Mary and Martha, GPA or GPS?

By Justin Rossow (with Valerie Matyas)

A couple of weeks ago, I got to lead a Next Step workshop at a congregation outside Buffalo, New York. As part of the visit, I was invited to preach in Sunday worship. The Gospel for that day was the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10. I wanted to connect my Sunday preaching with the Saturday workshop and, although I didn’t have to stick with the reading assigned for the day, Luke 10 seemed like a great way to lean into the difference between thinking about following Jesus in terms of a GPS instead of (our more typical approach) a GPA.

In the story, Martha isn’t just too busy or too hectic: she is busy doing good. She is serving Jesus. She is being a good hostess. She is living out her faith. But living out her faith has become a burden.

I guess I’ve seen that burden of being a good Christian often enough to know that part of my own personal calling, in preaching or writing or talking to other people, is to relieve the burden of being a Christian with the joy of being a follower.

So I spoke on both Saturday and Sunday about shifting from a GPA attitude that checks how well I am doing and compares myself with others, to a GPS attitude that asks, “Where am I right now? And where is Jesus?”

One of my favorite moments of the weekend was the children’s message. The congregation was in the middle of a sermon series on being anchored and not drifting away from your faith (see Hebrews 2:1), so I hid an anchor behind the pulpit and brought it out as the children took their seats on the front steps.

I asked one of the smallest and most determined little girls there to help me, and she gladly stood next to me and took the anchor when I handed it to her. It was a bit of a struggle for her to keep it off the ground, but she managed. Just.

I went on to explain what anchors are and how they worked, getting ideas from the kids. Every now and then I would encourage the little girl to hold the anchor up higher so people could see. The first time I asked, you could hear some chuckles in the back. I ignored the chuckles and just kept talking about anchors. I asked her again to hold it just a little higher. She struggled to comply; I ignored her and just kept talking. More chuckles and a few LOLs.

I pushed it about as far as I dared, and then relieved the little girl. Then we talked about how heavy the anchor was and how an anchor is not designed as a weight for you to carry around. Instead, an anchor is supposed to hold you in place if you start to drift away.

So I put down the anchor and asked my little helper to hold onto the rope. Then I took her hand and asked the kids about crossing the street with a parent or teacher. I asked if their mom would ever let go in the traffic, and they all said no.

Pastor Rossow leading a children's sermon showing how you don't carry an anchor, you hold onto the rope!
You don’t carry an anchor! You hold onto the rope!

So I held my little helper’s hand as she held the rope and told her the most important thing I wanted the people to hear all weekend: trusting Jesus isn’t a burden to carry, it’s a promise to hold onto; and Jesus will never let you go.

That’s the difference between Mary and Martha in Luke 10 (Martha shows a different side in John 11, see below): Martha is carrying around the anchor while she vacuums; Mary is holding onto (and being held) by Jesus.

You can check out the whole sermon here:

I also asked my friend, Valerie Matyas, to do some sermon sketch notes for this video. You can find out more about sermon sketch notes here, but basically, it’s a method for actively listening to a sermon in a way that you can revisit later. It’s one of my favorite Visual Faith® tools, and the way I met Valerie for the very first time!

Grab a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil, listen to the sermon above, and practice taking some visual notes to help you remember and take to heart the Word for you. See Valerie’s work, below, as a launch pad or tutorial for your own.

When it comes to sermon sketch notes, like any other area of following Jesus, remember it’s not about a GPA (How well did I do?), it’s about GPS (Where is Jesus for me in this?).

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