St. Paul Lutheran Church Sunday Service

Message: “Moment of Truth”  Mark 6:34

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

July 20, 2003


   What’s the good word?  What do you know?  When’s the last time you faced a “moment of truth” that left you looking for both God’s guidance & God’s grace? 

   In the Gospel reading for this Sunday from Mark 6, Mark reports that Jesus set sail with his disciples to get some quiet time away from the crowds that were following Him and wearing Him out. After crossing the sea of Galilee in search of some peace & quiet, when Jesus came ashore once again a great crowd was waiting for him, and Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and Jesus began to teach them many things.

   What does this mean?  They were like sheep without a shepherd. And why; WHY before feeding them; WHY before healing many who were sick, WHY did Jesus first teach them many things!

  Well, it was a “moment of truth”.  Some people have them you know.

  Fred Craddock, in a book I’ve been reading this summer titled “Craddock Stories” tells about one couple’s “moment of truth” who were living like sheep without a shepherd.  

  When the Rev. Craddock was pastor of a Disciples of Christ Church in Tennessee, a girl about 7 years old came to his church regularly for SS, and sometimes her parents let her stay for the worship service.  The folks didn’t stay themselves. The church had a circular drive & that seemed just right for them to let their daughter off & drive on.

   This mom & dad were very faithful about bringing their 7 yr. old daughter for SS & dropping her off.  They had moved from the East coast. The Dad had been promoted to a new job and was upwardly mobile; both Mom & Dad were very ambitious people and they really didn’t see any need to come to church.

   But on Saturday nights, the whole town knew of their parties.  They gave parties not for entertainment but as part of the upwardly mobile, “moving-up-the-ladder-of-success” social thing.  Whoever was up & com-ing; whoever knew people in high places; whoever was “somebody” close to the top, was invited to these parties.  And the parties were full of drinking & wild & vulgar things. Everybody knew it. But here was their beautiful daughter every Sunday, in SS, and sometimes church too

   One Sunday morning, Rev. Craddock looked out and saw the daughter in church with some folks whom he thought must have been friends. But it was her Mom and Dad. After the sermon, at the close of the service, as was the custom in that church, there was an invitation, an altar call to discipleship, and Mom and Dad came forward. They confessed faith in Jesus Christ and a desire to follow Him. 

   After the service, Rev. Craddock asked them, “What prompted this?”

They said, “Well, do you know about our parties?” 

  “Yeah,” he said, “I’ve heard about your parties.”

   They said, “Well, we had one last night again, and it got a little loud, it got a little wild, and there was too much drinking. We woke our daughter and she came downstairs to about the third step. She saw that we were eating and drinking, and she said, “Oh, can I say the blessing?  God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.  Amen.  Good-night everybody.’ She went back upstairs.

   “Oh, my land,” said one couple, “it’s time to go, we’ve got to be going.”  “We’ve stayed way too long,” said another.  Within just a few minutes, the house was empty.  All the guests had left.

   Mom & Dad began cleaning up, picking up crumpled napkins & spilled peanuts & half-eaten sandwiches, taking empty glasses on trays to the kitchen. That’s when it happened.  Mom & Dad, each with a tray, met on either side of the sink. They looked at each other, and the dad said what both were thinking: “Where do we think we’re going?”

   It was a “moment of truth.”  Little did they know it at the time, but here they were, living it up, partying, thinking they knew what was what, but really they were like sheep without a shepherd.

   That’s what Jesus saw in His day too, and that’s what He said. As Jesus went ashore hoping to get away from people for a little R & R, lo & behold, he saw a great crowd. Jesus didn’t try to avoid them, nor did he act impatient & annoyed with them, but Jesus had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.  

   Were not told here what Jesus taught them, but more than likely, what Jesus taught them had to do with the newness & uniqueness of life in the Kingdom of God as a relationship of faith with God; a relation-ship of trust & love & hope far more helpful, far more fulfilling & meaningful than anything life could offer them.

   And that’s still true today.  Unfortunately, today, a lot people mistakenly think it’s easy to be a Christian; just go to church & try to do the best you can.  Church is for children & old folks who need it. Church is to give God one hour a week so the rest of week belongs to you.  Church doesn’t really change anything so why bother.

   But the truth of the matter is -- it’s not easy to be a Christian in today’s world; not if you pay close attention to what Jesus teaches about being a Christian.  It’s not easy to turn the other cheek – It’s not easy to love your enemy – It’s not easy to go the extra mile with someone in need – It’s not easy to make sacrifices or set a good example for your children  – It’s not easy to bear a cross – or face a devastating loss – or try to turn your life around. 

   But a moment of truth is a moment of truth.  That doesn’t mean a “moment of truth” is something to be afraid of. It just means that to know Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord in your life; to follow Him; to listen & learn from Him, to live the way Jesus wants us to live does not come naturally.  Am I talking about trying harder; being more religious?  NO! Trusting in Jesus Christ & following Him as the Good Shepherd is not about religion; it’s not about pouring over the finer points of pure doctrine & theology; and it’s not about sitting in church and thinking you’re a little better than others. 

   True disciples of Jesus are ordinary people “who have been formed by the good news of Jesus Christ into certain sorts of people who live in the world in certain sorts of ways that are often counter to the world’s ways.  It’s not our own wisdom & knowledge, our own strength & smartness that we fall back on, but “we must learn; we must be formed; we must be open; we must receive.” We too must be taught many things by Jesus.

   There are people today who are in pain & darkness, people whose marriages are strained, whose families are struggling, parents whose children are strangers to them; not because of some psychological problem or something bad that happened when they were young.  People are hurting because they are wandering like sheep without a shepherd. They have Bibles but they don’t know what’s in them.  They’re alive but they don’t know the value of life or it’s meaning or it’s purpose as God gives value & meaning & purpose to our lives.    

   Yet, one Sunday morning, there they are.  Parents, families, some-body new sitting in church; somebody new shows up for the Sunday morn-ing Bible Class; not just to sit through it all, but ready to listen; tuning out the culture; tuning out the commercials; tuning out what others think; ready to tune in to something good, something Jesus said that they had forgotten or never paid attention to in the first place.

   It happens to us too.  It may not be cleaning up after a wild party on Saturday night or sleeping in on Sunday mornings while a child goes to Sunday School that set us up for a moment of truth.  It may be a doctor’s report; or being under a lot of stress; or struggling to be free of some unresolved guilt, or wondering where your life is going.   

   True disciples of Jesus are ordinary people “who have been formed and are being formed by the good news of Jesus Christ into certain sorts of people who live in the world in certain sorts of ways that are often counter to the world’s ways.

  This is what’s going on in Mark 6. In a world of divorces, diseases, disappointments, dissatisfaction, and disillusionment; in a world that leaves  people hurting, stumbling, struggling, wondering what it’s all about, our Lord Jesus teaches & touches & has time for people who are like sheep without a shepherd. 

   Christ’s compassion; His Cross; His resurrection; His teaching enables people to lay hold of their lives so they stop being jerked around by the principalities & powers of this present age. 

   As Jesus, the Good Shepherd loves us & leads us, He helps us to love others. 

   As He teaches us, so now, in a few minutes, the Table will be set for Him to feed us, to strengthen & restore unto us the joy of our salvation. 

   Whatever brings you here, if you have come & you keep coming a little bit lost & not sure where life is going; if you come looking for love, looking for guidance, looking for strength, looking for grace, longing for peace & hope, here in Christ’s Word & Sacrament is where you will find it. You will find “The King of love our shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; We nothing lack if we are His  And he is ours forever.   God grant it for Jesus sake.