First Lesson: 2 Samuel 7: 1-14a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 89: 20-37
Second Lesson: Ephesians 2: 11-22
Gospel Lesson: Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56
“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”-Mark 6:34
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin this sermon like I begin a lot of sermons. Last Thursday, I went down to the cities to see the Twins play. So Friday, I went to visit my grandma. Grandma was in a foul mood. Grandma was mad at nearly every member of her family. Grandma vowed that she was going to break out of that “pig sty” of a nursing home where she lives. Grandma was going to move to California, and she had no intention of coming back to Minnesota until she was buried when she wouldn’t know any better since she’ll already be dead. Grandma in her typical defiant matter said even though she’s 91 years old and confined to a wheelchair that she planned on living for a long, long time. The reason that I bring Grandma up is because she is like plenty of people that we know. You know the type, mad at everyone in the world for their problems and constantly wanting to run away from it all.
Today’s Gospel lesson has Jesus being swamped! Many of us celebrated Bay Days last weekend. There were races, fundraisers, church services, class reunions, parades, and people to talk to that we haven’t seen in a long time. I know that by the end of the Bay Days parade last weekend, I just wanted to go home and watch baseball. As swamped as we may have been last weekend this was nothing compared to Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson. Our lesson describes Jesus as “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat”.
The last few weeks of Jesus’ ministry had been quite hectic. Jesus had been chased out of the synagogue within his hometown of Nazareth, John the Baptist had just been executed, so people had mourn his loss, and the Disciples had just left for their first missionary journey. Jesus suggests a get away for a few days.
Earlier this winter, I was in Mexico for my friend Ben’s wedding. The groom and most of his friends and their spouses were my age around 35. When we were down in Cancun, there were two different approaches to life and the outside world. My bachelor self-turned off my phone upon leaving Minneapolis, turned the IPAD off upon exiting the plane and spent the next few days disconnected from everyone else. No one was going to be able to reach me, and there wasn’t much that I could do if they did. Whereas the married people at the wedding had to have WIFI and international service plans for their phones. They did this to not only send pictures to their kids or spouses but keep in contact with them via phone because they knew their contact was going to be the most important thing in their kids day.
Jesus was not going to get a moment of disconnect though for the rest of his ministry as the stakes were too high. Too many people were out there hurting. So what did Jesus do to those who were the most hurting? Jesus began to teach them many things.
They were like sheep without a shepherd. My friend Warren Baker had been to all kinds of churches. Warren’s heart though lies with small churches not unlike this one. Warren will think nothing of driving from his house in Jackson, Minnesota to some small mountain town in Idaho with maybe 200 people within 50 miles. Warren goes to churches with so much hostility in the air that he’s literally worried that people are going to bring baseball bats to church. Warren visits churches where pastors have been forced out with petitions and Warren’s been to churches divided into two. Warren steps into messes of churches where the pastor has had to resign for inappropriate sexual behavior or drug and alcohol abuse. Warren goes to these places because he knows that not many pastors are going to dare to go there. Warren’s reasoning in putting himself out there rather than living a comfy retirement is that sheep no matter how many or how few always need a shepherd. Warren always quotes this verse from Mark 6 as to why he does what it does even if people might not understand why Warren cares so much about a twelve member church in Capitol, Montana. Warren knows the leadership that a people receive makes all the difference in one’s soul.
Jesus uses the analogy of sheep being without a shepherd to compare himself to false leaders of the day. When I was in Seminary, I knew a guy named Iver. Iver was a farmer from West Central Minnesota. Iver was probably the oldest student at Luther Seminary. Iver begins to attend classes when he hears all these high flatulent terms tossed around such as exegesis, hermeneutics, and eschatology. Iver after a while got frustrated by the general academic attitude of the seminary. Iver one day in the cafeteria just says and I’ll clean up Iver’s language to make it church appropriate when he says “You can do all the Biblical exegesis you want, but if people think you don’t give I’ll say “hooey” about them then it won’t matter one bit. There are two kinds of shepherds out there those that want the sheep to listen to them for their intellect and those who don’t mind spending time in the pig sty of people’s lives unafraid of getting dirty.
What did Jesus teach people that day on the Lakeshore? Our lesson doesn’t really say. What we can say is what we know about how Jesus taught people. Jesus probably talked to them about their life. Jesus probably looked people into the eyes to ask them about their pain. Jesus probably spoke to them about their life. Just think of how Jesus speaks to crowds during the Gospels. He tells stories of men being mugged (Parable of the Good Samaritan), he tells tales of a rebellious son who basically curses out his Father (Parable of the Prodigal Son), Jesus talked about frustrations such as losing things such as coin or sheep; today he might he talk about losing TV remotes. Jesus talked about money and all its frustrations a lot. Jesus talked about planting trees and scattering seed. Jesus probably told the crowd a story about how their life ultimately relates to the Kingdom of God. Jesus wanted the people on the Lake Shore to know that he was not just some distant shepherd living in a far away land, Jesus had lived every second of their experience.
We know the people that Jesus was talking to on this day. We live in a world with a great many hurting people. People don’t always understand how Christianity fits into all this. I spend many a night thinking about what type of Pastor do I want to be, what kind of church do I want to lead. Do I want to dare be able to speak the Gospel to the ones society deems as undefendable?
This week there was a major story on the news about a teacher at our local school. Many of us in this room know this teacher. Many of us have been grieved upon hearing this news. I’ve led services at the Veterans Home with this teacher. This teacher and I would always exchange greetings when I ran by the school in the morning. I do not wish to judge whether this man is innocent or guilty of the crimes that he is accused? I have no doubts that this man has made some bad choices in life, and the legal system will ultimately play its course. I ask this morning that we pray for everyone involved in this situation.
What I want to speak about is the spiritual nature of these charges. What I do know is that because of the nature of the charges that he faces that people will consign him to the fires of hell. People will define this teacher every day for the rest of his life because of the nature of these charges. Many people will assume this man can never meet redemption because of the alleged nature of his crimes.
I think of the story of Jesus encountering the Woman caught in adultery in John 8. People had picked up their stones to throw at this woman. This woman was as guilty as could be! Jesus knew that she was as guilty as could be! Everyone in the crowd knew that she was guilty as could be! Everyone thought their instincts had taught them the proper way to react to a situation such as this one. They thought she was “sick”, they thought she was “twisted”. Jesus figured that he needed to say something standing in the presence of a homewrecker such as this woman.
Jesus upon seeing this scene bends down to the ground to write “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus then turns to the woman and says,“Has no one condemned you?...Then neither do I condemn you.”
A shepherd is only worth following if he will stand beside people when they’re at their absolute worst. A shepherd is only worth trusting in if they will defend you from the scariest of attackers including judgment of the whole world itself.
What is the motivation behind "We are an imperfect church for imperfect people.”
We have a great many people out there longing for a shepherd. We see these kids at the school, we see these neighbors at the supermarket. These people might feel cut off from their families; these people might feel isolated from the world around them. We have people out there who go through everyday fighting against a crippling insecurity over not being young enough, pretty enough, or gifted enough to measure up in this world. What I say to these people this morning is that you are not alone, we do not condemn you, and you are never alone!
Many people wrongly think that what they need in life is to hear sweet words of affirmation every morning that they are wonderful, and everything will soon be alright. Every single person knows that picture does not paint an accurate picture of us. Why I long for Church is because I long for confession. I long to stand before God and Man and admit that I don’t have it all together. Life is full of gray areas. Ten years from now is a pile of uncertainty. We face the world every day with uncertain answers. Our tension in life is ultimately O.K. because we have a shepherd who guides us along the path. A shepherd who promises to lead us through and out of the grave itself.
The thing about this passage is that Jesus never got a vacation within his ministry. The reason for this is Jesus’ promises do not disconnect from the realities of our lives. The reason that the Shepherd is so good is because he ultimately lays down his life for the Sheep.
Today as we consider what it means to go through life as a Sheep without a Shepherd. We reflect upon the words of our 23rd Psalm. The Lord is My Shepherd I shall not be in want. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus promises not only to care for us, but to protect us, lead us, and guide us no matter what life throws our way.
Grandma might not like living in a “pig sty”. Plenty of people don’t like their current living situation and wish the world around them would change. We go forth with the assurance that our Shepherd does not stand idly by watching his sheep even for a minute. Amen
 Mark 6:31
 Mark 6:1-6
 Mark 6:14-29
 Mark 6:7-13
 Mark 6:34
 Luke 10:25-37
 Luke 15:11-32
 Luke 15:8-10, Luke 15:1-7
 John 8:1-11
 John 8:7
 John 8:10b
 John 8:11b
 Psalm 23:4
 Psalm 23:1
 John 10:1-21