Jun. 18, 2017 – sermon

Posted by on Sun, Jun 18, 2017 in Season after Pentecost, Sermons

The Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 6A)

June 18, 2017

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” He saw them, and it stirred his compassion for them. Seeing someone deeply, being close enough to hear the story or feel their pain moves Jesus to compassion, and so he sends the twelve to do what he’s been doing himself, to tend to those who are “harassed and helpless.” This time he’s not sending them far afield, rather to the regions right around them.

It can be hard to see ‘the harassed and helpless’ in our own back yard, and we have plenty invested in appearing that all is well and we are just-fine-thank-you-very-much. Intentionally or not, we work at ensuring everyone knows we’re busy but doing great, or we strive not to appear otherwise. Happy-looking ‘selfies’ abound, Facebook posts of perfect family vacations or exquisite meals are plenteous. Yet where are the selfies of the fight we just had with our teenager or spouse? Who listens to the overwhelmed parent of toddlers at the end of their rope? Who sees the spouse suddenly become an ill-equipped caregiver? The one feeling guilty about resenting all they must do, even while loving the very ones they care for? Of course we post pictures of that serene water view! It’s a reminder of a moment of grace and beauty. We never take shots of the horrible traffic we fought to get there though. Or of the burned dinner or veggies no one would eat, a carload of kids quickly wolfing down chicken nuggets on the way to one more errand or game? When do we stop, like Jesus that day, and really see each other; the child who feels dismissed or excluded because they’re nerdy, slow, wear the wrong clothes or have a weird accent? How do we touch the kid who doesn’t have a posse of friends or anyone to share text messages with? How do we reach out and proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near? How are we community for them?

Jesus is seeing people in just this place, and has compassion because they feel apart and like they’ll never catch up. Forget the healthy meal, the tidy room, the clean uniform, or remembering one more stupid pill to take or doctor appointment to be on time for. The worst of it all is that there’s no one to give them the good news that there’s more to life than this mess, and so they scatter, they turn inward away from each other. Has anyone here ever felt harassed and helpless? I know I have. This is what Jesus comes into–this is our world’s version of it. “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The lost sheep are right here and all around us. The word translated as “lost” also means scattered, disbursed, cut off, perishing, near death. It can look and feel like that when life is overwhelming, and so Jesus sends them to do what he has done; to see them, to have compassion for them, to heal and to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven has come near—in fact, it’s right here.

I’ve always found it odd that he told them not to go into the Samaritan cities or Gentile territories. I don’t think it has anything to do with being anti-Samaritan or anti-gentile, rather it’s because they are somewhat new to this work, and there’s quite enough to do right here among those whose problems and situations they know. He has them start where they can best understand, readily ‘see,’ and then once they do, and once they’re more grounded in what the gift of divine grace and compassion means, they will eventually be sent further afield. For now, it’s enough to go among those whom they can relate to. The same is true with us I think. The teens going on the mission trip are going to be with kids themselves. Children who want to learn and run and play and make friends and hear the stories of scripture come to life. They’ll have common language and also be able to teach each other a few things. (Porcupine quill hunting anyone?) Our teens will go ready to give attention, love, compassion, and especially a readiness to see, listen and share.

We invite others to share in our faith journey out of that same compassion, don’t we? I can’t recall seeing any of you standing on the street corner and hauling strangers into church. We connect with people from what we share in common, and then we discover we have something of value to share, we do so. A great parenting tip, a book, movie, doctor, favorite shop —a faith community! Jesus has sent us out like the twelve to “proclaim the good news” to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” We are sent to have compassion for them, not to rack up converts, we are sent to give God’s healing gifts of compassion to those who might be lost, who are cut off, those who are harassed and helpless. To those who are sheep without a shepherd, we get to share our shepherd.

The first thing people often think when they hear they are sent this way is that they aren’t capable of it or they don’t want to push their faith on others. Not religious enough, scriptural enough, or they don’t have time or money to help, they don’t want to interfere or presume. And yet loving respectful people do it all the time! Jesus sent the most motley crew that could have been assembled; Rough fishermen not known for public speaking, Peter who will deny him three times, and Judas who betrays him for money, Matthew a tax collector for the Romans, and Simon “the zealot” who worked against the Romans, and not one of them had experience or training in this mission other than having received the love and compassion of God through Jesus themselves. This was their credential for carrying the healing grace of being heard and received and sharing God’s love with others. You give others that healing grace by listening, caring, feeding, welcoming…

We don’t have to go far afield to do it either – no need to go all the way to Samaria or into ‘Gentile territory’ to make that transition from seeking to be the one who is served, to becoming one who readily gives. Start small; you can greet someone at the door, pour coffee and offer a bite to eat, wear your name tag, so a new person feels at ease and gets to know you and feel God’s love. You can be someone who reads scripture thoughtfully and with preparation, so that it is heard with new ears and an open heart, you can give the cup at Communion that makes us all one Body in Christ, you can help to finally finish the work of paving the parking lot and expanding it so that those who come aren’t turned away.  We forget how critical and powerful a call it is to lead children into faith with Godly Play, yet to do so is to be sent as an apostle to spread the good news. Asking the wondering questions that draw out that child who needs to be heard or is seeking to explore their faith is vital! Invite someone to join you for worship or an outreach project. Sharing God’s love isn’t about simply passing on emotion or being sentimental, it’s recognizing the covenant Jesus makes with us and acting on it. It is honoring our mutual belonging to his body, such that we see and are concerned for others, have empathy, compassion for them, seeing their beauty and reflecting it back, wanting others to feel God’s love as you or I do, and wanting them to be faithful to their calling too.

As our psalmist says,
Be joyful…
The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

And may we joyfully share the good news of our shepherd with those who are lost.

© 2017 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved.

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