and appreciation for a God who loves us so much.
They can take us on a journey that leads us to a new place when we
wake up on Christmas or Easter morning…a place different than where
we were before those journeys began.
But if you are like me, there is a problem.
The problem I have during Advent and Lent is that life always seems to
get in the way. I feel that by the time Christmas or Easter arrives, I’m
really not in a different place. I have arrived at the destination, but
missed the richness of the journey. Have you ever had that feeling?

I love the story of Martha and Mary because it speaks to all the
distractions of life that get in our way.
Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary is a poignant reminder of the choice
we have an opportunity to make. “Martha, Martha you are worried
and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed
only one.” Martha could be living right alongside of us in the middle of
all of our distractions and busyness, couldn’t she!
Mary on the other hand, seems to have a more singular focus. Mary’s
gaze is directed toward Jesus.
What strikes me about Jesus’ words to Martha is that he does not say
‘Martha!… Stop all those things you are doing and worrying about and
sit here and listen to what I have to say!’ No, there is none of that.
Jesus gives Martha a choice.
And so it is with this period of days we call Lent. Jesus invites us to
take that journey with him, to walk with him, to learn from him, to get
new glimpses of the richness of his character and being. It is though
he is saying to us…”Come, come and see for yourself.”
So how might we make this Lenten journey more special? I imagine
there are as many different ways as there are those of us here today.
Here are just a few ideas… you’ll think of your own:
1. Read through one of the Gospels…. Mark is a great one because
it is so short and concise. Or pick out some verses from the book
of John which so beautifully expresses Jesus’ love for us.
2. Meditate on some of the Proverbs or the Psalms. In one-
sentence bites, the Book of Proverbs contains wisdom that has
stood the test of time for thousands of years. And the Psalms
speak in total unvarnished honesty to just about every situation
of life.
3. If you are not already doing so, begin each morning with a
short prayer addressed directly to Jesus… it is a misconception
to think our prayers must be addressed only to God the Father.
4. Develop the habit of thinking about Jesus throughout the day.
Think about how Jesus spent his time…and consider what you
might do to walk in his footsteps. Talk with Jesus throughout the
day…you may be surprised at what he says.
5. Find a devotional or spiritual book to enrich your Lenten
journey… there are a zillion choices! Perhaps share reading it
with someone else or a small group.
6. Take advantage of special worship services… Perhaps you would
like to ask Frank to offer a Maundy Thursday service. We have
one at 1 st Cong STFD. It is a powerful gathering to share the Last
Supper and reenact the events of that night. It makes an
indelible image contrasting the darkness of that night against the
light and glory of Easter morning. In that regard, I would just
add that without experiencing and actively participating in the
events of Holy Week, I do not think it is possible to appreciate
the full meaning and joy of Easter morning.
One of the things I have tried to do during Holy Week is think
about what Jesus did on each particular day from the time he
entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday until his betrayal on Holy
Thursday. It’s all there in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It
takes a little detective work to get the events in sequence, but it
helps remind me of all Jesus endured for my sake while I am
living the events of everyday life.

You and I will all come to Easter morning, whether or not we decide to
accept Jesus invitation to walk with him as his journey takes him to
Jerusalem…and to the cross. If we accept his invitation, we may come
to Easter changed in some unexpected way, deepened in our spirituality
and faith in ways only forward motion can produce. We may come to
Easter finding ourselves enriched. There is a saying that ‘Jesus meets
each of us where we are, but he doesn’t leave us there.’ Lent is an
opportunity to allow Jesus to lead us to a new place. Where would you
like to find yourself on Easter morning?

Lent is a gift…will you and I choose to open it? It takes intentionality.
“Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things, but
few things are needed—indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is
better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Like Martha, it is easy for distractions to rule our lives. Will we ever
be able to completely get control of those distractions?….probably not.
But Lent offers each of us an opportunity to at least move in the right
The question for each of us this 1 st Sunday of Lent is, Will we choose to
be more like Martha? Or more like Mary?