8th Pentecost B
Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Imagine how excited these disciples were! Jesus had sent them out on their own to do what he had been doing. And it was working! They were ministering! They were helping! They were making a difference! They were proclaiming good news, they were healing, and they were casting out. Amazing!
They’re all gathered with Jesus to share their stories, but can’t because the crowds are everywhere. Jesus—and now the disciples who work in his name—have been so successful that they can’t even find time to eat. So Jesus invites them into a boat to come away for a time of rest.
Well, the crowds see this, and run on foot to where Jesus is going to land. They are swarming the place where they expect Jesus to be.
When do crowds swarms today? For whom/what do they press like that? . . .
Even though they are coming to Jesus, he feels compassion for them, because they are like sheep without a shepherd. What’s the difference between sheep with a shepherd and sheep without one? . . . Direction? Protection? Other needs to be met?
Those people in this gospel needed something, just like the people in our neighborhoods. They swarm to what they think will provide it.
But what are those needs? What is it that people lack, that they are willing to swarm to ________ (from previous answers) to get? What’s the hole in their life? . . .
Like the early disciples that Jesus sent out in pairs to minister in his name, we, the church are sent out the same way. We do serve others, we do meet needs, we do provide a message and a tangible sign of hope. What does the church provide for people? . . . _______________
These fall into three main categories:
1) Basic needs we provide when needed, such as food, housing, care for the sick and so on. The church will always be doing this type of ministry.
2) Internal needs for our own community, though we certainly invite other into them, such as Bible studies and other education, social groups, spiritual growth and so on.
3) The needs of most of our neighbors: to walk alongside of them in love and forgiveness and acceptance. Not necessarily to do anything, just to come alongside and be there, in love and grace. This is the one we don’t feel as equipped to do, yet it is the ministry most often needed in our neighborhoods. And yet, it is most often the ministry Jesus does with us.
The last Theology Pub was held at the Lakewood Grill on Colfax. Our server was very good, but she was also a brightly red-headed, boldly tattooed, pagan. She was a former drug user, and her fiancé had just died in March. In fact, some of her tattoos were not only about him and their relationship, but his ashes were actually used in the tattoos.
The needs of this young woman became clear to me. She is hurting, she’s tired of fighting, and she’s alone. These are not quick fixes. They can only be met by being present, by listening, by accepting without judgment, and by God’s grace at work through people in her life.
And today, I can’t help but wonder if James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora movie theater, had had people come up along side him in grace, acceptance, and love if things might have gone differently a couple nights ago.
God has made us to be a church where people like our server at the Lakewood Grill can have those needs met. It may or may not happen within these four walls, but it happens where ever we are.
This is a place and we are a people that will love without condition and accept without judgment. That’s the unique gift we have in Christ, and in our Lutheran tradition. All are welcome here. Just as we are. With our baggage, our problems, our needs, and our sins. This is a place and we are a people that will love you, warts and all. Because Jesus loves us, warts and all. That’s the kind of God we have, one that loves us right here, right now, just the way we are right here, right now.
“As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
When this worship is done, we who have experienced this love of God will be sent out to walk alongside others who need that love and acceptance. I can’t wait until the next time we gather again to hear the stories of the compassion we’ve shown in Jesus’ name.