Devotional Message: The 9th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11B (7/22/2018)

Lessons

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
St. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Semicontinuous Series

2nd Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37

Prayer of the Day

O God, powerful and compassionate, you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us. Heal each of us, and make us a whole people, that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

6:30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He 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. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As 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.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And 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.

St. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Welcome. Now Go!”

“Welcome to Arizona. Now go home!” So read the popular bumper sticker that graced quite a few Arizona-registered automobiles when I moved there in the mid-1980s. A similar sticker, with the words “Colorado Native” on it, can be seen in our state. A bit more subtle, but perhaps it expresses the same sentiment: “I was here first. I liked it when I got here. You newcomers are destroying what we used to have. It’s time for you to leave.”

With a different intent, perhaps we Christians could use the same phrase to refer to what the life of faith is all about: “Welcome to the church. Now go.”

In the verses that precede this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls his twelve closest followers and sends them out two by two, with instructions to cast out demons and anoint with healing oil those who are sick. The Greek word for sent out is ἀποστέλλω (apo-stello) – the word that gives us our English word “Apostle.” Those twelve followers; those twelve disciples; those twelve are called Apostles because Jesus sends them out to carry his message and ministry beyond the reach of what he can do himself. They do just that, and their ministry is so powerful, and makes such an impression, that even King Herod hears about it (St. Mark 6:14).

As this week’s lesson begins, the disciples return to Jesus, excited about what God has accomplished through them. Jesus undoubtedly senses that they are exhilarated by these experiences, but also drained by them. And so he invites them to come away with him to a deserted place and rest a while. “Welcome,” he says, “into this experience of my grace and peace, and be renewed.” Yet as they make their way across the water, the crowd perceives where they are going and runs ahead of them. When Jesus and the twelve arrive, it is no longer a deserted place. They are met by a massive sea of human need, and out of his deep compassion Jesus goes out once again to bring them healing and hope.

So it is with the life of faith. We are welcomed into God’s healing grace and peace. Then, filled and renewed, we are sent out to share those gifts with the world that surrounds us. Exhilarated but exhausted from that ministry, we are again welcomed into God’s healing grace and peace, and the cycle continues.

Every Christian congregation is called to be the kind of deserted and restful environment Jesus envisions for his closest followers. Within the walls of our worship spaces, we seek to provide a profound experience of God’s grace, peace and healing. And then, filled and renewed by this experience, we are called to go once again, to spend ourselves in service of God, so that others might know the love and compassion that God has for them.

So welcome to church. Now go, in Christ’s name. Thanks be to God!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What do disciples experience as Jesus empowers them for a ministry of healing?
  2. Why are they in need of a “deserted and restful” place after this ministry?
  3. How do you imagine them responding when they go to that place and find it filled with people?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When has my faith provided me with the rest and peace and healing I’ve needed?
  2. When have I been able to minister, strengthened by that rest and peace, in ways that I never could have imagined on my own?
  3. How does the pattern of being welcomed into God’s grace and being sent into the world  play itself out in my own discipleship?