Eight Sunday after Pentecost 2015

July 19, 2015   PASTOR HOPKINS

St. Mark 6.30-44

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So…there’s a new Pastor in town, and the congregation is a funny mix of excited and anxious. They heard He was coming; they planned a reception; they showed up early, and now they’re all wondering, “What’s He gonna say?”

That’s how it is for the folks in the Holy Gospel text for this morning, but I suspect you all have a sense of what that feels like as well. It’s type of restlessness that gives off what we call a “sheep without a shepherd” look; and when Jesus sees it, it breaks His heart.

To describe that, St. Mark uses a strange, powerful, and odd sounding word: σπλαγχνίζομαι; which means that when Jesus sees sheep without a shepherd, it wrenches His gut. It hurts. It’s the kind of feeling that pulls two men out of retirement to care for a congregation in need, and this morning it has Jesus practically doubled over in pain.

He knows why they’re here. Without a shepherd, they’re lost and confused. They’re hungry and hurting. They’re scared and longing and lonely.

And so, Jesus steps in. Jesus shepherds them Himself. And if you look closely, it seems that looks a lot like taking them to Church.

For them it all starts with an invocation just like ours! The people gather about to hear Jesus. They call on Him, and he shows up!

They’re sinners in need of mercy, and Jesus has compassion on them. He has mercy on them. It’s the Kyrie we just sang!

Then, calmly, gently, Jesus begins to teach them many things. What things?

The books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets: all in need of explanation and illumination. Given the context, there’s as good a chance as any that Jesus was teaching on the Jeremiah text you heard a few minutes ago, when God promised shepherds for His people.

So they’ve had an invocation, a Kyrie, an Old Testament lesson, and a sermon…

In fact, right up to verse 34, this looks like the first half of the Divine Service we’re here for today. But, not knowing too much about shepherding yet, the disciples seem to think that should be enough.

They said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them away to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.” Translation: It’s time for dinner. Let’s go home. Skip to the benediction.

And as far as the disciples go, that really does make sense. The people need to eat, but there’s simply not enough. Five loaves and two fish won’t cut it. So let’s call it a day.

Really, if it weren’t for Jesus, that’s about where they’d have to stop the service then, and it’s where we’d have to stop the service now.

If you were at my ordination last month or my installation last Sunday, you know that I’m God’s man, but I’m still a man. I’m not wise enough to teach you. I’m not clever enough to keep you interested or entertained. I’m not rich enough or powerful enough to satisfy all your needs.

I don’t have food to feed you. But Jesus does. So for all of that, let’s NOT stop the service now. Let’s dare to move forward, to keep going.

How?

It doesn’t always make sense to us, but we see here again that Jesus uses the stuff of His creation to care for us. Water and Word, Bread and Wine, even me, and even you.

With water he gathers the lost and makes them found, there in the font.

With His Word he comforts the scared and the lonely, here in Holy Absolution and the hearing of the Scriptures

To the hurting and broken he sends all of you in works of mercy, out there in the world, wherever you go.

To the hungry in this place Jesus sends me, and just like in the Gospel for this morning, He makes something out of my nothing.

He’s happy to use my lips and vocal cords and hands, but it’s all Jesus.

He comes and He takes and He blesses and He breaks…and He feeds.

Jesus takes the morsel that would satisfy you for about 5 minutes, and adds…Himself. Or, as He says, “Take, eat, this is My Body. Take, drink, this is my Blood.”  “And they all ate and were satisfied.”

But let’s not stop there either. Let’s not stop at “satisfied.”

Because if there’s one last thing you should learn from the Holy Gospel this morning, it’s that Jesus is always more. You’ll recall that when they’ve sung the last distribution hymn, there’s twelve full baskets left over. Just a reminder: there is more than enough Jesus left over for your neighbor.

Jesus is always more. More than your fear. More than your life. More than your death. And more than happy to go with you into the world to love your neighbor.

That, however, may not be what your neighbor expects.

In a world where we are so self-absorbed, an open ear and an open heart may catch people by surprise and even scare them. Listen anyways.

In a time when a kind word will be met with suspicion. Speak it all the same.

In a country where people, especially the littlest people, are valued for the price of their organs, try showing your neighbors, big and small, that they are worth more. Jesus died for them, too.

Depending on who you’re speaking with, Jesus might seem like a fairy tale at best or a nightmare at worst. Dare to show them the Crucified One, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Show them the One who goes from here to Calvary, to the tomb, to hell, to the resurrection, to the right hand of His Father; and who is leading us all home together to Eden – who’d like them to come along.

So for all the talk about moving forward, what’s your new, not wise, not clever, not rich, not powerful pastor to do? Jesus says I should, “give [you] something to eat.”

So here we go. Body, Blood, Forgiveness, Righteousness, and Resurrection. All Jesus. All for you – here, in His Holy Eucharist. To Christ be all the glory, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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