Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
The Lord’s Compassion - July 22, 2012 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11) - Text: Mark 6:30-44
When we are children it seems as if time crawls by, especially as we wait for important events, like our birthday and Christmas. As we grow older and as we become involved in more and more things we realize how true it is that time is relative and the more we pack into our lives the faster time flies and the quicker life runs past us. And even when we take time off, it seems we get so involved in doing so many things that life still is rushing past. Many people pack so much into their weekend that when the weekend is over and it is time to go back to work, they need more rest. As we rush through life we are reminded of how true the cliche is, ‘we need to stop and smell the roses.’ The reason our Lord has given us the day of rest, the Sabbath day is so that we will rest. In our text for this morning we even have Jesus showing us what He means as He gathers His disciples for a time to rest.
This morning we pick up in our Gospel reading where we left off last week. Last week, maybe you remember, we had the account of the beheading of John the Baptist. Remember John? He was the one who was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. He was the one who spoke openly against Herod who had taken his brother’s wife, his sister-in-law, as his own wife. And remember Herod? He is the one who threw the big party, drank too much, watch his step-daughter’s seductive dance and then promised her anything up to half his kingdom. When the step-daughter, at her mother’s prompting, asked for the head of John on a platter, Herod felt remorse, but not wanting to have his reputation tarnished, he had John beheaded.
Two weeks ago our Gospel lesson was the account of Jesus sending out the twelve for some on the job mission work training. Our narrative this morning picks up with Jesus gathering His apostles after they had returned in order to give them an opportunity to get some needed rest and to debrief them. They had just had some exciting things happen and they needed a chance to unload, to debrief. We all know how that is, after a tough day or an exciting day, we just need to tell someone about it. And that is what Jesus is trying to do, give His disciples an opportunity to talk about all that had been happening. To put it into the language of today, we might say that Jesus was trying to have a nice family dinner with His disciples. The problem was, the people did not want to leave them alone, there were too many distractions. Mark tells us, “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” And so Jesus tries to get them to a private, quiet place. And that is what they did, or at least, tried to do, go to a private place, yet, again, Mark tells us, “Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.”
Jesus saw the people and He had compassion on them. Our text tells us that Jesus described the people as they “were like sheep without a shepherd.” They were wandering aimlessly, looking for someone to follow. That was then, and now is today and the same thing happens. People are like sheep without a shepherd. We are like sheep without a shepherd. How often do we find ourselves wandering aimlessly through life. When we are young we wander from school to school. As we get older we wander from job to job. Many times through life we wander from relationship to relationship. Continually it seems we are wandering from one problem to the next. We wander about in the haze of business. We find ourselves wandering aimlessly involved in so many activities and things of this world. It would seem we have time for everything except what we espouse to be the most important things, family, church, and a relationship with Jesus. And the temptations get greater as our children get older and as we get older. So many new, exciting and different things of which to be a part. We are like sheep without a shepherd because we have left our Good Shepherd to follow all these other shepherds of the world. And this is sin and this can and does lead to greater sin. The fact of the matter is that if we continue to follow all these other shepherds, the ultimate conclusion is death, eternal spiritual death. There is only one Good Shepherd, Jesus, and He is the only one who can save us.
We live in a country where people pride themselves on their busy-ness. We hear people brag about how much time they spend at work and then they wonder why they always feel so tired and unfulfilled in life. I have to tell you, I have never heard anyone on their deathbed say, “I wish I had spent more time at work.” Our work, our careers, our accumulation of stuff, our busy-ness has for too many people become a great idol.
Many, too many, in our world are wandering from one spiritual leader to the next spiritual leader, from one guru to the next, from one religion to the next, from one cult to the next. I would suggest that there are even times when we find ourselves wandering in our own faith. We wander about, at times, feeding on the wrong things. We feed on the false teachings and lies of this world rather than always feeding on the truth of God’s Word. How often do we find ourselves believing the theologies of the world; prosperity theology, theology of glory, theology of self improvement, and so forth, instead of the theology of God’s Word? The talk show hosts on television will tell you that “their god is not like that.” “I worship a loving god, a tolerant god,” someone else tells us. Designer religion is the wave of today and we are told that this is something good. Yes, we are very much like sheep without a shepherd.
And just as Jesus had compassion on the people of His day, so He still has compassion on us today. His greatest compassion is seen in the giving of His life for ours, but just by saying that, too often, we miss a lot of the Gospel. The Gospel is not just that He died. The Gospel is that fact that He lived. He lived perfectly for us, in our place. He lived the way the Law requires us to live. He lived for us so that His life, His perfect life, is our perfect life. He lived in perfect relationship with us and with His Father.
He lived perfectly for us, in our place, something we cannot do, something all of humanity could not do. He spent all of His time here on this earth for us. He did not busy Himself with anything except with what needed to be done for us. He lived perfectly, then He freely took our sins upon Himself, not by coercion, not because He had to, but because of His love. He took all our sins, all your sins, all my sins, all the sins of all people. He took all our sins upon Himself, and He suffered. He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty of hell, the wages of sin, the cost of sin, the price for sin. He suffered eternal spiritual death and hell. And died for us in our place.
But death and the grave could not hold Him. We know the story. On the third day He rose from the dead. For forty days He showed Himself to be alive. We have eyewitness account after eyewitness account of those who saw Him alive. Then, on the fortieth day He ascended into heaven where He is today, seated at the right hand of the Father, where He is watching over us, ruling over us, and interceding for us. He still has compassion for us.
He continues to show His compassion for us through His means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He continues to gather us in order to encourage us. Unfortunately our only option is to refuse and reject His gifts which is what we do when we do not make time, take time, and schedule time, to come to His house in order to hear His Word and be given His gifts. When we do come to our Lord’s house for Divine Service, as He moves us to come to His house, we come to be given the gifts He has to give and to respond to His gifts with hymns of praise, with words of encouragement to one another, in order to be lifted up. We come to His house to gather in this solitary place in order to be re-energized to face the week which lays ahead of us. We come to His house to be reminded of our Baptism, that is that His name has been put on us and faith has been given to us. We come to His house in order to confess our sins and in order to hear the most beautiful words in the world, those words which tell us, “Your sins are forgiven.” Yes, those words are the most beautiful words in the world and we know that when we hear those words, that is exactly what happens, our sins are forgiven. We come here to hear His Word and to be given His body and blood and forgiveness through His Holy Supper. Not only as we come here, but as we read His Word on our own, as we have personal and family devotions, He comes to us through these times and means in order to give us His good gifts and blessings, His gifts, faith, forgiveness and life.
He comes to us through His Word and through His Sacraments. As we remember our baptism we are reminded that God has claimed us as His own. God has put His name on us. We are His children. He has washed us and made us free from sin. As we partake of the Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper, we participate in His life, death and resurrection. His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection. Through His Sacraments we are given His gifts, faith, forgiveness, life.
The old cliche is true, seven days without the Lord makes one weak, that is “W” - “E” - “A” - “K.” We see that in our own busy lives. We are weak from running around, weak from missing out on the most important relationships—with family, with friends, with the Father. We can live full, carefree, worry free, happy lives, but only as we begin with Him. Jesus loves us. He loves you. He looks at us, He sees us, and He has compassion on us. He wants to draw us to Himself and comfort us. He does that through His means of grace, His Word and His Sacraments. Not only does He have time for us, He makes time for us. And He is there ready to help us to make time for Him. Jesus wants to give us time to be a family. He wants to give us time to be with each other. He wants to give us time to encourage one another and to be a family. And He does that, as He stirs in us to make time to be His family. I have heard too many people tell me, “Pastor, as soon as we get our lives together, we will get our church life going.” That is backwards and you know what, they will never get their “church life” going. It is only after we get our life with Jesus going that we will get our own lives together, that is how it works with Jesus and that is how Jesus makes it work for us. My prayer for each one of you this morning is that as you have come here to this divine service that you may be encouraged in your own faith life so that you might be able to go out and encourage others so that we might all together stand before the Lord’s throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.