Mark 6:20-34 and 53-56
This is the last lectionary reading from the Gospel of Mark for a while. Over the last 6-8 weeks we’ve seen some wonderful stories of healing and restoration, and there have been some wonderful stories of Jesus’ teaching (in word and in deed) that add to our understanding of the many facets of our faith in someone other than ourselves.
We’ve God’s faith and our faith in various combinations, we’ve seen God’s work being done with those with low status and high status, and we’ve seen healings involving combinations of prayer, touch, commanding, admonishing, acts of compassion and the forgiveness of sins, not just by Jesus, but by his disciples also.
Once again, in this reading brought to us by Daphne – healing and teaching are seen side by side.
In this passage, the teaching comes first followed by the healing. But this is not always the way, fir if we learn one thing through the Bible, it is that God seldom does things the same way twice.
The work of God is not to be always boxed in to our desire for formulas.
In the first part of this reading, the disciples are telling Jesus about their success in mission (after he commissioned them to go out at the beginning of Chapter 6. Then the disciples and Jesus seek out a place of retreat for rest and meditation. It is not long however, before the crows are seeking them and surrounding them in their quest for healing and wholeness. Jesus, instead of retreating further, confronts them with his compassion and begins to teach. His compassion is borne from the fact that they necessarily had a physical or mental of spiritual impediment that needed healing, but that they were rudderless without the gift of a new way of being, and an example to follow. He says that they are ‘like Sheep without a Shepherd.’
I love lamb chops, lamb cutlets and lamb or mutton stew. I’m quite partial to a lamb roast or lamb curry! However, I must admit that I, like so many, give little thought to how the meat from the sheep comes to be on my plate.
As good eco-theologians, we should all give thought to the use of resources – water, soil, air, land, and plants that bring us nourishment and then choose wisely, as good stewards of God’s creation, of what is wasteful and carelessly destructive to this planet, and its connectedness to us.
But, back to the title of this sermon, ‘A Sheep without a Shepherd is potentially in a Stew’. We use the words ‘in a stew’ to mean mixed-up or confused. It can also mean that we’re in trouble, worried or in difficulty. If I stew over something – I’m mulling over something – I’m going in circles – or I feel I can’t move forward.
If we consider that God is the great and Good Shepherd, then like the Shepherds of old – we are protected from danger and thus, by definition, protected from anxiety and worry. We are led in safety through to new destinations via new directions – that troubles and difficulties will only be temporary – and that our own uncertainty about life is covered over by the certainty of a Saviour who freely offers eternal life. We need God in our lives as do sheep need a shepherd. And God knows that a shepherd without sheep is a nonsense.
We ‘need’ God but it is God who ‘wants’ us.
So – as the people of God – we are invoked to keep working ‘with’ as well as ‘for’ Christ.
And as today’s Bible reading also indicated – we should continue meeting together – upholding one another in healing and teaching.
May the Spirit add to our understanding of this message!