The Ninth Sunday of Pentecost – Sunday, July 22, 2018

July 22, 2018  

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

In my first parish, there was a story folks used to tell about a visiting pastor. As the story goes, back in “the olden days” Sunday school was held in the church basement, where all of the young people would sit in rows of chairs and a teacher would teach them. At the time this story occurred, there were a couple hundred children enrolled in Sunday school at the church. The rows all of these children sat in faced the outer wall of the church, which was partially above ground. There were windows in the wall. In warm weather, all of the windows were open to let fresh air in.

The visiting pastor chewed tobacco. Folks said he always had a wad of chew in his cheek, even when teaching Sunday school. They said that, as he marched back and forth in front of the children teaching them, he would pause and spit his tobacco juice out of the basement window.

One particular Sunday, as the visiting pastor taught the children, he paused and spit his tobacco juice. What he didn’t realize until it was too late was—the window was shut. His tobacco spit hit the window and hung there, dripping!

***

Jesus sent the disciples out to teach, sending them two by two. In today’s reading, they had all just returned from their travels. They gathered around Jesus. They “told him all that they had done and taught” (Mark 6:30). He suggested they all go away to a deserted place to rest. They all hopped into a boat, to go and be by themselves.

The problem was, the crowds saw them leave. The crowds figured out where they were going and hurried on foot to get there ahead of the boat. When Jesus arrived, he saw a great crowd waiting for him.

Jesus could have resented the crowd. After all, Jesus deliberately took the disciples away; Jesus wanted them to be alone as a group. He wanted them to get some rest.
Jesus could have been irritated—but he wasn’t. Instead he had compassion for the people. He saw that they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).
What did his compassion for the crowd lead him to do?

“He began to teach them” (Mark 6:34).

***

Our first reading today is from the book of Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah once said that God told him “I will give you a shepherd after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and with understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, feeds us with knowledge and with understanding.

***

We gather Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, to hear the Word of God and to receive the sacrament. We gather to learn and to be fed. The Word of God is food for our souls. God’s Word comforts us. God’s Word challenges us. God’s Word sometimes brings discomfort—especially when it calls us out of ourselves, into action.

As Nikolai Grundtvig wrote:

God’s Word is our great heritage
and shall be ours forever,
to spread its light from age to age
shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way;
in death it is our stay.
(ELW hymn # 509)

We receive the Word, as Christians have done throughout the Common Era—listening, studying, learning…
But remember, that’s only half the task. God calls us to take God’s Word from this place, into our daily lives. God calls us to share God’s Word of love. God calls us to share God’s Word of hope. God calls us to share God’s words of justice and peace.

God calls all of us to have compassion for others and to teach them, as Jesus taught.

Amen.