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05.17.20 Gathering in a Deserted Place Mark 6.31-42 Sermon Summary

by on May 18, 2020

The Twelve primary disciples of Jesus had just come back from their first solo ministry flight. They had gone about teaching and healing in Jesus’ name. They were excited but exhausted.

Jesus brought them into a boat with the destination at a deserted place to rest. But it only appeared to be deserted. In actuality there was a crowd needing to be taught (which in Mark’s Gospel includes healing). So Jesus, out of compassion, does this. He teaches (and heals) for the rest of the day until it was “very late.”

Balancing word and deed as Jesus always does, he next wants to feed the crowd. But the Twelve protest.

Disciples of Jesus often don’t recognize God’s movement so they don’t realize God’s mission. These disciples were already tired. They were focused too much on reality. Now while God recognizes reality also, God never limits himself to reality because “reality” can be deceiving.

What makes Jesus both divine and human is his ability to see reality and beyond. And he calls his disciples to do the same thing.

“We don’t have enough food,” the Twelve say. “Well, what do you have?” Jesus responds. And this is what he asks us also. “We have five loaves of bread and two fish” they reply. And you know with their eyes they say to one another, “But we can’t feed everyone with these!”

So Jesus says, “What can you do?” And this is what he asks us also. “We can group people,” they reply.

Then Jesus takes what is, looks to heaven, blesses it, which just means he receives it as a gift and thanks God, and begins breaking it. The Twelve and everyone else see him do this: Take what is, look to God, receive as a gift from God with thanksgiving, and share it.

And wouldn’t you know, “all ate and were filled.”

This evening we’ve come to an apparently deserted place. It was ten weeks ago that we were last together at this place! But it only appears deserted. Our neighbors across the street may say, “Where is the church? It’s been deserted!”

Now our building may be empty, but the church is alive and well! We are still following Jesus. We are still (1) studying the Bible. We are still (2) praying for the world, (3) maintaining our spiritual friendships, (4) loving God in worship, and (5) serving our neighbors in love. These are our five practices of faith. We are still the church, just not in this apparently deserted place.

And this brings us to the boat. In early Christian art, the boat was used to symbolize the church. You might remember Noah’s Ark that saved God’s people. You might remember Peter’s fishing boat which was a pulpit from which Christ spoke to the crowds.

In this story, the boat is the vehicle that delivers Jesus to the sheep without a shepherd. In this story, the boat is the vehicle that delivers the bread of life to the hungry masses.

And this is what the church does. We bring the Shepherd to the lost sheep. We bring the Bread of Life to the hungry. And that is one meaning of this story in Mark. “Get in your boat, Church, and serve the people.”

But remember how the story begins: “Get in your boat, Church, and rest a while.” Our shepherd has gathered us to a deserted place, he has led us to a green pasture covered with blacktop, and has sat us down according to cars, in order to feed us.

Let us rest a moment, Church. Let us receive the grace of God in these gifts of bread and cup. Let us rest in the presence of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Eucharistic Prayer

God of creation, you have given us this time and this place to gather as a community of faith. We thank you. We are assembled here next to our church building, deserted in this time of quarantine. But wherever we are brought together, around your Word and Sacrament, “there it is not to be doubted a church of God exists.” (John Calvin)

And so we have parked here as the Body of Christ. We remember that Jesus took bread and blessed it, broke it and gave it to his disciples with the assurance of his presence: Here is my body, here is my blood. Grant us your Spirit, we pray, that in seeing and serving one another, we the Body of Christ your church, may be strengthened and edified. May each one of us, members of Christ’s Body the church, receive in the bread and the cup the grace of Communion, and discern what you are calling and equipping us to do in fulfillment of Christ’s desire to show compassion to all people.

This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

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