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Pentecost 8B Sermon
Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

July 18, 2021


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Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As 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.
53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Compassion is a word that I have talked about in sermons before because it is an important characteristic of the human Jesus. We usually think of compassion as a feeling - “Don’t you have any compassion for them?” we may ask. We usually think of compassion as feeling sorry for someone - showing pity for some poor soul who is in a hopeless situation. But it is more than that.
If we look at the Latin roots, com is the prefix meaning, “together with,” and passion means, “to suffer.” Having compassion, then, means to somehow suffer with someone, whether it is to literally join them in their plight or to delve so deep into their dilemma that you can feel their pain. If we look at the Greek word that is actually translated, “compassion” in Mark 6:34, that is the nuance that we get. The Greek word here is, “splagnizomai.” The “splagna” in that word refers to one’s internal organs or bowels. In Jesus’ day, the stomach and internal organs there were believed to be the seat of love and pity. For one to feel this kind of compassion for someone, they quite possibly could become physically ill - a twisting of the innards, so to speak! Why did Jesus have such a strong, physical reaction when he saw the crowds who kept pressing in on him so much so that he couldn’t get away just for a few hours for time alone?

Well, last week (even though I did not preach on it) we heard the passage immediately before this one - a rather gory scene where King Herod is coerced by a plot to have John the Baptist’s head served on a silver platter at his birthday banquet. In our reading this morning, the disciples return from being sent out to preach and heal and Jesus wants to retreat to a quiet place to recharge their batteries. He must have heard about his cousin’s death and wanted time to grieve and consider what his ministry and the ministries of his disciples will mean when they cross paths with the empire. But quickly he finds out that this will not be possible. He tries to get away by boat and the crowds follow on land. They are a great crowd that meets him on the other side of the lake, and that is where he has this churning in his guts for them. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They do not have anyone to provide or protect them, as the shepherds are called to do for their flocks.
This has a real and direct relationship with the story of Herod having John killed. If you remember our first reading from Jeremiah this morning, God accuses the kings of being bad shepherds. The Kings of Israel and Judah are often referred to as shepherds, and at their best, it is an apt description of their jobs as rulers. The kings of the Old Testament enjoyed the title of shepherd, even though not all of them lived up to the standards of being, “The Good Shepherd.” This was true of the kings of Jeremiah’s time, like Jehoiachin; this is true of the kings of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ time, like Herod. They engage in bloody games of deception and politics in order to advance their own wealth and power at the expense of their flocks.

So Jesus realizes that Herod has no intentions of providing or protecting his people as he is called to do as shepherd-king. They are so hungry, so hurting that Jesus feels their pain in his very body. Because of this compassion, he is moved to embrace his own call to be a shepherd to God’s people. He moves among them and, like the woman with the hemorrhage who merely touched the hem of his garment and was healed, he provides this healing for all who touch it wherever he goes.

Jesus continues to look upon us and upon all for whom the shepherd figures in their lives fall short. Jesus promises to continue to move his presence in and among us to heal us whenever we are hungry or hurting. As we are able to gather more and more for worship and fellowship, to study God’s word and experience God’s shepherding presence, we also celebrate that this Good Shepherd still has compassion for the most vulnerable and for those least able to take care of themselves. But by celebrating this we are also called to share the compassion of Christ and be the hands and the feet of the Good Shepherd for those with whom we have compassion. The movement in our guts moves us to action. We left out verses 35-52 from Mark 6 this morning, in part telling us that Jesus physically fed 5,000 men plus women and children with a small amount of food - something that the official shepherds of that community would never lower themselves to do. The shepherd king, Herod, was too busy feeding himself and invited guests at a drunken banquet where he almost promised away half of his kingdom … and eventually promised to kill one of God’s prophets. As the Christian Church, we are the body of Christ here and now - called to show compassion and be moved to action. We do that in many ways here at Clinton Heights, but I know that each of us individually and as a family of faith can do even better.

Finally, as I read our second lesson today about tearing down dividing walls, I am reminded of a National Youth Gathering from about 9 years ago in New Orleans. The theme song for that gathering, “Make a Difference,” was written and performed by a wonderful Christian artist named Rachel Kurtz, and she subtly inserts a phrase from Ephesians 2:19 in the last verse - “citizens with the saints.” Saints are not only those whose lives we admired enough to think highly of them; saints are those who are living and dead with whom we share citizenship in God’s heavenly and earthly kingdom. As such, we join Jesus and all of the saints in being moved to action for anyone who is without that shepherd figure in their lives. I want to close by singing you the song and encouraging you to celebrate our good shepherd by giving thanks for all of the ways that he still provides and protects us, and by being moved to share that love with all of our neighbors.

Intro - You gave your life, to make a difference.
You gave your life to make a change.
You welcomed all to your table,
You’re calling us to do the same

Chorus - I want my life to make a difference;
I want my life to make a change.
I want my life to do some good here;
I want my life to make a change.

Vs1 - Working side by side, no out or inside, together we can make that change. With a few or many, with a lot or not any, together we can make that change. Chorus.

Vs2 - Crossing the great divide, joy and peace will abide, together we can make that change. Jesus is our peace, all fighting will cease, together we can make that change. Chorus.

Vs3 - We’re the citizen with the saints, we’re the sunshine with the rain, we’re the joy with the pain, we’re the change. You healed the sick and fed the poor, loved the prophet and the whore, through us you will do more. You’re the change. Chorus