Gen. 18:1-10a; Col. 1:24-28; Lk. 10:38-42
Today’s reading from the Gospel reminds us of keeping priorities. Jesus visited the house of Martha and Mary. Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.'
But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.' " [Lk. 10:38-42]
Similarly, our walk with God can be disrupted by internal things: a grumpy attitude, unmet desires, or a passion to succeed at other things. It could also be interrupted by external things: a natural disaster, getting that job I always wanted, or tryingto meet other people’s expectations.
There was once a master lion tamer in a famous circus who was a couple of years from retirement. So the circus management and the master lion tamer decided to start training his successor as it would take a lot of hard work and focus for the young tamer to be able to control the lion. From hundreds of candidates, a young student was chosen and the training began.
As the first lesson, the master explained to the student that most courageous lion tamers use only two tools to control the fierce beasts prowling around the cage. A whip and a chair. The young student looked surprised at his mentor. The mentor noticed the surprised look of his young apprentice and asked him “Which of the two is the most valuable to the tamer?” The student answered, “Surely the whip.” To which, the master replied, “No. The most important tool is the chair, and more specifically, the four legs of the stool!”
The student just stood there baffled. “A chair,” said the student “that’s odd! But why a chair? And why the four legs?” The master lion tamer replied “A lion can easily overpower, maul and kill a person. However, it’s only easy for the lion to do so if it can focus on a singular object or one person. The lion tamer uses the stool as a method of distraction. The lion, when faced with the legs of the stool, tries to focus on all four at once. Confused, and unable to focus, it stands there, frozen! The lion tamer remains relatively safe behind the stool.”
When we miss our priorities in life we get distracted. When we get distracted from Him, we are likely to miss His guidance. When we miss His guidance, we can end up in a big mess. That is what happened to Adam and Eve. In the book of Genesis, Eden is the first couple’s home but, more importantly, it is God’s sanctuary—the garden temple where the Creator and his image-bearers relate. Sin hindered everything, especially man’s experience of God’s presence. Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve were exiled. They stood outside Eden. The presence of God they once knew freely was no longer free.
To be a joyful Christian is to know God’s presence. The Bible contains story after story of life-changing, world-altering encounters with the reality of God’s presence. From Moses and the tent of meeting to the disciples at Pentecost, we continually read about God supernaturally encountering his people in real, transformative ways. Biblical characters modeled what it was to experience God consistently in both the New and Old Testaments.
Jacob, a young man, is off on an adventure – away from home, anxious, fearful, uncertain, lonely. Jacob reminds me of the thousands of young men I met in the military – away from home for the first time – anxious, fearful, uncertain, lonely. God is the last thing on the minds of these young men until they get into trouble.
That night Jacob was more than likely just looking for a safe place to spend the night. Little did he know that was about to have a divine encounter with God.
Like many of us, he was not conscious of God’s presence in his life. Oh, he knew about God, he had worshiped with his dad – he even went through the hassle of stealing the birthright and blessing from his brother Esau. But he, like many of us, went about his everyday affairs largely unaware of the continuous presence of God in his life.
He lies down and has a dream in which God confirms his promise to him that he will indeed be fruitful and possess the land. But he adds something else, he says “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” (Gen 28:15}
The psalmist shares his experience “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
God’s presence is real, full of love, and completely transformational. It takes what was broken and brings healing. It takes what was lost and guides us to our rightful place. It satisfies the weary, brings light to the darkness, and pours out the refreshing rain of God’s love on the driest, deepest parts of the soul.
The presence of God doesn’t equal to activities. Many people think, as long as we get busy enough with God, and organize many activities God is with us. When we get absorbed in them Jesus speaks to us the same words she spoke to Martha. ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.’
Again, the presence of God doesn’t equal to miracles. When we hear that some miracles happening in some places, we rush to experience the presence of God there. The presence of God is a not in some miraculous things happening. The presence of God is about the person.
See your world through the lens of gratitude. An easy way to celebrate His presence in your life is to find reasons to be grateful. Search for things to be thankful for throughout your day—even if they may seem small and silly at first. Maybe you snagged a great parking space at the store. Maybe you found the perfect birthday gift for a friend. Maybe you saw a child smiling at you. May be someone volunteered to extend a little help for you.
Seek His glory in the beauty of nature. “In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95:4-5.
Nature has its own spirit, it’s own quiet sense of majesty. Take time to celebrate the beauty of God’s wonders that are right outside your door. Whether you explore the wildness of the mountains or simply care for the houseplant on your windowsill, there’s grace to be found in every natural creation of God.
Search for His spirit in moments of stillness. The world rushes by so quickly. With everything from school and work to family and friends, it can often feel like you don’t have time to breathe and remember God—but it’s in those small, quiet moments that we feel Him the most.
Above all Jesus is present here, in this church. Spend some time alone with Jesus in the silence of the Church. As Mary sat at His feet, Sit here with Jesus. You will feel him close to you. You will hear him talking to you. This experience will transform us into good human beings.