Sermon from July 18th 2021 – 8th Sunday after Pentecost
I’m going to describe two banquets and you tell me which one sounds best to you.
First one is truly a royal occasion – it takes place in a beautifully decorated palace - all the top leaders in the country are there. And there are all the finest foods – the finest wines – and you can have as much as you want – and there is the best entertainment in the land – provided by the highest paid entertainer in the nation.
The second banquet seems like it’s just the opposite of the first – it’s not in a palace – it’s outdoors in the middle of nowhere – and then there’s huge crowds – thousands of people – and it’s hardly fine dining – just a simple meal.
Which sounds best to you?
Chapter 6 of Mark is an account of two banquets but there’s more. In this whole middle section of Mark Jesus has been showing people that He is the Son of God and the long awaited Jewish Messiah and telling them about the Kingdom of God. He’s healed people, even raised someone from the dead, cast out demons calmed a stormy sea. And Jesus has done this on both the Jewish side and the gentile side of the sea of Galilee. He’s paving the way for the church’s mission to all people – Jew/gentile Male /female young /old rich/ poor slave /free.
Earlier in CH 6 Jesus gives his twelve disciples authority to heal and cast out demons and sends them out two by two to the surrounding villages. As they are sent, they become apostles (apostles means sent ones) And they are sent to call people to repentance.
Then Mark tells us of the first banquet. It was Herod’s birthday party, so he invited all the nobility and leaders of the area along with military commanders. This had to have been a lavish affair with fine foods and fine wines. Not everyone at the palace was at the banquet. John the Baptist was in prison because John had called Herod out for marrying his brother’s wife Herodias. Herodias’ daughter danced for the dinner guests and Herod was so impressed that he offered her anything – up to half of his kingdom. Herodias had her ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
After that Mark tells us of the apostles returning from their mission to the villages in the area. They told Jesus all they had taught and done. They were so busy with ministry that they hardly had time to eat. And so Jesus tells them to go with him to a desolate place and get some rest.
These leads us to the second banquet. Thousands of people saw Jesus and the disciples leaving in a boat and raced ahead to meet them in this desolate place. Jesus has deep compassion on the crowd – the word used means that he felt for them deep in his gut - for they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were hungry for someone to lead them – hungry to be cared for – provided for – hungry for justice and righteousness – hungry for protection and for a shepherd to be with them in dark and scary times – even in the valley of the shadow of death
Jesus satisfies their hunger for righteousness as he teaches them and gives them the very Word of God. And after a long day of nourishing the crowds with his words the disciples want Jesus to send the people away so the crowds can go to neighboring villages and get some food. Jesus tells them you feed them. They had just come back from their mission trip where they had been teaching healing and casting out demons but feeding thousands of people – this was above their paygrade. They replied it would take 200 denari to feed such a crowd (a denari is a day’s wage) so they were saying that to feed 5000 men plus women and children it would take in the neighborhood of $15,000 in today’s money. Jesus says “what do you have?” Five loaves and two fish. You know how it goes Jesus has them sit on green grass in groups of 50 and 100 and takes the fish and loaves blesses it and feeds this whole crowd. Everybody eats their fill – not just a little bit but until they are satisfied. And there is more leftover than when they started – a full basket for each of the 12 disciples - those disciples who had been so busy with ministry that they didn’t even have time to eat.
Do you remember a time in the Old Testament when there was miraculous provision of bread in the wilderness? Manna – and who provided that – God – YHWH
Do you remember when the Old Testament refers to green pastures. Yes our psalm for today Psalm 23 and who’s the Shepherd – the Lord – YHWH – God
Jesus responds with deep compassion to the need of the crowds. And in the process shows once again that He is God in the flesh. And that He is a God of compassion, mercy and grace.
This is a story of two banquets – two kings – King Herod and King Jesus - one banquet is filled with self-indulgence that leads to death. The other is filled with love and service hosted by King Jesus - a king, a shepherd filled with deep compassion. His banquet is life giving.
There is a world filled with hunger – hunger for God – hunger for direction – hunger for healing – hunger for peace - hunger for food – hunger for love - for healthy connections with others – hunger for freedom from things that enslave us –
What are you hungry for this morning?
And in the midst of this world filled with hunger is Christ – Our good Shepherd making us to lie down in green pastures leading us beside still waters restoring our souls. Sometimes, in the midst of pain and suffering we wonder – are you there Lord – do you care Lord? It’s then that we hear the Word of God – reminding us that this is the Lord who’s guts ache for us – who hung on a cross for us - this is the Lord who walks with us even in our deepest darkest hour – and assures us that on account of this Good Shepherd we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This is the Lord who comes to us this morning – giving his very self to us in the bread and the wine.
What are you hungry for this morning – Jesus satisfies.
Never Seem to be Able to Get Ahead
Written By Chaplain Chris Belfield
It was one of those rare and cherished moments. You know – the kind where you wish it could be frozen in time and preserved, but all too soon passes into the recesses of the memory and just as quickly fades away into obscurity. I had taken a moment to consider the state of affairs in life and also around the home. All major projects had been addressed. Several new ones were actively and successfully in the works. Finances were cooperating so that there was a little spare for unforeseen contingencies. This is significant when you are retired and on a fixed income. Every dollar is accounted for and plans are made accordingly. But this particular day, we were going to come out ahead for the month. That is until the dog, Maggie, had to let us know that something was amiss. Cathy called my attention to the fact that Maggie was intrigued by something occurring under the back of my truck. Now, I am very attached to my '99 Ford F-150, as I have been the only owner and she (yes, it's a she with a name – Hannah) has been very reliable until recently. On this particular day, Maggie made note that there was a white fluid leaking from a rear shock absorber. Sure enough, the seal had broken and the fluid was gone. A replacement for sure, and you don't replace shocks singularly, but in pairs. So it was that the contingency fund was going to take a significant reduction as Hannah had symptoms of other maladies that the mechanic doctor would have to diagnose and treat accordingly. Never fails, does it? Just when you think you're getting ahead. Being an optimist, which goes along with being an ordained chaplain, there is a distinct silver lining here. The repair shop is that good that I know that whatever repairs are done, that they are necessary and will last. Definitely an unplanned expenditure, but better now than when it is -20 degrees outside, right? I learned the lesson early in life about the futility of always trying to get ahead and build up a vast financial empire to call my own. I was 11 years old. I had my first paying job – delivering papers. These were not your standard daily newspaper, but rather a weekly paper aptly named, The Advertiser. All it did was list items for sale. It was approximately 10 pages every week. My job was to fold the papers individually, put a rubber band around them and deliver them to approximately 120 houses in our suburban neighborhood. All for one cent per paper for pay. If I was lucky my grandfather would have the papers folded and placed in my cloth carrying bag by the time I got home from school. Sometimes yes, most times no. It took over two hours every Wednesday to do the paper route. I remember times, during the worst of the winter weather when my older sister even was recruited to help. All of this for $1.20 per week. But for an 11-year-old in 1967, this was pretty good. I was counting how much I would have after 1-2-and 3 years. Then reality struck, and it was a sharp lesson that drove the point home. I rode over a nail on my bike. My grandmother, also my
accountant and financial advisor, taught me a valuable lesson very quickly. I had to buy the inner tube from my accumulated savings. The tube was $2.49 – over two weeks of work! That job only lasted two years when I decided that my academic pursuits as a teenager were more important. It was because I finally found someone else who wanted the paper route that was now up to two cents per paper to deliver. Still, I think it was a wise decision to move on. Other treasures can be accumulated at little cost and have huge dividends for years to come, such things as relationships, memories, helping others, and setting a good example. Now, you can always be ahead, and you can take it with you. Jesus said it best in Matthew 6:19-21.
Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. May you be blessed by God's word.
July 4th The 6th Sunday after Pentecost - Sermon By : Pr.Tom
Have you experienced rejection? It can be painful sometimes leaving lifelong wounds. Especially if it is by someone near and dear to us. A parent, a spouse. My wife Laurie learned early on that her parents were hoping for a boy – they even told her they were disappointed. She was supposed to be Wayne not Laraine. As the second girl and middle child she felt unwanted. That notion wounded her for a lifetime and shaped much of her life.
My most profound feeling of rejection happened when my first marriage ended in divorce. Oh, I was crushed. It was so painful that I didn’t want to even think about dating for years. How do we react when we’re rejected? Sometimes the painful experience causes us to isolate and withdraw. Sometimes in our pain we become angry and want to lash out.
We’ve been going through the gospel of Mark and we’ve been watching Jesus teach about the Kingdom of God and he taught not as others but as one with authority. In addition, he has been demonstrating miraculous power - healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead and calming a storm. And his fame grew as did the crowds that followed him. Jesus encountered some opposition and yet his ministry was growing - getting bigger and better – until he went to his hometown. Somehow Jesus’ ministry has a limited effectiveness in his hometown of Nazareth.
Throughout his gospel Mark gives us one account after another where the faith of people does not affect the ministry or miracles of Jesus. The man filled with a legion of demons had no faith. The disciples that were being swamped by a storm at sea were filled with fear and not faith. So, it quickly becomes evident that faith is not essential for God to act, and that lack of faith is not a limiting factor for God. Divine miracles are not controlled by our faith. They come from the will and power of God.
And yet Jesus is amazed at the unbelief in Nazareth. Our catechism might help us make sense of their unbelief. We read about the 3rd article of the Apostles Creed. The part dealing with the Holy Spirit and the Church. Luther sums up the Bible's teaching saying - I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In one sense their lack of faith indicates that the Holy Spirit had not opened their hearts yet.
To his town folk Jesus was just the kid down the block that worked with his dad as a builder or carpenter. They were offended that now he had returned – who did he think he was - all high and mighty – teaching at the synagogue and with authority.
I believe this time in Nazareth was important for the disciples. Before Jesus sends them out, he wants them to know that he has experienced rejection even from those who knew him best. As they went out, they needed to know that their message and ministry would have a mixed reception. It would be accepted by some and rejected by others, and who are these disciples that Jesus is sending out. They are common uneducated men that aren’t exactly pillars of faith. Not long before this Jesus is in a boat with them and calms a storm and asks them “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s these same men of little faith that Jesus sends out with his authority but few other provisions. They were to depend on God and the hospitality of others.
8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. The power to do the miraculous isn’t so dependent upon the faith of the messenger. It depends on the word and authority given by Jesus. This time in Nazareth was also important to the early church and to us. We know that after the resurrection, members of Jesus' family became pillars in the church. James the brother of our Lord was a prominent church leader. But Mark wants us to know that it wasn’t always this way. When the early Christians left their Jewish faith or their Greek or Roman gods, many of them experienced rejection. They often brought dishonor to their family. Today, many people experience rejection for their faith. In a Muslim home you are often thrown out of your home and your family for becoming a Christian. Many put their life in danger to follow Jesus. Jesus says to them and to us - you might be rejected by the ones that know you best – after all-says Jesus - I was. We often react to rejection with withdrawal, isolation, or anger. How does Jesus react?
One thing we see is that Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth doesn’t slow him down a bit. He doesn’t stop in Nazareth and wait for the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of people. He leaves his hometown and is off to the neighboring villages. His ministry isn’t slowed down, he multiplies it by sending out his disciples. Sometimes our most difficult mission is to our own family and friends. They know us – better than anyone. They know we are not so holy. Sometimes the transformation that has taken place in our lives can be a powerful testimony to God. But sometimes, familiarity can be an excuse that people use to reject our message. I think it is important that we continue to pray for our family and friends – especially those that don’t have a vibrant faith. But I also think it is important to recognize that Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations – not just family members. Our witness and ministry is not just inside the walls of our church building nor inside the walls of our home.
So one thing we note is that rejection doesn’t hinder ministry and witness. If we experience rejection for our faith we keep praying and we move on to see where our message is welcome.
Another thing we see is that for Jesus - rejection and opposition – become opportunities for grace – for in the very night in which he was betrayed, denied, deserted our Lord Jesus took bread and said - this is my body given for you. He took the cup and said - this is my blood shed for you. Even when Jesus takes all the rejection and rebellion of all humankind upon himself - suffering the ultimate humiliation as he hangs from the cross – it is again another opportunity for grace - Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
I’d like to close with a few words that I’ve adapted from a Chris Tomlin song.
We’re forgiven because He was forsaken
We’re accepted, He was condemned
We’re alive and well
His Spirit is within us
Because He died and rose again
Amazing love, how can it be?
That our king would die for you for me? Amen
Written By Chaplain Chris Belfield
I have a friend that I have known for almost 20 years, and we converse regularly on Facebook due to distance. At least I thought this person was a friend. As of two weeks ago, my friend has begun a daily posting of how many days are left until Christmas. This is too much! My sensibilities of what is right in the world have been assailed. Why do I need a daily reminder of how few days are left and how much I will invariably leave undone until the last two weeks before Christmas? I'm a man. It's what we do. However, to be fair to my friend, I will give them the benefit of the doubt in that they are trying to help me plan better and perhaps get into the spirit of the season a bit earlier than would be assumed as normal.
Now, I am a fairly structured individual in some respects; in that, there is a time and season for all things. Sounds almost Biblical, doesn't it? I’ll get to that in a moment. Some would possibly observe that I am almost obsessive about the days when the seasons change over. Almost. I mean, the seasons are well defined on the calendars for a purpose, right? And there are certain natural assumptions for each season – even here on the North Shore, though our warm seasons are a bit more abbreviated compared to the cold, and colder seasons. I have previously discussed the obvious season of road construction as well as building construction. Now we are into the season of doing. There seems to be so much we want to do and simultaneously, so many things that can be done. So many choices. Where does one start?
Let’s see. Now that we are in the first week of July there is the 4th of July, which will be celebrated in many communities. Take your pick. In Two Harbors, we have the Houle Information Center chock-full of information regarding the regional opportunities and points of interest. Classic cars have begun making their appearances around the area which means there should be some car shows available. The THUG is back in full force. That would be the Two Harbors Ukulele Group, all primed up to entertain longtime
fans and new ones to be garnered. Then there is the long-awaited return of the cherished Heritage Days and Bay Days in Two Harbors and Silver Bay respectively.
All along the North Shore, from Duluth to Grand Portage, each community has seasonal offerings to appeal to every age group, and lifetime memories to be made. Nature itself abounds with hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails, numerous waterfalls, whose grandeur can easily compare with those of world-famous falls. That is just my opinion, of course, and I am a bit biased for the home turf.
Yes, the Christmas season is coming, but the current season has so much to offer. If you are an area resident, what are some of the area's offerings that you may not have experienced before, or that it's been a while? If you are not from the North Shore area or have not been here in a while, well, it's time to come on up and explore all there is to do and enjoy some great Minnesota Nice hospitality. For all, please have a great and safe season.
Oh yes, a reminder also that every day of every season is a great time to appreciate all the blessings God has given us to enjoy. It's the right reason this season to say, thank you, Father.
Psalm 74:17 (NIV)
“It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer
May you be blessed by God's word.