The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire



Sermon - July 22, 2018
Scripture Reading: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 & Ephesians 2:11-22
Sermon Title: The Good Shepherd of All

The Rev. Robert Vodra


     It took me a while to follow the reading from Mark this morning.  If you notice, we jump from verse 34 all the way to 53.  In the first part of this reading we have Jesus suggesting that he and his disciples take a little break.  ďLetís get away for a little while, take a break.Ē  Jesus is starting to develop quite a following at this point, so when they see Jesus in the boat, they follow along by shore.  Almost like a celebrity.  And when he gets to land he teaches them.  Then we jump all the way to verse 53 - Once again he is landing, gets out of the boat and heís healing.  Those who put together the lectionary left out all the good stuff in the middle. 

     Between these two readings selected for this morning, after teaching it is getting late, everyone gets hungry and Jesus feeds all 5,000 of them.  Later that night the disciples are out on the lake when a storm comes up, Jesus is on shore, then walks out on the water, gets in the boat and calms the storm.  Certainly you know those two stories in the middle, that were left out this morning.  As I was studying for this weekís scripture one suggestion was that this left out on purpose.  This is summer time, people go away during the summer.  Some people donít go away, but take a warm morning off to sleep in, or do some work around the house, maybe just catch up on things.  Perhaps those who put the lectionary together knew this.  If you think about other parts of the year, a few months ago we had Christmas.  Attendance near Christmas tends to go up.  The church is all decorated, we had the advent wreath. We are getting ready for Christmas, and the whole world knows it.  Or Easter, Jesus raising from the dead, not much can top that.  By leaving out the two miracles, feeding the 5000 and walking on water and calming the seas, perhaps the people who put together the lectionary wanted to remind us that we believe in the whole Jesus.  Not just the miracle worker, but all that Jesus taught and did is of equal importance. 

     This morningís scripture points out to me that a lot of Jesusí ministry was welcoming.  When he saw everyone on shore, he didnít keep going, he stopped the boat, got out and taught them.  When he got to the other shore, he got out and was healing people.  Of course, if you were ill and healed, you would certainly consider it a miracle, but maybe some of these healings were just Jesusís touch. 

     Back in Jesusís time there was not a lot known about illness.  If you got sick, it might be considered a demon, or maybe it was because of something that you did, or your parents did.  Many illnesses, because they were not understood, caused the community to shun those who were sick.   If someone was sick it was safer not to get too close, not to touch them.  Jesus healed by touching, and I suspect that at least a part of the healing for those was in being noticed and touched. 

Which really ties in well with what Paul was saying.  Remember that Paulís letters were written before the gospels were written down.  I suspect that there were notes and oral stories, but the complete gospels were not put together until later. 

     Today, if someone wants to join our church, it is pretty easy.  We ask them a few questions in worship, give them membership certificates and have a little celebration.  If you want to become Jewish, especially Orthodox Jewish and especially in Jesusís time, it takes a lot more work.  You have to learn all those rules, what you can eat and when and how, and what prayers to say before each part.  There are all the rules about what you can and can not do on the Sabbath.  In Jesus time, you had to go to the temple and make sacrifices.  And for men, there was a little operation needed.  It is possible to convert to Judaism, but rarely happens.  And even if you learn all that you need to know, build another kitchen in your house, or at least have separate pots and pans, and even have that little operation, you are still going to be looked down upon, kind of a second class Jew. 

     And this was a huge issue in the early churches.  If you were Jewish, you had been following those laws.  You knew what you could eat, and when and where.  And then a non-Jew, a gentile, shows up.  What do we make them to do?  If Jesus came to fulfil the law, can we just abandon it all, or would God still like us to follow certain laws.  Ten commandments, those are good, except for that one about the sabbath, at least we donít read it the same way that the Jewish do.  We do minimal work on the sabbath, and try to go to church, but no work at all?  Do we pick and choose laws, or make up our new ones for our community?

     When I was in high school and college I learned a lot of things that are of no use today.  How to use a typewriter, long division, science experiments that didnít teach us much.  Since high school I have never needed to know what parts are inside the worm we dissected.  But I want Glenn and Collin to learn some of those things, even though they will be of no use to them.  I imagine that the Jewish felt similar.  We followed all these laws, maybe we still keep some of them.  The gentiles just get to stroll in, do whatever they want, that is not fair.   Our parents taught us all this stuff, and now it is of no use.  Maybe these new Christians, who were never Jewish, should learn some of this stuff, even if it will be of no use to them.

     Paul realized that your background does not matter.  Remember, Paul was a Jew, he followed the Jewish laws, he persecuted Christians, and now he realizes that our differences are not bad in Godís eyes. 

     Last week I watched a documentary on Henry Ford.  A part of it said that he made all the immigrants take English Language classes, and learn how to be an American.  At the graduation there was a show where people would go into a big pot wearing the clothes from their homeland, people would come out and stir the pot, and then each of those people would come out wearing the same suits and ties, American clothes.  Really implying that now they were the same.  They had lost, or given up, what their heritage was and were now fully American.

     And in America we have a history of doing that, not only to immigrants, but even to Native Americans.  In the not too distant past, children were taken from their Native American parents and put into boarding schools to teach them how to behave properly, read and write English and be the type of citizens America needed. 

     We still do that.  We want black people to talk like us.  We want more recent immigrants than we are, to speak English when they arrive here, even if our immigrant parents, grandparents or further back didnít ever learn English.  We want Muslim women to not wear head coverings, and Muslim men to shave.  Sikh men should not wear turbans, and there are proper clothes sold everywhere that you should be wearing.

     I think that Paul understood what Jesus was doing.  I donít think that all 5,000 of those hearing him teach were Jewish men.  I donít think all who wanted to be healed were Jewish men.  Paul could see that Jesus didnít put any conditions on his followers.  We know the names of the 12 male followers, but it is also mentioned that there were women with him. 

     Because Jesus didnít put any requirements on his followers, Paul believes that the churches should be the same way.  It is not that Jesus does not ask things of his disciples, leave your family and your boats and follow me.  But he did not choose only the best citizens, or those with money, or those who have never sinned.  Jesus choose people like you and me.    

     Paul famously says that in Christ there are no male or female, no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, we are all one in Christ.  But I donít hear this as saying that we have to give up what we were in order to follow Jesus.  God appreciates our differences, just does not see one as better than another.  

     What would the world be like if we could treat all as God sees us?  Think of a person who is most different than you.  Maybe their skin is a different color, maybe they come from another country, maybe the follow a different religion, or no religion at all.  Maybe it is even someone you donít know personally, have only heard about.  God loves that person as much as God loves you.  That is not easy for me to understand or accept.  There are some people in the world who are not very good people.  They hurt others, treat others badly and while I donít think God agrees with the way they behave, I still believe that God loves them. 

     Being one does not mean being the same.  Being one does not mean giving up what makes you you.  Being one is having respect for each other as human beings, and knowing that in Godís eyes you are equal to everyone else. 

     Jesus knew this, bringing the imperfect disciples with him, teaching and healing without prerequisites.  Paul knew this also, knowing that to God it does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, circumcised or not. 
It is up to us to remember that and follow their example.