Sermon April 3, 2022: Jesus Changes Our Ideas of Ministry (Lent 5)

This beautiful photo of celebrity Martha Stewart is found on several Pinterest boards.

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:




If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the Centering Prayer:

Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN O How I Love Jesus
Reba McEntire – Oh, How I Love Jesus (Official Lyric Video)

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Majesty, Worship His Majesty
Bill & Gloria Gaither – Majesty (Live)

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Jesus Changes Our Ideas of Ministry
John 12:1-6, Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 6:10, 26:13, 39
Series: When Jesus Changed Our Mind

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio


John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Laz’arus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Laz’arus was one of those at table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.

Luke 10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; 42 one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Matthew 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 26:13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” 
Matthew 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”


HYMN Where He Leads Me
Where he leads me – Willie Nelson

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


We are in the season of Lent. There are six weeks, six weeks of time for us to think about how life can and should be different, six weeks for us to repent. It says in Matthew 4, from that time, implying from that time on, Jesus began to preach, saying, repent.

We are in a time of change, but how exactly should things change? And so we’ve been talking about different scriptures where Jesus advocated change to the religion of the people of Israel in that day. And the same sort of changes can also apply to us, because today I’d like to talk to you about the fact that we need to move from a task-oriented way of doing Ministry to a Jesus-centered way of doing Ministry. And of course, the scriptural symbols for that are two sisters by the name of Mary and Martha. My apologies to anyone you know named Martha!

Here’s Martha – a photo of celebrity Martha Stewart. Isn’t that the most beautiful picture? I have no idea what kind of steaks those are, but I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of anything in my life that looks more delicious than the steaks in this picture of Martha Stewart.
Aren’t they beautiful? What Martha Stewart is known for is doing things right.

And of course, the human side of us in Church life always wants to put Martha in charge. Because if you put Martha in charge, then everything will be done right.

Luke 10:40, Martha comes to Jesus with a complaint about her sister. “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me alone or left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Now, please take a minute to visualize what’s going on. Martha is cooking these steaks surrounded by 12 hungry disciples, asking her when it’s going to be lunch. The disciples are always worried about lunch. And of course, Martha is feeling the pressure from the disciples and comes to Jesus with this complaint, I need my sister to work with me.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” I can assume from that, that while the disciples kept asking when lunch was, Jesus had not spoken with her about his desire to eat anything. (Her focus is not on what Jesus wants.)

Verse 42, Jesus says, one thing is needful. Mary, who has been sitting at the feet of Jesus, Mary who has been spending time with Jesus, Mary, who has been talking with Jesus – Jesus says that she has chosen the good portion, the best use of her time, which shall not be taken away from her. In other words, Martha, you’re anxious about lunch, you go take care of it. Mary’s following a higher priority.

And you see, this is the truth when you think about it. People who spend time with Jesus are changed by that time. I spoke to you a couple of weeks ago about Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, in which he looks for reasons why people are amazingly successful, surprising reasons. And one of the points that he makes is that after 10,000 hours of serious, dedicated practice, people hit a very high level of effectiveness. When you study athletes, first string, second string, third string, the difference is always the number of hours they spend practicing their skills for the athletic event they specialize in. When you look at concert musicians, the difference is the number of hours they give themselves to practicing their skills. And when you look at professional athletes, when you look at professional musicians, you find this principle: after they pass that 10,000-hour mark, they are so far above everyone else, it’s no accident that they’re the best in the world.

So I’d like to ask you to think about what it’s like for people to dedicate themselves to spending time with Jesus. How long does it take to get to 10,000 hours? Well, I’m so glad you’re spending an hour in worship today – 10,000 hours at one hour per week will take you 192 years. (I would be willing to preach longer sermons, but I don’t know that you really want that!)

But the disciples – Jesus came up to them and said, “Follow me,” and they left, and they were with him. Let’s assume they slept 8 hours a day. Every waking moment, they were spending time with Jesus. They were talking with each other and talking with Jesus every waking moment. Let’s assume that equals 16 hours a day. The ministry of Jesus is three years. Over those three years with Jesus, the disciples would have spent 17,520 hours with him. That’s going to change the way you see things. That’s going to change your state of mind. It’s going to change your priorities. It’s going to change your heart.

Over three years, what exactly it’s 10,000 hours? Well, it’s about 9 hours a day. By spending time with Jesus, the disciples changed. And from that comes this principle; time with Jesus differentiates people – not only do they discover who they really are, but they discover what Jesus really wants. And over that time, you would think, they are less influenced by pressure from other people and more influenced by what Jesus wants. Or you would think that.

Unfortunately, related to this scripture, we have what I would call a broken promise. Because something’s about to happen in the life of Mary and Martha that led Jesus to make this statement in verse 13 of Matthew 26: “Truly, I say to you,” and any time Jesus says that, we need to take it very seriously, “Wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she, Mary, has done this day will be told in memory of her.” You see, there’s something in what Mary is about to do that is so central to the Gospel that wherever it’s preached, Jesus said, this is supposed to be mentioned.

And that’s a promise that we have not kept. What is it that is so important about what Mary did? And consequently, I would suggest to you, it should be one of the six things we should talk about in this Lenten season of doing things differently. We need to take what Mary did to heart and practice it ourselves. The thing that Mary did is that she anointed Jesus’ feet. But what does that mean for us today?

This is described in each of the four Gospels. Let’s bounce over to John chapter 12. “Six days before the Passover,” or Sunday evening of Palm Sunday, “Jesus came to Bethany,” a small town just south of Jerusalem, “where Lazarus was, who Jesus had raised from the dead. And there, they made him a supper. Martha served.” This is what connects the two scriptures together. “And Lazarus was one of those with him at the table. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.”

Now, back in these times, extremely valuable things that were small and were easy to hide were how people invested their life savings. This is probably Mary’s life savings, sealed into a jar to protect the fragrance. Because if the fragrance was lost, the value of the ointment would be nothing. In order to release the ointment, Mary literally had to break the jar. There was no turning back. She had to break open the jar and give it all to Jesus. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.”

So what do you think happened? If you’ve been around churches a lot throughout your life, you probably know what happened – somebody began to criticize her.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, he who was to betray him said, “Why was this ointment not sold old for 300 denarii?” See, Judas can immediately think of a better use of this ointment than what Mary had thought. Judas can immediately see, that we should have done this and not done that. What’s wrong with you, Mary? We could have helped so many poor people. If you had just thought to be unselfish, this ointment could have been sold for 300 denarii!

Now a denarii was a day’s wage for a laborer. So this is about a year’s salary. So think about that would be for you in the very best year of your life. Judas says, why didn’t we use this for a better purpose?

Of course, this is what I would like to say is a “Martha” sort of viewpoint, because it’s about a task-oriented thing. And quite often when there is a task-oriented way of looking at things that creeps into churches, people start talking about efficiency and what would be better. And of course, that leads into what’s wrong with your idea and why you should do it my way, because there usually is an agenda. And here’s Judas’s agenda: This he said, the gospel of John reports, “Not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief. And as he had the money box, he was the treasurer for the disciples, he used to take what was put into it.” So Judas wanted to help the poor, but on the way to helping the poor, some of it would go into his fingers for his use. He had an agenda.

So here are these two sisters. They are symbols for different things that churches do and call ministry. And nothing against the Marthas of this world, but they have a temptation that they struggle with, just like all of us, to put the work of the Lord at a higher priority than the Lord of the work. Because they derive their sense of well-being from all the good things they do. And naturally, they want everything to go well.

And so when this sort of personality, this Martha way of looking at things, is in charge, people get anxious and troubled because things aren’t what they should be. And people get offended. When people get offended, there is criticism. And if you think about criticism most of the time, while some criticism just seeks to blame and make people feel bad, quite often criticism is used to try to push people around, to manipulate situations. No accident in this case. And what the manipulation shows that there’s a priority other than Jesus.

I’m very sensitive to this. So I will continually read what churches write about on Facebook, and they continually, many of them will talk about their ministry and how they took care of so many people who were in need … and almost completely never mention what they did to take care of Jesus. Do you think that Jesus desires something? Do you think that Jesus has a priority? But yet I do hear churches quite often talk about all the things they do to where they begin to sound very much like Martha. And in that way, the ministry that they talk about in some way reflects on them, makes them look good. It’s like a laundry list that says, “Look at what we did. We’re better than others. We’re probably better than you.”

Matthew 26:8, this is the version in Matthew. But when the disciples, not just Judas, all of them, when the disciples saw it, they were indignant. They got their Martha on saying, “Why this waste?” How dare Mary waste this opportunity to do good? How dare she waste this on Jesus … for this ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor. And obviously, that’s more important than anything she might do for Jesus. That’s what they said: “Why this waste?”

Well, what does Jesus think? Here’s how Jesus responds in Matthew. Jesus aware of this said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? Why are you attacking someone else? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.” It’s almost like the disciples are jealous: “We should not waste anything beautiful on Jesus.”

If you scoot over to Mark 14, Jesus is even more blunt. He says, “You always have poor people. You always have the poor with you. And whenever you want, you can do good to them. You have funds. You can help the poor. There’s nothing that keeps you from helping the poor.

And when you think about it, watch for this kind of criticism! You’ll see it all too often in society and also in churches. “I am offended and upset with you,” people say, “because of how you use your money. You should let me tell you what to do, and then you would not be so stupid with your money because you’d use it like I think you should use it.

“Oh, and that way, I’d still have my money in my pocket.”

People do find fault like that. Any time someone is bold or brave to do something for Jesus, what you immediately really hear is all of the criticism of what they could have done instead so that you could please other people. But no one raises the question of what would please Jesus.

Jesus said, “What this woman has done did not take away any opportunity you have to help the poor. Why don’t you dig deep in your pockets and do something?” Or maybe you have one of those salty grandfathers that says, “Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?”

Back to Matthew, Jesus goes on to explain what it means that she’s done a beautiful thing to him. “You will not always have me. You’ll always have the poor, but you will not always have me.”

And then he gives a reason for why Mary did what she did: “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.” Let’s dwell on that for just a moment. Remember, Jesus was crucified. They wrapped him up in garments and laid him in the tomb. It was on Easter Sunday that the women were going to the tomb to anoint him as was the custom of deep respect toward the loss of someone you loved. Jesus was never anointed, as was proper, before he was put in the tomb.

Why would this be important to Mary? Well, you see, here’s the thing. If you go through the Gospels, you can highlight, you can underline all the different times that Jesus said, “I’m going to Jerusalem. They’re going to put me on the cross. I’m going to die. In three days. I will rise again.” He said that to them repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. One of the first times he says it, Peter rebukes him and says, “Lord, this shall never be” (mark 8). The disciples basically ignored or forgot what Jesus was saying. But it’s possible that Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus– it’s possible that Mary was the only person that listened to him and heard what he was saying and heard what was going to happen. So maybe this is Jesus giving her credit for being someone who listens.

But if you spend time listening to Jesus, it will change what you see as important. You’ll be less swept away by what everybody else thinks. And what will be important to you is what Jesus thinks. And this is so important to Jesus that Jesus says, “Wherever the Gospel’s preached, what this woman did needs to be told, or you won’t understand the Gospel.” So today’s the day to remind us all. Here’s the truth, friends.

Nothing, nothing, nothing is ever wasted on Jesus.

Nothing you ever do, no hour you ever spend in prayer, in listening, in letting Jesus speak to you through the Scripture … it is never, ever wasted. But, in fact, for the gospel to be the best that it can be, we have to give it a priority. You see – we need to repent from this task orientation that is so often a part of church life – where all too often, the pastor … I’m sorry, it’s true; a lot of times it’s the pastor … the pastor looks over the church and goes, “Wow, we sure are busy with all the things we do. We must be an amazing church.” Because quite often it’s the pastor that tries to make sure that everybody’s busy to where the church sometimes seems more like an exercise class than anything else.

I once was a pastor of a church for seven years that had a committee meeting every single night of the week and frequently two committee meetings every weeknight! If I had tried to start a prayer meeting people would have said, “We’re too busy.” Nothing is ever wasted on Jesus.

And that’s very much on my mind because as you know these past two years there’s been a lot of forced inactivity. For me at least it’s meant I had a lot more time to pray. And I hope it’s changed me because I was forced to stop all the activity.

We need to get away as churches from this task-oriented way of valuing ourselves and we need to repent from being anxious and bothered. And what that leads to – which is the attempt to control what other people do, so that they’re just as busy as we are, doing all the things we are doing.

Because we need to surrender control and let Mary be Mary. If she wants to sit at the feet of Jesus, that is not wasted.

Now of course in the same way we need to let Martha be Martha. If Martha wants to cook steak, we need to let Martha be Martha. But hopefully without Martha criticizing Mary because the church needs both.

But what the church needs the most is for Mary to do what Mary does and allow Martha to do what Martha does and for both to give the other one freedom because that way all the bases are covered. We need to let people give what they want to Jesus.

We need to give people freedom so that they can follow Jesus.

And if God wants them to change their ways, we need to let Jesus change them rather than for us to harass them to try to get them to think like we do. Oh, and by the way guess what? That never works. Have you noticed that the harder you push someone the harder they push back?!!

We need to let people give what they want to Jesus because I think this was on Mary’s heart for some time. I think for Mary, this was something she felt more and more, as she prayed about it, that she needed to do. And if Martha had her way, Mary would have been stifled. But spending time with Jesus helped Mary follow through and do what she felt would please Jesus. Even if it wouldn’t please her sister, even if it wouldn’t please the disciples, even if it wouldn’t make anyone else happy in this world except Jesus. It was important to her because she loved Jesus. What Jesus wanted was the highest priority.

Which leads me to ask you this, brothers and sisters, in your heart, what is it that you feel that Jesus wants? Maybe you’re like Martha and you think that Jesus wants the oven in the kitchen to be cleaned. More power to you. Maybe you’re like the disciples who wanted to help the poor. That’s wonderful. Maybe you’re like Mary and your most precious possession, you want to give that to Jesus because you understood him and you listened to him and you understood, at least for you, what would make him happy.

So I want to say, brothers and sisters, I want to invite you to imagine what it’s like to be a wise man today. You have a gift to give to Jesus Christ. You have a gift to give that will please him and bring him great joy. Here’s the surprise. Everybody’s gift will be different, but your gift will be deeply valued. What does your heart wish to bring to Jesus? And I hope that we will always be a church that encourages you to listen to your heart and affirms you to bring your gift, whatever it is, so that your church will appreciate it as much as Jesus does.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, the wise men traveled a great distance to bring you gifts. And those gifts that first Christmas Day saved your life. Lord, each one of us has a gift. Every single one of us is of great worth. Every single one of us is of great worth in your eyes. Because, Lord, when we spend time with you, you understand us. Help us, Lord Jesus, to feel comfortable. And if it requires being brave, Lord, help us to be brave so that we, like Mary, might give from our heart to you what we most feel would bless you. So that blessing you, Lord Jesus, would be a priority to each of us and also to all of us as we act as your church. Lord, may it be true that all that we do here is pleasing to Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis )

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