Posted by: Johnold Strey | July 27, 2015

Sermon on Mark 6:30-34

TIME FOR A “CHURCH REFRESH PROJECT”

  1. We need a time for refreshment
  2. Others need refreshment, too

Text: Mark 6:30-34

Introduction

After today, we will have just one more month in this church sanctuary before we move worship into the gym for two months while the long-promised sanctuary refresh project takes place. On Monday, August 31, the pews will be taken away, the wood repaired and refinished, the padding recovered, the ceiling repaired, and the walls repainted and redecorated with wall sconces and a few appropriate Bible passages. When we return to worshipping in the sanctuary, Lord willing on October 25, I think you’re going to be very pleased and excited with the final outcome. And if our fiftieth anniversary thank offering is able to support it, in a couple of years there could be stained glass windows along these walls, beautifying this sanctuary even more and proclaiming the gospel through art and symbolism etched in glass.

Even without the refresh project, we are blessed with a fantastic church sanctuary. Space for plenty of worshippers, good acoustics for singing, a good location—these features alone make many other congregations a little envious. But the facelift that the refresh project will give this sanctuary will undoubtedly be—well, refreshing!

It is time for a church refresh project. Notice now that I didn’t say sanctuary refresh, but church refresh. Those of you who were here last month for our fiftieth anniversary service may remember from Pastor Bill Tackmier’s sermon that he emphasized that the church really isn’t the sanctuary or the building, but the congregation or the people. Just as there is value refreshing our sanctuary with a new look, so there is great value giving the church and the people who make up the church some refreshment. That’s what we’re going to learn this morning as we take a look at the Gospel reading that is appointed for today’s service. Jesus teaches us that it is time for a church “refresh project.” We, the members of the church, need a time for refreshment, and there are many others outside the church who need that some refreshment, too.

I.

Jesus and his disciples needed some refreshment also. Today’s Gospel occurs immediately after the account we heard last Sunday (Mark 6:7-13), when Jesus sent out the Twelve in pairs to preach and teach and even perform miracles to back up their message. And now they came back to Jesus, gave him a full report of all they had said and done and how people had responded to their gospel message. By now, quite a “buzz” has been created around Jesus. Mark said, “So many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.” 

You’ve had one of those days, no doubt. You’ve probably had way more than just one of those days! You wake up and with all that’s on your plate you feel like you’re an hour behind before you even take a shower. Maybe you have a bagel or muffin on your way out the door, you work through lunch, and you just keep chugging forward as best as you can. Time flies past so quickly that all of a sudden it’s the end of the day and you are hungry for some serious food!

I picture Jesus and the disciples feeling the same way. Jesus was and is truly and fully God, but when he came into the world he also became truly and fully man. And the disciples were truly and fully and only men! People get hungry. They get tired. They needed a break. They needed some refreshment. So Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” And as we know from the rest of Jesus’ ministry, it would have been rare for Jesus to take the disciples away from the crowds and not use the time as a chance to teach them more about the Word of God and the Kingdom of God and his saving work as the Son of God.

We just finished a week of refreshment at Vacation Bible School. I suppose for the parents it was a week of refreshment because someone else took care of your kids for five mornings! For the kids it was a week of refreshment, not only because it was a break from being at home, but also because the lessons and songs and activities they experienced taught them the spiritual refreshment that belongs to them through faith in Jesus Christ.

But how is our overall life of refreshment—especially spiritual refreshment? In the Old Testament, God established Saturday as the “Sabbath Day”—a day for the body to rest and to gather together around his Word as a body of believers. The Bible is clear that the Sabbath day of rest is a custom for the Old Testament era and not a mandate also for our day, but that doesn’t erase the wisdom of the Sabbath. There is wisdom having a set day and set times during the week, yes, to give refreshment to the body, but especially to gather around the Word and find spiritual refreshment for our souls.

But sometimes that wisdom to gather around the Word seems unwelcome. A two-hour experience on Sunday morning sometimes feels like it interrupts our plans. A fifteen-minute time for Bible reading and prayer in the morning or evening feels like it intrudes our schedules. Set times for spiritual refreshment in the Word of God feel to us—specifically to our sinful natures—that they are a little inconvenient instead of extremely important.

You know what happens when your body isn’t refreshed? You feel “burned out.” But if our souls go too long without spiritual refreshment from God’s Word, the long-term effect could be worse than “burn out.” The long-term effect could be such a drought of God’s Word and lack of faith that we burn up—eternally!

But Jesus has a “refresh” project just for you and your soul! Whether this building is renovated yet or not, this is a house of spiritual refreshment. Here again today Jesus tells you why you have true spiritual refreshment in his Word. He earned your perfect status before his Father in heaven so that you can find rest in his perfect life. Jesus endured sin’s punishment on your behalf so you can find rest in his innocent death. Jesus completed the plan to rescue you from the grave so you can find rest in his resurrection from the dead. Here is Jesus’ already-completed plan to give your soul the rest it needs, and through faith in Jesus all of these blessings are now your personal possession and promise of eternal life.

II.

It was difficult for Jesus to get away from the crowds. When the people recognized him and his disciples in the boat and surmised where they were heading, the crowd began to all head in the same direction. “Many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.” As a side note, our translation makes it sound as if the crowd beat Jesus to his destination, but the phrase translated “got there ahead of him” could also simply mean that they were heading forward toward their destination. The same clarification applies to the last verse of our reading: “Jesus landed and saw a large crowd.” The original word that is translated “landed” really only means to “come out.” This incident is also described in John’s Gospel, and there John shows us that Jesus and his disciples did have at least some time alone with his disciples before he came out from where they were seated and saw the large crowd coming toward him.

It was difficult for Jesus to get away from the crowds, but it was also difficult for Jesus to stay away from the crowds. The people seemed to follow Jesus like paparazzi! And I suppose Jesus could have easily dismissed the crowd and told them that that he wasn’t available at the moment. But that’s not what he did. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” Here’s the verse that provides the common thread in today’s Scripture readings. Jesus didn’t see a crowd of paparazzi. He saw lost sheep who were without the benefit of a faithful spiritual shepherd that would give their souls the refreshment they needed. These others needed spiritual refreshment, too.

When I was on vacation earlier this summer, I stopped in at our church body’s Seminary, which is located close to my parents’ house where we were staying in the Milwaukee area. Our former pastor, Bill Tackmier, is now a professor at the Seminary, and I had a chance to visit with him. As our conversation progressed, he talked a little bit about outreach during his years at St. Mark’s. He said that at one point he looked back at the names of everyone who had become a member of this congregation during his time here, and he noted how they came into contact with us. There were a variety of ways, but two stood out. One way was that people came to us through St. Mark’s school, but the other way was that people came to us through friends or relatives that already belonged to St. Mark’s. In other words, one of you knew someone in your life who might as well have been in that crowd that Jesus viewed with compassion. One of you knew someone who needed the spiritual refreshment that Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, came to bring. And so you talked about Jesus with them, and you talked about your congregation with them, and you invited them to church, and maybe you tagged along with them to a Bible Information Class where they learned about basic Bible Christianity and not only became members of St. Mark’s but more importantly believers in the Lord Jesus.

Sometimes in our circles we talk about our FRAN network. FRAN is an acronym that means friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. And that’s a good acronym to keep in the back of your mind. Because you know how Jesus has refreshed you with his forgiveness that he won for you on the cross, and you know how Jesus has refreshed you with the certainty that his resurrection means that you are heading for heaven. The Lord Jesus gave you that spiritual refreshment when he brought you to faith, and you know what a difference that makes in your heart. Isn’t that something you want for others? Now that we have received such a gracious gift from our Good Shepherd, how can we not help but view the people in our lives, the people in our FRAN network, with compassion, as sheep who will find refreshment under the care of the Good Shepherd, Jesus?

Conclusion

Many of you know that I was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea. All these years I thought I just wasn’t a morning person. It turns out that I hadn’t been sleeping well. After several weeks of using a CPAP machine to keep me breathing regularly through the night, I have to say that it makes a notable difference. It’s a much better feeling to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed than feeling like you’re ready to go back to bed!

It’s good for your body to be refreshed, but it’s far more important that your soul is refreshed! And if that’s what you’re looking for, then you’ve come to the right place. Forgiven in Christ and freed from guilt, live your life under the Lord’s gospel-refreshment today as you gladly bring the Lord’s refreshment to others. Amen.

 

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