Homily for Pentecost 9/Yr B
22 July 2018/10:30 AM
Morning Prayer, St. James, Herring Cove, Nova Scotia
“Jesus had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. And, those who touched even the fringe of his cloak were healed.”
I speak to you in the Name of God; + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Compassionate. Shepherd. Teacher. Healer.
These are characteristics of Jesus. Mark draws our attention to them in today’s Gospel reading. I wonder, do they tell all we need to know about him?
Jesus’ compassion comes from his sensitivity to the throngs of people coming to him in need and desperation. Jesus is moved by their coming to him with their needs. Though tired and wanting to get away with the disciples, Jesus meets their needs without complaint. Jesus takes the time that others could not, would not take, to be with the people, showing compassion to them. Teaching. Healing…as only Jesus can do.
When Mark says, “Like sheep without a shepherd,” what do you suppose Mark means?
“Like sheep without a shepherd.”
“Sheep without a shepherd” is a theme found in several places in the Bible. It is way of saying that the people of Israel are without a leader.
For example, in the Book of Numbers, Moses asks God to appoint his successor, lest the people “be without a shepherd” when Moses dies (Numbers 27.17). God responds and we find Moses anointing Joshua as his successor.
I Kings concludes with a prophet named Micaiah prophesying that the King of Israel will fall in a key battle. The King expresses frustration, to which the prophet replies, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep that have no shepherd…” (I Kings 22.17).
And, the Prophet Ezekiel reports a time when Israel was under the leadership of false prophets, writing: “Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you Shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? …so they were scattered, because there was no shepherd [they] scattered.” (Ezekiel 34: 2b, 5).
Compassionate. Shepherd. Teacher. Healer.
…some of Jesus’ characteristics. Yet, I think that Mark is telling us more than meets our ears when we hear this morning’s Gospel reading.
Mark is telling us that life situations, whether the transition of leadership from Moses and Joshua, or a situation when an ungodly King refuses to listen to God’s prophet at the end of I Kings, or Israel without a leader but needing good leadership in Ezekiel…situations in life come and go whether good or bad, whether in times of stability or instability.
We don’t have to think far from the current events of the time that we live in to understand this. Think of the recent reports of various world leaders in the news in recent weeks.
Mark shows us that there is another way…that even the most desperate needs that we have are met in Jesus. Jesus is different from all of the others. With Jesus, there is an outcome that defies the systems of the world. Jesus has come and will not leave us. This compassionate, shepherding, teacher and healer is truly human. And, he is God’s anointed one. He is the fulfillment of scripture for all time draws all things to himself. He does this as though all are as one to him because all are one to him.
Through Jesus, God came into the world and brought a new reality into being. This new reality remains for all time into eternity. It will always be. No person can change what God has done through Jesus.
No matter what the human powers tell us…the truth is this. Jesus showed the people that went to him then and shows us, the people that come to him now, that we are one in him because he is one with God, the one who sent him into the world.
This is confirmed in today’s Epistle reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (2:11-22). “In Christ Jesus you who were once far have been brought near…he is our peace, he makes all one, creating a new humanity that reconciles all to God through the cross. Through him all have access to God and are members of God’s household. Because of Christ, we are God’s dwelling place.”
Paul says that this is the deepest reality of what it means to be alive in the world in his day and in ours. Christ reconciles us to God right here and right now.
Today, there are still many who live as sheep without a shepherd. There are many today who live without experiencing Christ as their shepherd. And, there are leaders in the world claiming that they know, that they hold the answer to human need. But, they lack compassion. They lack the capacity to meet the needs of the world. They teach falsehood and call it good. They claim to heal but only know how to afflict others.
Paul speaks truth to the false powers of the world. When Christ is denied, humanity is denied and the world remains a divided place.
Today’s readings point to the deepest truth. The point is that we are here to live life in the here and now with the knowledge of God’s restoration of all to God’s self because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection no matter what. Restoration is affirmed in God’s sending Christ to live among us. Compassionate. Shepherd. Teacher. Healer. God’s mighty acts continue today as we continue to experience God, Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives and in one another…as one because of Christ. Amen.