7-18-21 Sermon

July 18, 2021 Mark 6:30-44

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son to reveal Your will and grace, and to restore us to a meaningful relationship with You. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to receive His word, to focus our lives on His redeeming grace, and empower us for witness. This we ask in CHRIST’s holy name. Amen.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning begins with the twelve disciples returning from their missionary journey on which Jesus had sent them. Mark tells us, they told Jesus all that they had done and taught. Jesus then invites the twelve to get some rest and go with Him to an isolated place.

So, they got into a boat and headed to a place where they might be alone. But when they neared the shore, they discovered that a great crowd had arrived ahead of them. Mark tells us that when Jesus saw the crowd, He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

The image of Jesus as a shepherd is very familiar and has been captured by artists and poets throughout the years. The picture of Jesus in the midst of a flock of sheep with a lamb on His shoulder, has adorned many a church building. But what does that image of Jesus mean?

Although Mark does not tell us what Jesus taught the crowd gathered on the shore that day, I think it is safe to say that first of all, His teaching centered on our relationship with God: You shall love the LORD Your God with all Your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then, Jesus took seriously the destructive currents that endanger our relationship with each other…You shall love Your neighbor as Yourself.

I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor thru college and even after I started teaching. There are many similarities between lifeguarding and being a shepherd. A shepherd is constantly watching the sheep. A lifeguard must do the same, only watching people in the water. My concern extended to rich and poor, young and old, the intelligent and the not so intelligent, male and female, strong and weak, regardless of their color or their nationality. All who gather on a beach or at a pool, come under the concern and protection of the lifeguard, just as all people comprise the flock of Jesus the GOOD SHEPHERD. Every single individual comes under our LORD’s compassionate concern.

Another similarity is when people moved beyond the boundaries of the beach. The lifeguard’s stand is a point of reference, a focal point back to safety when unknowingly, the wind or waves carry someone farther than they wanted to go.

How easy it is for us to allow the waves of life to carry us away from our values; away from our living relationship with God and each other. Yet, by keeping our eyes, and our minds, and our hearts focused on Jesus, and His revelation of God’s redeeming grace, we can always find our way back to the joy of sustaining our relationship with God and the body of CHRIST.

As a lifeguard, I also experienced that if someone exercised their individual freedom without responsibility-- if they ventured too far from shore or trusted their life to an unsafe floating device--it was the lifeguard’s responsibility to remind them of the danger. Some were offended when called to come back to shore as an demonstration of power and restriction of their freedom.

I believe the GOOD SHEPHERD is the one who has authority to care for and protect those in His flock. Out of genuine concern for their well-being, the GOOD SHEPHERD only wants what’s best for His flock. Like any lifeguard needing to enforce the rules of the beach or pool, the intention of the GOOD SHEPHERD is not to prevent people from enjoying life, but rather to enable the people to avoid the dangers of life.

Jesus also taught with God given authority and encouraged people to admit their mistakes. In fact, the first words of Mark’s Gospel records Jesus saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God, to call us to turn from those things that deter our relationship with God and each other, and through the power of His redeeming grace, live a new and abundant life.

That is the depths of CHRIST’s compassion, for us. That even though we were far off, He gathered us to Himself, by the cross, and His blood. All of us have been bitten by sin’s venom, and need to look to the Savior, lest we perish. In Isaiah 53 says it this way, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Our messiah, Jesus saved His people—saved us. His invitation to come to him is open to every person. Like the twelve disciples Jesus sent out, we are sent out—everyone of us to make visible in word and deed the unconditional love of Jesus and the eternal loving kindness of God the Father.

Amen.

 
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