God's Way of Healing
July 18, 2021 Rev. Dr. Darlis Swan
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Grace and peace to you from God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is no wonder the crowds followed Jesus. People followed Jesus because he listened; he cared; and he taught. He had compassion on the people, and he brought them peace. He restored, healed, called, and commissioned. He encouraged and fed them with food for their bodies and their minds and spirits.
It is not surprising that crowds followed Jesus everywhere just to touch his garments in hope of being healed. (Jesus, as a Jewish male, wore fringe on his cloak as a reminder that God’s commandments are more important than personal desires.) When we think of healing, we usually think of being cured of an illness. We imagine ourselves or someone we love being set free from the ravages of cancer or heart disease. That is not exactly the kind of healing we are talking about here. Jesus had a healing message, but it wasn’t just what he did - it was who he was. He had a clear mission – to bring all people together in his name. That’s God’s way of healing. “The lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I remember sitting there as a child and thinking that somehow Jesus would always take care of me just like those sheep.
While we need to avoid a sentimental understanding of Jesus, this image really represents the power of Jesus taking care of the flock. We are the sheep requiring God’s care – no matter how young or old, we reach out to him. You see Jesus had a presentation. He didn’t have fact and figures – not that those are not important – he had a vision of what the kingdom of God is like – the hungry are fed; the ill are made well! God’s way of healing is about curing disease, but it is even wider and larger than that. The lesson from Ephesians 2:11-22 describes the message of Jesus: follow me and you will not want for anything. All barriers are broken down, and all are one in me. This was the message Jesus taught. But he didn’t just say those things. You see, he was the message. He was the healer, the peacemaker, and people saw him change people’s lives. The scriptures tell of Jesus calming the storm, healing the woman who had the issue of blood for twelve years, and the little girl who had already been pronounced dead! Jesus message was clear to all because he lived it!
Jesus was on his way to rest according to today’s lesson from Mark. But it was hard for Jesus to take a day off because of the great needs of the people. The people who followed Jesus were hurting, lonely, and ill. They were reaching out for some hope! Oh if they could just touch him! If they could just be part of this kingdom he described! (In the Far East, “shepherd” meant king.) Today our world is really no different. We have just as many needs as those who followed Jesus in his day. Jesus had people seeking him constantly. Those who were broken human beings couldn’t leave Jesus alone.
Jesus was willing to meet people’s needs, and even though he took a brief time to rest, he saw as many as he could. We, 2000 years later have the same needs on a global scale – hunger, disease, acts of violence, and homelessness abound. In every congregation there are hidden pains brought on by troubled marriages, illness, loneliness, fear of losses, and on and on. Jesus still sees those needs, and through the church he meets them. God’s way of healing is to use our hands to do God’s work. We have opportunities to help through our ELCA world hunger appeal, our immigration and refugee service (LIRS) and our kits of care (LWR) – just to name a few.
Jesus had a vision of unity. This vision was of a community where all are one in Christ --- a community where differences melt in light of Christ’s love and compassion. We have been the strangers and aliens that the Ephesians text talks about. Some of us may feel that we are too tired, or poor, or lonely to be a part of the life of the congregation. But Jesus calls us to be reconciled to each other because together we can send out a message of Jesus’ compassion. – the vision that he has given and continues to give the world through us! (There are so many messengers that gone
before us. One good example is the faithful Christian we commemorate on July 23rd, Birgitta (beer-geet-ta) of Sweden. She was a renewer of the church who lived from 1303-1373. She was a woman of some standing, and in her early 30's. She served as chief lady-in-waiting to the queen of Sweden. She was married at 13, had four children and was widowed at 38 after she and her husband had made a religious pilgrimage. Following the death of her husband, the religious dreams and visions that had begun in her youth occurred more regularly. Her devotional commitments led her to give to all that she owned to the poor and needy. She founded an order of monks and nuns which today is the society of St. Birgitta that continues her work of prayer and charity.)
Of course, we have the examples of the twelve apostles in whose footsteps we follow. They were sent out by Jesus just as we are. They cast out demons and they cured the sick. They gathered with Jesus frequently and reported everything they did and taught. We don’t get the details of all that, but that’s probably good.
We, who continue this “apostolic mission”, need to determine what we do and teach in this time and place. We can’t simply repeat what the original disciples said and did. We need to discover how we can spread the gospel here and now with our words and deeds. We are the message for this time and place. What if we were to do just what the disciples did?
Our mission – to share the good news of Jesus Christ – is the reason why the church exists and the reason why we are here. As we make decisions about how to use our resources, we remember that Jesus has already given us instructions through his words and deeds. And he continues to teach us today through his word.
Jesus has given us a vision of unity. And Jesus gives us a vision of a world where hope is restored. Some may say, where is the hope? But the hope for the world is us! We are restored (made right again) when we gather to hear God’s word and receive the sacrament – the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We are restored by Jesus’ compassion that we read about in today’s gospel. And we are called to be restorers. We have seen some good examples in our time of how the world has been restored. We have seen the end to (legislated) aparteid in Africa, a system that separated the races. We have seen the Berlin Wall in Germany that kept families away from each other come down in our time. And we have seen Jesus restore hope in our own lives and community.
When Jesus restored hope to those who followed him, he didn’t do it alone. He had the vision, but the disciples participated in the mission! Living off the compassion of Jesus, the disciples got resources together and organized people around the tasks.
We also have this vision of hope given to us by Jesus. And we have been called to make it real in this time and place. Our vision does not need to be limited to the present time or even the resources we think are available. Jesus calls us to spread his message to others. We who are sent out are never sent out alone. That’s why we gather on the sabbath to be fed by God’s word, and he promises to be with us. Jesus calls us! Come to the feast!