16 SUNDAY B Reflections -2


Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 - "Hurry Hinders Ministry"
Ephesians 2:11-22 - "Zombie Zone or Beulah Land?" by Leonard Sweet

An ethics professor at Princeton Seminary asked for volunteers for an extra assignment. About half the class met him at the library to receive their assignments. The professor divided the students into three groups of five each. He gave the first group envelopes telling them to proceed immediately across campus to Stewart Hall. He told them that they had 15 minutes and if they didn't arrive on time, it would affect their grade. A minute or two later, he handed out envelopes to five others. They were also to go over to Stewart Hall, but they had 45 minutes.
The third group had three hours to get to Stewart Hall. The students weren't aware of it, but the professor had arranged for three drama students to meet them along the way. Close to the beginning of their walk, one of the drama students had his hands on his head and was moaning aloud as if in great pain. About half way to Stewart Hall, on the steps of the chapel, the seminary students passed a man who was lying face down as if unconscious. Finally, on the steps of Stewart Hall, the third drama student was acting out a seizure. In the first group of students, those who had only 15 minutes to get across campus, no one stopped to help. In the second group, two students stopped to help. In the last group, the one that had three hours for their assignment, all of the students stopped to help at least one person. The professor had clearly shown these seminarians that hurry hinders ministry...

 There is nothing like escaping to a cool movie theater on a hot summer night. If you are a high school or college kid on break from school, there is no better stuffy, hot night escape than a scary movie that makes your blood run cold.

Ever since the dawn of movies there have been "fright films." Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman were first on the silver screen. Later on mythical monsters were replaced by urban monsters, and the "teenage slasher" movie was born - where lonely baby-sitters and popular football players were the special focus of crazed creatures with hockey masks or with really long fingernails. But the most popular "scare-bearer" these days seems to be a creature you can't even wish were dead because it already is . . . zombies!

Wait a minute, you say. I didn't come to church to hear about zombies. Well, you not only need to hear about them if you are to understand the mission field God has put us in. But you need to hear about them if you are to understand our text for this morning, a text about "aliens and strangers"...

 Humor: Walking on Water 

There is an old story that has often been re-told in especially the Eastern Orthodox part of the church. According to the tale, a devout abbot from a monastery decided to take a prolonged spiritual retreat in a small cabin located on a remote island in the middle of a large lake. He told his fellow monks that he wanted to spend his days in prayer so as to grow closer to God. For six months he remained on the island with no other person seeing him or hearing from him in all that time. But then one day, as two monks were standing near the shore soaking up some sunshine, they could see in the distance a figure moving toward them. It was the abbot, walking on water, and coming toward shore. After the abbot passed by the two monks and continued on to the monastery, one of the monks turned to the other and said, "All these months in prayer and the abbot is still as stingy as ever. After all, the ferry costs only 25 cents!"

Humor aside, the point of the story is that it's amazing how easily we may sometimes miss the significance of something that is right in front of us. We think we know the meaning of this incident of Jesus' walking on the water, but do we really?

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations on Mark 6:30-56.

We Are Sheepdogs 

Thirty years ago, when I was a beginning seminarian, my pastoral supervisor in my fieldwork parish reminded me that the word "pastor" means shepherd. But then he said, "The people already have a Good Shepherd in Jesus." He said it was as English mystic Evelyn Underhill had written some time before, that the best that could be said of clergy is that we are sheepdogs. Sometimes we do a good job helping the Good Shepherd, and sometimes we just bark a lot and cause general confusion among the flock.

Samuel D. Zumwalt, Jesus Means Compassion

Close the Door to Turn on the Light
One evening years ago a speaker who was visiting the United States wanted to make a telephone call. He entered a phone booth, but found it to be different from those in his own country. It was beginning to get dark, so he had difficulty finding the number in the directory. He noticed that there was a light in the ceiling, but he didn't know how to turn it on. As he tried again to find the number in the fading twilight, a passerby noted his plight and said, "Sir, if you want to turn the light on, you have to shut the door." To the visitor's amazement and satisfaction, when he closed the door, the booth was filled with light. He soon located the number and completed the call.

A writer in the devotional, Our Daily Bread, commenting on this story, writes, "In a similar way, when we draw aside in a quiet place to pray, we must block out our busy world and open our hearts to the Father. Our darkened world of disappointments and trials will then be illuminated. We will enter into communion with God, we will sense His presence, and we will be assured of His provision for us. Our Lord often went to be alone with the Heavenly Father. Sometimes it was after a busy day of preaching and healing, as in today's Scripture reading. At other times, it was before making a major decision." (Luke 6:12). And so should we.

King Duncan,


Deus Interruptus

Jesus and the disciples had been headed for Bethsaida when the evening's storm blew them to Gennesaret instead. Notice our Lord's response. He does not tell the Apostles to set out to sea and try again. Instead, he disembarks and begins to minister to the people around him. Christ's response is to see the storm as God's will and to minister appropriately wherever he lands.

How do I respond when my day is blown off course? Do I respond to daily (or even major life-changing) "inconveniences" by looking for God's purposes or do I become angry and frustrated at the "interruption" of my plans and purposes?

I have found that the higher my personal agenda; the less I am able to see God's purpose in my daily "interruptions." Yet, I have also found that when make myself available to "Deus Interruptus," incredible and miraculous things frequently happen. Have you ever considered beginning your day by "giving God permission to alter your agenda at any moment and any time?

"Dearest God, feel free to interrupt my agenda today with yours at anytime or in any place."

Jerry Goebel, Sheep without a Shepherd

The Job Christ Wants Done

Writing about another time and place, Leo Tolstoy said, "I beheld the misery, cold, hunger, humiliation of thousands of my fellow human beings ... I feel, and can never cease to feel, myself a partaker in a crime which is constantly being committed, so long as I have extra food while others have none, so long as I have two coats while there exists one person without any ... I must seek in my heart at every moment, with meekness and humility, some opportunity for doing the job Christ wants done." The job Christ wants done. He set the course; we are to do the rowing.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

Compassion and Motive

Jesus renewed people with the power of his compassion. I like the ancient legend about the monk who found a precious stone, a precious jewel. A short time later, the monk met a traveler, who said he was hungry and asked the monk if he would share some of his provisions. When the monk opened his bag, the traveler saw the precious stone and, on an impulse, asked the monk if he could have it. Amazingly, the monk gave the traveler the stone.

The traveler departed quickly, overjoyed with his new possession. However, a few days later, he came back, searching for the monk. He returned the stone to the monk and made a request: "Please give me something more valuable, more precious than this stone. Please give me that which enabled you to give me this precious stone!"

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, Dimensions, p. 101

In this day when we are suppose to have so many devices to save time, I've never seen so many hurried and restless people! If the computer, the laptop, the cellular phone, and all of these other technological wonders are suppose to save us time, why do we have so little time for the things that matter?

It seems that with all we've accomplished, about all we have really added is speed and noise. We get there faster, but we don't know where we are going. And when we get there, we're out of breath.
I read one time about a man who swallowed an egg whole. He was afraid to move because he was afraid it would break. But he was afraid to sit still because he was afraid it would hatch. There are a lot of people like that today--so frenetic, so pressured they don't know which way to go. And the place where the pressure and restless often hit home is in the home.

Adrian Rogers, Ten Secrets for a Successful Family, Crossway Books, p. 71.

Feeling the Suffering of Others

Flannery O'Connor, the insightful Roman Catholic writer, lifted up the Christian dimension when she wrote: "You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people's sufferings and not your own." The beginning of compassion involves becoming aware of the suffering of others. 
But it is not enough simply to see the suffering of others, we need to feel it. It is possible to see suffering, but not to feel it. Dewitt Jones tells about a photographer who walked down the street one day and came upon a man who was choking. "What a picture," he thought. "This says it all: A man, alone, in need. What a message!" He fumbled for his camera and light meter until the poor fellow who was choking realized that help was not forthcoming. He grabbed the photographer's arm and gasped, "I'm turning blue!" "That's all right," said the photographer, patting the fellow's hand, "I'm shooting color film." Just noticing suffering isn't enough.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company

Unless a Man Has Pity

In his book The Human Comedy, William Saroyan noted: "Unless a man has pity, he is inhuman and not yet truly a man, for out of pity comes the balm which heals. Only good men weep. If a man has not yet wept at the world's pain, he is less than the dirt he walks upon, because dirt will nourish seed, root, stalk, leaf, and flower, but the spirit of a man without pity is barren and will bring forth nothing...." Good people feel the pain of others, and they weep.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company

Avoiding Our Pain 

Henri Nouwen wrote that "our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but our emotional and mental pain as well. We not only bury our dead as if they were still alive, but we also bury our pains as if they were not really there. We have become so used to this state of anesthesia, that we panic when there is nothing or nobody left to distract us...