St. Paul Lutheran Church Sunday Service
Message: “Moment of Truth”
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.