8th Sunday after Pentecost“What it Takes to Love”
Mark 6.30-34 ESV
 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.  Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
I got my first job as a youth director at 18, loving on a sweet group of kids in Lula, GA. We didn’t have much of anything at our little 30 member church, but we did have a whole lot fun. As I looked around at the kids I had coming, I was a little discouraged. It seemed that I had attracted a group of kids that were “different.” Their problems were tough and their issues were deep. They were a rowdy bunch and I was frustrated. I just didn’t remember youth ministry being like this. In my own experience, youth group didn’t go so bumpy or seem so difficult.
Later in college, I took a job doing youth and children’s ministry in the Brasstown Valley. Once again I found myself with what seemed like the Bad News Bears of youth ministry. Something had to be wrong. I talked with a few mentors about my situation and they laughed. They told me that there are always moments (and even entire groups) that are particularly difficult. They revealed to me that these are the most important parts of ministry because groups like this are groups that need a hefty portion of love and care.
Then they got personal. They told me that I was an EGR. It stands for EXTRA GRACE REQUIRED. As much as I didn’t want to hear that, I couldn’t deny that given the many different challenges I encountered as a young person, it was their extra grace towards me that carried me through. This kind of concern for others is what pushes us to the next level, what gets us through the reasons and seasons where we seem to particularly struggle.
Our text this morning is such an interesting story because the disciples run into a moment where it was going to take a little extra in order to accomplish all that Jesus had commanded and the people expected.
Jesus sends out his disciples 2×2 to do ministry. They do extraordinary things — driving out demons and preaching powerfully. Jesus even tells them to put all their day-to-day care in the hands of God, leaving every need along the way to God’s care through generous people.
After telling Jesus about their travels, He tells them to relax a bit and to take some time away from it all and rest. They leave and travel to a desolate place, only to find out that folks have found them and are waiting on them. Now this is the frustrating part for me. They just CAN’T catch a break.
These are the moments when you just don’t know how much you can take. You’ve experienced the wonder of it all, of a ministry where God provides, and you reach a very appropriate time of rest or normalcy and then the gate opens up and flood waters come, just when you’ve had enough swimming for a while.
But isn’t that the catch here? Isn’t that how it is? Because deep down you know the truth of it all, that compassion knows no limit. Each of us gets tired, and we give and give and give and give, until we think we’re going to give out. And Jesus gets that, to the point that He tells the disciples to come away to a desolate and lonely place and recharge.
But the grace that must be shared for the redemption of the world’s soul doesn’t rest. And Jesus responds just as compassionately as any other time and receives the people, He teaches the people, and just beyond our text for this morning, He feeds the people—five thousand+, and with only a little lunch (5 loaves and 2 fish).
What I want to drive home today is that the compassion God has for us doesn’t take a vacation. It doesn’t stop or waiver, it doesn’t check out or call time-out. It never turns off. And this is something that we can hang our hat on, that God is never–ending in His love and compassion for us. You may think you are on a sin-binge or that you have too much stacked up for God to get through in order to actually forgive you. But God forgives. It doesn’t matter how tired He is, He looks upon us—a people in deep need of grace—and restores us. It is His joy. Colossians 1.19–20 says that,
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Here we see that it is God’s joy to do the redemptive work He has in Jesus. All creation is shown compassion through the sacred heart of Jesus. And we are to have this same heart, to express this same love, and this is our duty and our aim. John Wesley told Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke in 1784 (231 years ago),
“You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most. It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance.”
Anyone here been Methodist long enough to remember words like that? Doesn’t that sound Methodist to you?! This is what we are about! This is what it means to be a disciple: that we BE a disciple and that we MAKE disciples. But we get so distracted from the goal that we engage in all sorts of HOOPLA! We need to be busy about teaching our children and teenagers; holding each other accountable in our small groups, Sunday schools and Bible studies; spreading this kind of life and worship to those outside our church and showing the world just how relentless we are because that’s how relentless our God is! He teaches and trains, sends out His workers, receives them and cares for them, and interrupts their time of leisure and relaxation to be compassionate and provide ministry for those in need. JESUS IS RELENTLESS in His love and this is what it takes to love, a relentless pursuit of salvation and holiness.
You are invited to this pursuit. I’m asking the same as Jesus, that you take authority in the name of Jesus to those in the world around; that as you go, you take nothing with you except whats on your back and you be the redeemed self that Christ has shown compassion on. And you give the people that compassion, the compassion that has changed your heart and saved your soul. And I pray that you will be relentless. Amen.