Drawn to Power 8th Sunday after Pentecost
Ephesians 2:11-22 July 18, 2021 Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
I’m willing to bet that something like this has happened to you: You’ve been working on something really hard (without a break), and you are really looking forward to a chance to kick back and relax. And just at the time when your break comes, someone asks you to help them—and it’s obvious that you have to defer that break. Something in you says, “Yes, I need a rest, but this person’s need is greater.” So you take care of them. Because you feel the person’s pain or anxiety or panic or whatever it is, you respond to their need.
Identifying with another person’s feelings is called compas-sion—and it’s just what Jesus experienced in our Gospel reading for today. He had invited his disciples to just get away for a rest—to go on a RETREAT—and they had sailed to a deserted spot on the lake. But people were so desperate that they walked along the shoreline and were there waiting for Jesus when the boat landed. The text says it was “a great crowd.” And Jesus had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
What did they want from Jesus? What would cause them to leave their homes and pursue this man so closely, so fervently? When Jesus looked into their eyes, what did he see? Whatever it was, he knew he had to postpone the retreat with the disciples—and “he began to teach them many things.”
I’m also curious about what Jesus had in mind for these folks—what was his purpose in ministering to them? And, of course, that leads me to ask, //:What is the purpose of our church?:\\ How do we, as followers of Jesus, continue his work? Let’s take a closer look.
The Motives of the People
I am certain that all these people had various motives for following Jesus around the lake—some higher, and some lower. Their higher motives might have included:
- Being thirsty for knowledge of the Kingdom
- Wanting to be followers of Jesus, if only for a few days
- Wanting to show support for Jesus and his message, his ministry
- Asking for healing for another person
Their lower motives might have included:
- Wanting healing for themselves
- Curiosity about this unusual teacher
- Something to fill their idle hours
- Looking for a mistake to report to the authorities
I suspect that they were like most people—a mixture of motives. There are none of us who have truly “pure” motives for all that we do. We’re always a combination of self-centered and other-oriented interests. Jesus didn’t care! (In two weeks, we will explore his disregard for motives.)
The Purposes of Jesus
Jesus was there with a specific purpose—actually several purposes. 1. He was there to demonstrate God’s LOVE. He did this by feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and loving people as they are, where they are. 2. He was there to teach. He knew they needed to understand how things work in the Kingdom. He was countering incorrect understandings regarding God and the practice of the faith. Teaching was central to the ways of Jesus. And 3. he was there to meet needs. He met short-term needs like food and healing. He met long-term needs like developing a capacity for forgiveness and guiding folks into Kingdom living. Jesus only met TRUE needs. Sometimes, he didn’t give people what they were asking for, he but he gave them what they actually needed.
The Purpose of Our Church
Looking at the purposes of Jesus helps us to be clear about the purpose of the church. What exactly is the church here for? That’s a good question. What IS the church here for?
In 41 years of ministry, I have discovered what our general population thinks the church is here for!
- Some people want the church for only 3 basic functions: to be “Hatched”, “Matched”, and “Dispatched.” (Baptisms, weddings, funerals)
- Others see the church as a Social Services Agency. They are always calling every church in the book asking for $.
- Then there are those who complain, “The church is always asking for my money! I don’t want anything to do with them!”
- An even darker sentiment is that the church is nothing but a bunch of dying people clinging to a dying religion. Yikes!
But we didn’t get our commission from our culture. No, we got our commission from Jesus!
- Go, and make disciples of every nation;
- Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit;
- TEACH them to obey everything I have commanded you;
- Remember, I am with you always;
- At the Lord’s Supper, he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
- In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus washed the feet of the Disciples and said, “you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (I’ll say more about that later.)
- He said to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, welcome the stranger. “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”
So, the church’s purpose is to follow the Great Commission: Go into all the world and do all these things.
- I don’t know how much we go into all the world, but we DO send missionaries around the globe.
- In our Sunday School, and Adult Studies, and Vacation Bible School, we teach and encourage folks to live in the Kingdom.
- We baptize folks into the family.
- We remember when we celebrate Christ’s presence in our communion.
- We meet real needs in a way that does no harm: 1. contributing to the food bank, 2. supporting special offerings, 3. providing books for children, 4. taking food to the Veterans’ Guest House—the list goes on!
- We continue to respond to the Great Commission by being attentive to the Spirit’s leading.
Washing One Another’s Feet
I have been focusing on the church’s mandate to reach out to the world, but I’ve neglected something our church already does well. We do “wash each other’s feet.” I have observed a tremendous amount of service and love that YOU have offered to each other! I see it in the care and communication that is practiced by our Deacons. I see it in the listening and the hugs between members of our family. I see it in the way that so many of you take time to help each other through various difficulties. “Washing each other’s feet” means taking on the attitude of Christ and serving each other. It’s a beautiful thing!
I’ll finish today by going back to our Gospel reading where Jesus says to his Disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” This is a life-giving word to those who are extremely busy—so engaged in the business of life that they are truly in need of a retreat. The ancient command, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” means that you and I need to build into our lives a regular break—a time of refreshment and rejuvenation. We need to put some “I’m doing nothing” time into our lives! (For me, these are times when I quit thinking about stuff and God finally has an opportunity to inspire me through the Holy Spirit!)
There are times when our break, our retreat has to be postponed because an act of compassion is needed. But we mustn’t neglect our own need for refreshment. God’s plan for us is a balance of work and play, of responsibility and carefree living.
May God help us find that balance in every aspect of our lives!