Sunday, July 22, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
What do you want? What do you long for? Like the early disciples do you long for a quiet place of tranquility to rest after working hard? Or maybe you long to get away someplace like an amusement park for some fun and excitement? Perhaps you’ve saved up money to buy that special something that has captured your attention for a long time? There’s nothing wrong with wants and desires. There’s nothing wrong with working to get something that you really want. Sometimes wants are simple things like wanting to go down the street and enjoy some ice cream, wanting to spend a few hours in conversation with your best friend, or wanting to get away to a peaceful place. It’s okay to want things. In fact God wants us to have a life full of abundance. But there is a big difference between wants and needs. And it’s very easy to confuse the two.
And by confusing the two we set ourselves up to feeling sad, angry, or unfulfilled because what we want isn’t always what we have. We may want to be 6 feet tall, but that can cause a lot of frustration if we only stand 5 feet tall. We may want to drive around in a $929,000 Porshe, but that’s going to cause a lot of disappointment for most of us. Does anyone really need a car that costs that much? If we’re honest many of the things we own are wants and not needs. Do we really need that closet full of clothes, many that don’t even fit us? When you think about it, we don’t actually need a nice comfortable bed, but it sure beats sleeping on the floor. We don’t need electricity, but it sure is nice to have lights, a refrigerator, and a working stove. Most of the things we have are wants and not needs. It’s easy to forget that millions of people around the world don’t have these things that we take for granted. Again, there’s nothing wrong with having the things we want. What’s dangerous is when we forget that they are wants, which can lead to ingratitude, selfishness, and a lack of compassion for others.
In our story today the disciples and Jesus wanted to get away for some quiet time alone to relax and enjoy some tranquility. In fact, they needed to get away. Mark says that they were so busy caring for others that “they had no leisure even to eat.” For many people that happens far too often. You give and give, but if you aren’t careful you leave little time for yourself – even for taking time to care for your own basic needs like eating. Jesus was aware of this need the disciples had so he suggested they go away and relax for a while. But that’s not what happened. They didn’t get the tranquility they were looking for. What they got instead was something quite different. More work.
And why did they get more work? Jesus could have ignored the crowds and stuck to the original plan. He could have walked right past them and did nothing. Jesus could have told the disciples to schedule appointments for these people for another day and then he and the disciples could have gotten the rest they not only wanted, but needed. But Jesus “had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Their need to be fed, and healed, and cared for were greater than Jesus and the disciples’ needs. And the part of the text that was omitted in our readings today, Jesus fed the 5000 hungry people. He had compassion on them and Jesus has compassion on us and our needs.
Mark is not suggesting that we neglect our own needs, but rather that we must take care of ourselves because there will be times when we are pulled in a different direction, when we are called to take care of someone else’s need, and we have to be ready for that. Jesus regularly went away to deserted places in order to restore and refocus himself in order that he could carry out God’s mission. As followers of Jesus we have to be on the lookout for how we can be Christ in the world and show his love and compassion to others. We have to be aware of the needs of each other and work to do something about it. From listening with compassion, to walking or running to raise money for a worthy cause, nurturing a community garden to help feed others, to visiting the sick – there is something that we are each called to do.
Jesus saw that the people in Mark’s gospel were desperate for a shepherd – someone to lead and guide them, someone to love and encourage them, someone to be with them and not abandon them. Jesus was willing to be that shepherd, that leader. That was the whole purpose of his mission on earth – to be the leader who would reveal God to us. Because like sheep without a shepherd, we fall into the hands of danger very easily. We confuse our wants and our needs and we could easily be led astray by those who tell us what is best for us.
The compassion of Jesus is the core of who he is. It is the core of who God is. God created a beautiful and sinless life and yet humans destroyed that. God wanted a peaceful existence for everyone, yet humans hurt one another and inflict violence against each other. God wanted people to live in eternal joy, yet sickness and death entered the world through sin. So the Triune God somehow separated that blessed Trinity, while at the same time keeping it intact, and sent Jesus to make everything right again. The cost of dying was not what God wanted, yet out of God’s great love and compassion Jesus sacrificed himself for us. Jesus gave up his wants for our needs.
We all have a need for love and belonging. Many people will tell us those needs can be fulfilled in a number of ways, but the only true way is through a relationship with God. Because things won’t fulfill us, people will let us down, the people we love will get sick and die, and what we are left with without God will be total isolation and hopelessness. That is why when we have God in our life; we have everything. God hears our cries. God provides for our needs. God loves us with an everlasting love. God has compassion on us and will never leave or abandon us.
All the things we have are blessings from God. When we look around and see all the things we have that are more than just needs, we must give thanks. We are blessed more than we know. For even when we struggle, even when we are in pain, God will never abandon us. God is with us in the person of Jesus who died, and was raised and lives so that all of us will forever live united with God as well. We may need things in our lives, but our greatest need is God. And the good news, the great news is that God is here with us. God will never forsake us. God will always have compassion for us. And that is enough. God is more than enough and we are more than enough to God. We are God’s beloved children. And in that we give thanks. Amen!