"The Depth of Desperation"

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

19 July 2015

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

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.

 

Prayer.

 

At Doctor McCoy's fingertips

was a medical marvel device.

The script writers called it a triquarter;

a hand-held monolith of polished aluminum

that contained all the secrets of medical science

known in the year 3732.

(Interesting name, this triquarter:

tri, meaning three, plus quarter, meaning four.

Just where did it get its name?)

Today, we’d call it a “smartphone.”

 

With a wave of this mysterious contraption

a complete assessment and treatment plan

would be presented for the physician's review.

With the patient's consent

and a push of a button

treatment would miraculously begin.

 

Just imagine the primitive alien

stricken with illness or injury

who encounters a McCoy.

The literary opportunities

for the science fiction author

are endless.

 

Would McCoy be treated like an all-powerful god?

Attracting crowds of worshipful, prostrated aliens?

Each seeking healing and restoration

by this triquarter welding,

spandex wearing spaceman?

 

Personally,

I'm tepid towards science fiction.

But I love science fact.

 

Consider if

Einstein's theory of relativity

could be manipulated to allow

a modern day physician and a truck load of antibiotics

to be transported back in time

to the period of mid-evil plague.

Think of the suffering that could have been ended.

Think of how the universe would change

if selected family lines would have continued.

Think of how that physician would be received.

Would they be venerated as a god with unseen powers

like a “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”?

Or, would they be killed for being a witch,

welding magic laced potions?

 

I'm setting the stage

for us to consider more deeply

the crowd drawing appeal of

a miracle working,

free-healing Jesus

in first century Palestine.

Not only was Jesus working miracles and casting out demons;

so, too, were his six pairs of disciples

working the smaller villages and towns

throughout the countryside.

This establishes Jesus

in the people's eye

as not only the great physician,

but also as the lead physician of many others,

from whom comes

all knowledge and power.

Healing came from Jesus.

 

Sick people are desperate people.

Disease sends even the most academic

into a frenzy

where emotion trumps intelligence

to avoid the inevitable

outcome of death seeking pathologies.

Out of Galilee's woodwork

comes all of the region's most sick, vulnerable, diseased and lost.

Out of the homes

comes nearly everybody else

driven by curiosity

hoping to witness a good show.

Certainly, out of the highest councils

come the religious authorities

with an eye for surveillance

and a desire to squash;

a smile on their face

but with a knife concealed behind the back.

 

“If only I touch his garments,“

everybody thought,

“then certainly I will be healed.”

And so they were ...

with such common regularity

that our Gospel's author

fails to record the specifics of

each life changing event.

Healing came from Jesus.

 

It is amazing to consider

the depth of desperation

that drives one to run after

one who does not want to be followed

who purposefully makes every attempt

to slip quietly to the sidelines

to get in a boat and quietly float away

for some much need

rest and restoration.

 

They keep him in sight,

following the contours of the

water's edge

tracing the trajectory of

the Lead Physician's boat,

franticly running to keep pace

so that where He landed

they would be there to greet Him.

 

If you can't feel the desperation

you'll never get the point.

 

Had it been you or me,

we'd wade ashore like McArthur clenching a pipe

commanding our subordinates to

clear the way.

“It's vacation time, son.

You'll have to take a number.

Wait until I return.

Then my staff will schedule you an appointment

when we can sit down and chat.”

 

If you can't feel the desperation

you'll never get the point.

 

Thank God, neither you are

or I am

the Savior!

“He went ashore,

He saw a great crowd;

and He had compassion for them,

Because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

 

Ah, yes.

There we have it.

Did you hear it?

The key that releases today's Gospel deeper truth:

 

Our Savior's compassion

is the answer to

the world's desperation.

 

If anyone has had an eye on the news

you would believe you had insider knowledge

of the world's desperation.

Some would have us believe

that three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse

are gathering

preparing to usher in a new age.

Don't be fooled

by millennial misfits,

paranoid politicians,

24-hour news channels,

talking heads,

or clergy hacks.

Even the devil is known to quote scripture.

 

Instead,

Look through the camera's lens;

Look through and see

the terror of one,

and the injustice of another.

Look and see

how revenge perpetuates the cycle of violence.

 

An eye-for-an-eye is making the world blind.

It victimizes mothers,

orphans children,

and causes fathers to beat the drums

of hubris, hatred and war.

 

Look through the camera's lens;

look through and see beyond the headlines

how global, national, and local economic policies

crush nations with debt,

steal the future of our emerging adults with unemployment and loans,

and force more and more of the middle class into poverty.

 

The frantic look on the face of a struggling, single mother in East Rochester

is no different than

the frantic look on the face of an unemployed Greek father

desperate to feed his family,

or the frenzied look of refuge families seeking human smugglers and boarding overloaded ferries.

 

Look through the camera's lens;

look through and see

communities breaking and broken

by racial tension,

gang violence,

and opioid abuse.

Lone wolves want to get 10 minutes of fame.

Hatred even has the nerves to invite himself into a church prayer meeting.

We live in an era of frantic desperation.

 

Do not blow me off

discredit or discount

these words as the words of

a simple preacher using this pulpit

for political points;

 

... less I remind us ...

 

that at our baptism

a vow was made

either by our lips

or on our behalf

to resist evil, injustice, and oppression

in whatever form they present themselves

so help us God.


Throwing our hands up

saying “what can I do?”

gives us unfounded permission

to abandon our baptismal vows.

Taking a hands off position

steals the prophetic voice of Christ's own Church

and leads us down the lane

towards irrelevance and extinction;

Extinction!

The Church will cease to be when it loses its voice.


The Church will dissolve into history books

due to a lack of relevance

when we have bound and gagged the voice of Jesus.


It’s a desperate world,

And these are desperate times.


Our Savior's compassion

is the answer to

the world's desperation.


We the people,

the Body

of Christ's holy Church must speak up

and speak out.

We must stand up

and reach out.

We must be heard and we must be seen.

And in everything

we think, say, and do

it must be according to

Christ's own example

of God-given compassion.


Our Savior's compassion

is the answer to

the world's desperation.


It is a compassionate act

to write an appeal for peace and justice

to our elected officials and regional editors.

It is a compassionate act

to contribute to the Red Cross

that humanitarian aid can begin to flow.

It is a compassionate act

to not tolerate injustice and discrimination ...

to not stand idly by when our sisters and brothers

of other faiths or other colors

become the focus of society's ignorant and misinformed hatred.


Just as Christ stepped off the boat

recognized the

depth of desperation

and met the people's desperation with his compassion,

so too should we today,

step out of the safety and security

of the enclaved boat (called the Church)

and bring the compassion of our Savior

to the table of justice, freedom, and peace

both globally

and locally.


You and I don't have the answers to the complexities of the world.

You and I don't have the personal clout, power or authority.

But what we do have;

what has been given to us

is the gift

of the Savior's compassion.

Compassion spins forgiveness.

Compassion springs forth from love.


Be Christ’s compassion.

That is all that is necessary

to meet the world's deepest desperation.


Thanks be to God.

Amen.