Ninth Sunday after Pentecost by The Rev. Dick Toll

July 22, 2018

Lessons:

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

There is not a person here who does not have the memory of being a part of a large crowd.  It may have been a sports event, it may have been a musical event, it may have been to hear the Beatles, Elvis Presley or any of the popular singers of today.  It may have been a political rally, it may have been a peace march, it may have been a candle light parade and on and on.

Reflect for a moment in your own mind and memory about a crowd you were in and bring back the feelings, emotions of that moment.

Pause,

Crowds are influenced by many voices.  Events are often staged in ways that help us to remember.

I personally can remember going to peace rallies and feeling the power of the speakers.  I have felt moved to act and to take something away from the crowd in order to help others as to what it meant to be a part of a peace march or a political rally or a musical event.

Crowds can empower people.  For good and for evil.  When I see pictures of Adolph Hitler rallying the crowds in Nazi Germany, I cringe the way we can be captured by evil. 

I have been aware at times that some people are in a crowd to cause disruption, and to bring about violence.  I can remember being frightened by observing police ready to fire tear gas canisters and wondering what to do. 

Crowds of people come together to influence the future….for themselves and for others.  Without crowds of people, whether it being a demonstration or lines of people waiting to vote in an election…it is important for us to gather and experience others in influencing the future.

Visualize for a moment the 12 disciples of Jesus who have been taking the message of Jesus to villages in the Galilee to tell people about this person who has become their mentor, friend, leader.  They are tired and weary.  Jesus decided to take them to a lonely place to rest up and be revived in spirit. 

They are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  The word is out.  Jesus is going to the opposite shore.  And, by this time his reputation has somehow been established and those who have heard him in his teaching want to hear him again.  And those who have not heard him are eager to hear him and hear for themselves.

The Jesus Movement had begun.

The Jesus Movement had arrived.  Excitement and energy were flowing.

Jesus and his disciples could not go to a lonely place because the crowds followed them.  The crowds of people came from far and wide.

The disciples of Jesus had to feel the excitement of being with Him.  He was their friend, their teacher and their rabbi.  He was a reflection of the God that was very real to them, near to them…here he was teaching, healing, not afraid to stand up to critics, not afraid to speak out, not afraid to be a prophet, a true messenger of God.

His words captured people and they felt his presence and found healing in his presence.

What happened in the lesson today in Mark?

I suppose you might say a seed was being planted in the lives of people who were seeking hope for their future.  The reality of their lives was grim.  The Roman occupation and the fear they lived in took away the joy of living.

What did they have to live for?  Their religious leaders were colluding with the Roman authorities.  Who could they put their trust in?

The policies of Herod the King were policies that led to slavery and fear.  The hopeless were becoming more hopeless.

And, then a man by the name of Jesus was among them…one of their own…a man who claimed to know God, announced the Kingdom of God and presented to the people and let them know they were a part of the Kingdom of God in a way they had never heard.  He taught them about love, repentance, forgiveness and let them know they were loved by God, taught them how to listen to the Spirit, and let them know how important they were individually in the eyes of God.

Here was a man among them presenting the God of history breaking into their own lives and presenting to them the Kingdom of God as a present and future reality.  A relationship with the very one who had given them life…hope for the future…healing and the meaning of life…a way forward…a way that was not just an end but a beginning…precious moments of life being lived…love and action…a new reality.

The crowd listened…lives were changed.

Mom, dad, brother, sister, friend.  Let’s go and hear what he has to say…yes, we feel lost.  We have been betrayed by out leaders.  We are seeking.  But others are saying, “We are being found.”  Being found by this stranger, this prophet, teacher, healer, preacher, rabbi. 

Look into his eyes…touch him, hear him.

And the crowds kept coming.

One can only imagine the impact that Jesus had on the crowds but one thing is certain.

He made a difference in the lives of so many that they continued to follow him as long as they lived, well after his crucifixion and resurrection…well after he could have been forgotten.  He could have just become a memory of a special moment with the crowd.

But instead, he became a memory centered around his life, death and resurrection.  We are that same crowd today.  Listening to him, relating to his mysterious, powerful presence.  Hearing him again proclaiming his presence with us in the Eucharistic prayer. 

Yes, we are in that crowd.

Yes, we are being addressed personally to be his followers.

Yes, we are being healed in mind, body, and spirit.

Yes, we are in a large crowd of witnesses that have been touched by the Spirit to follow and become a part of what our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry likes to call “the Jesus Movement”.  Here we are in the crowd.

Yes, to the now.

Yes, to the future.

Yes, to Jesus.

Yes.