Sermon for Eighth Sunday after Trinity – 22nd July 2018 (Proper 11)

Gospel: Mark 6.30-34, 53-56

Imagine the day: it’s hot, so hot, as hot as it’s been for us this week. Hot and dry and exhausting, sapping energy and preventing sleep. So hot.

Imagine the disciples: they’re excited by their recent mission; they’re tired, so tired, because giving yourself in the service of others is tiring, draining and seemingly never ending.

Imagine the people: hot, tired, beleaguered people, fractious children, distracted parents and the smell of poverty and sickness – and excitement because they’re excited by this Jesus who is teaching and healing and offering a new way of living.

Everyone needs something – a cure for an illness, healing for a sick child, hope and faith in a dark place of despair, comfort in mourning, forgiveness for sin and peace for a troubled mind. Everyone needs something. We all need something. So much need.

Imagine Jesus: he sees everything and everyone around him; he sees the crowd who look to him to meet their needs. He sees the disciples. They need to rest and reflect on their experience of being sent by him to do his work of preaching and healing.

For now he can only minister to one group and that today has to be his disciples who need to recharge their batteries before going back to work.

Imagine the boat leaving the shore, the relief of the disciples as they pull away from the noise and smell and pushing and shoving and calling and crying. They sail into the peace and tranquillity of the sea of Galilee on a hot sunny day.

Imagine the landing: the shock, the wanting to go back to sea to get away from these people who need Jesus; these needy people who are prepared to rush along the shore of the lake in stifling heat and burning sun to get near to this man who attracts, fascinates, scares or worries people wherever he goes.

Imagine Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for many. He came to give life in all its abundance, to draw people to him that they might become fully human and truly alive to God.

He sees sheep, shepherdless sheep who are looking hopefully at him, wanting him to be their shepherd, to take care of them, to feed them, to lead them by still waters, to anoint their heads with oil and heal them, to make them stronger than their enemies and oppressors and to guard them when they sleep.

Jesus sees sheep and in his love and compassion he reaches out to them to teach them many things so that they may be fully human, not sheep any more.

Imagine the day, the crowds of people, the disciples.
Imagine Jesus.

Let’s see them in our minds’ eye and then look for ourselves among them.

We might be one of the many needing healing for ourselves or for someone we love, anxious to get close even if we can only touch his cloak.

We might need him to teach us how to live a better, fuller life because the one we’ve got is disappointing, unsatisfying, empty and going nowhere.

Even on this hottest of days our need is so great that we somehow find the energy to push forward, to walk round the lake and push forward again to reach him.

Imagine at last we stand before him and know that he knows our greatest need and wants to meet that need. That meeting, that moment, is sacred between God and us.

We might be among the disciples: tired, drained and worn out in the service of others and following the call of Jesus. He knows what it’s like because he too is driven by his calling from God and gives himself all day every day to that calling. He knows the relentless pressure, the constant demands, the draining of spiritual resources. He knows our need to find refreshment, encouragement and grace to carry on. He encourages us to find that space and to allow ourselves to be renewed and strengthened.

Wherever we stand, we stand in need of grace, forgiveness and healing and in his wisdom and compassion our Lord knows our needs better than we ourselves do and he wants what is best for us, what will bring us to fullness of life – his gift to us.

Imagine being with such a Lord on such a day.