Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Mark 6:34 speaks of Jesus’ reaction to the crowds which were pursuing him. He saw they were like sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion on them. Jesus had already shown himself to be a healer, a teacher, a preacher. This attracted crowds. But we notice here that the crowds figured out where Jesus would appear and they ran ahead to meet him there. He was not being called upon to heal the sick or raise the dead at this time. Sick and dead people don’t run ahead faster than perfectly healthy disciples. These are crowds with some other objective. They want to be taught. They want to be prayed for.
I realize that many pastors and teachers would love to be in this very position. It isn’t unusual for me to hear from pastors who are basically commisterating. “Why is it so hard to get people to come to confirmation class? Why won’t they do the studies of Scripture I advise them to do? Why is the Bible class nearly empty? Why is it that football games take priority over receiving the Word of Life on Sunday?”
Honestly, if people in our community really got a handle on what the Church is passing out, the doors of the church building would be broken down right away. Why is that? If we realized our hopeless condition before God, if we realized that we were desperately in need of forgiveness, if we understood that it is through Word and Sacrament that we are nourished for eternity and equipped for every trial in this life, we would be exactly the kind of people who would run ahead and arrive before Jesus and his disciples! The pastor would go to the church building before the posted service time, find the door knocked down and the pews and aisles full of people eagerly waiting to hear what Jesus does.
Where do we see this? Or do we at all? I have seen this attitude among people in nursing homes and hospitals. “We are so happy that you came. You have God’s Word. You cared enough to bring Word and Sacrament to us. We could not endure without it.” Yes, in those very words. Others have seen that eagerness for God’s Word among people in difficult and even seemingly desperate settings. We can think of people in poverty and need for whom death may be looming. They have no hope of remaining in the body for long, but they look to be nourished with eternal hope. We can think of the photos taken of busy chaplains in World War II at the invasion of Normandy. In the midst of death and destruction, many soldiers, if they saw a chaplain, would come for confession and communion. Eternal hope.
Jesus is moved by compassion. He sees us. He brings us His Word and all his other gifts as well. It’s worth running ahead of everyone else.
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