The One Thing

This morning my wife and I again joined the folks at The Simple Way for morning prayer. The New Testament reading this morning was Mary and Martha story from the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. As we read it wondered to myself how this passage might be timely and relevant for Natalia and I as we have entered a sabbatical.
After I left there I sat down to read, picked up Paul Tillich's The New Being which is a collection of his sermons and glanced over the table of contents to see what jumped out at me. A sermon entitled "Our Ultimate Concern" jumped of the page and I opened to it. Each sermon has a small passage before it which is the scripture being reflected upon in the talk itself. The scripture that is before the sermon I selected was this same text about Mary and Martha.
I was pleasantly surprised and began to read as I immediately thought of Jesus words from the text "only one thing is needed."
Tillich would then say that Mary and Martha make two symbols for "two possible attitudes toward life, two forces in man and in mankind as a whole, for two kinds of concern." Martha is concerned about many things. Martha's way is not wrong, condemned or anything like that and it is our common mode and the way which keeps our world running. It is possible to justify and even honor Martha and her service. Tillich writes "There are innumerable concerns in our lives and in human life generally which demand attention, devotion and passion. But they do not demand infinite attention, unconditional devotion or ultimate passion." They may be very important to you and maybe even important to mankind as a whole but they are not ultimately important. This is why Jesus praises Mary rather than Martha. Mary has chosen the one thing needed, the only and ultimate concern for every man.
We are involved, anxious and concerned about our work, our relationships, our development and maturity, our happiness, and that most natural and universal concern of all creatures, staying alive. Beyond these personal concerns we have higher concerns about the state of the world and justice.
Tillich asks:
Why are the many things about which we are concerned connected with worry and anxiety? We give them our devotion, our strength, our passion and we must do so; otherwise we would not achieve anything. Why, then, do they make us restless in the deepest ground of our hearts, and why does Jesus dismiss them as not ultimately needed?
They all come to an end. All of our concerns are finite. Though these concerns are preliminary we so often treat them as if they are ultimate. They grip us and tend to keep us in their grasp if we try to escape them. "Every concern is tyranical and wants our whole heart and our whole mind and our hole strength. Every concern tries to become our ultimate concern, our god. The trouble is that these concerns are are finite and creating turmoil within because they are conflicting with each other. "They burden our conscience because we cannot do justice to them all"
Tillich writes:
The one thing needed- this is the first and in some sense the last answer I can give- is to be concerned ultimately, unconditionally, infinitely. This is what Mary was... If in the power and passion of such an ultimate concern, we look at our finite concerns, at the Martha sphere of life, everything seems the same and yet everything is changed. We are still concerned about all these things bu differently- the anxiety is gone! It still exists and tries to return but its power is broken; it cannot destroy us anymore. He who is grasped by the one thing that is needed has the many things under his feet. They concern him but not ultimately, and when he loses them he does not lose the one thing he needs and that cannot be taken from him. 

Listen, in the way that Mary listened. Something is being said to me as I take a sabbatical and to you as you read this. That something is something about which we can be infinitely concerned. This is the meaning or every sermon. May it awaken us to ultimate concern, the one thing.