Green Pastures Forever
July 18, 2021 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler
Mark 6:30-44 ~ Green Pastures Forevermore
Pentecost 8, Proper 11-B
Three times St. Mark tells us that Jesus and His disciples were in a desolate place. Mark also tells us that Jesus is there on purpose. After His apostles return from their mission work, Jesus takes them to a desolate place to care for them and give them rest. Not to some feast or party or comfortable place of ease, but to a desolate place — because desolate places are often where Jesus does His greatest work.
But they are not there long before the crowds show up. When Jesus gets out of the boat and sees them, He has compassion on them. For they too are in a desolate place — but not because they ran there on foot. The desolate place for the crowds was their hearts. We are told, they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were not being fed or cared for, and so they were physically lost, lonely, vulnerable, and spiritually hungry.
Now in that desolate place, Jesus does a great work — He feeds them all. First, He feeds them all spiritually with His Word, and then He feeds them all physically, using only five loaves of bread and two fish. He fills them in body and in soul. They receive the care that only He can give. For Jesus has turned that desolate place into the green pasture of the Good Shepherd.
Likewise, Jesus is here for you. What desolate place — or places! — do you find yourself in? There are no shortage of them in this world. Places of isolation, or loneliness, or emptiness, or struggle. Perhaps you are there because, like the apostles, Jesus has led you there — not to punish you, but to care for you. To take away all in which you put your trust, that you trust only in Him. Or perhaps you are there because, like the crowds, others have let you down. You have not received the care they should have given and that you needed. Or perhaps you are in such a place because you yourself have wandered off, looking for what you thought were greener pastures and tastier pleasures, only to find yourself entangled in Satan’s sinful web of lies and deception. Or maybe it is all of the above. But make no mistake about it, however you got there, desolate places are difficult places.
Sometimes we protest, thinking we shouldn’t be in such places. That if Jesus really loved you, He wouldn’t take you there. Or that if Jesus really loved you, He wouldn’t let you be in such a situation. Or that if you really loved Jesus, you wouldn’t have wandered off. And with such thoughts, our desolate places become even more desolate, as Satan uses these times and places to drive us to doubt and despair.
Are you in a desolate place? Repent, O child of God, confess how Satan uses his lies and your sin to define you … to define your situation. He wants you to think your experiences and feelings define the truth about you. That if it feels good it is good, that if it feels bad it is bad, and that whatever you feel is the truth.
But that is not so. Not all pleasure is good, and not all struggle is bad. As you live your life in this world you face lots of changes, that bring changes in you. To base truth on anything in you or anything in this world is to have a truth that you can never be certain of and never rely on, because it’s a truth that is constantly changing, constantly shifting, for you, in the end it is no truth at all. You’ll have no foundation on which to stand nor on which to live
But we do have such a foundation! In the midst of this world of change and desolate places, there is one thing that never changes, where truth is to be found. One thing from outside of us, come into our world, upon which we can base our hope and put our faith — it is the Cross of Jesus. His Cross is the desolate place of all desolate places, which our Saviour has turned into the greenest pasture of all.
His Cross shows you the true desolation of your sin. It is the cursed tree with no branches, the place of separation, the altar of agony and death. It is what you deserve because of your sin. But the Cross also shows you the truth of the love of God, for when you look at that Cross, it is not you on it — but another. Another who has taken your place. Another who has taken your sin, your curse, your guilt, your punishment, your death, that it all be His and not yours. That He be the prisoner and you be set free. That is possible and true, because the One hanging there is not just another, but God Himself. The Son of God come in love to give Himself for you.
His Cross is where the lovelessness of sin and the sinlessness of love come together, and love wins. The love of God is …
- the love of God who is forsaken, so that you will never be.
- the love of God who thirsts, that you may drink His living water and never thirst again.
- the love of God who lays down His life for His Bride, the Church.
- the love of God who promises us Paradise through His blood.
- the love of God who says “Father, forgive them.”
- the love of God who gives His Spirit to you.
- the love of God who dies your death, that you may live His life. For He is not dead, but risen! For death cannot reign where sin is atoned and forgiven.
This love and truth and victory came to you — in the waters of Holy Baptism. Although it looks quite ordinary, or like something we do, what happens at the font is quite extraordinary and something our Savior does. At the font, the lovelessness of your sin and the sinlessness of God’s love come together, and love wins. Your sins are washed away, you are a child of God, and have the promise of eternal life.
That same love and truth and victory came together for you this morning in the Absolution. Although those words sounded quite ordinary, or like something we are doing, what happened there was quite extraordinary and something our Savior was doing. For there, the lovelessness of your sin and the sinlessness of God’s love came together, and love won.
For His Word — which always does what it says — said to you: “I forgive you all your sins.” And in that forgiveness, you were raised from death to life again.
And that is the love and truth and victory that comes to us this morning on the altar in the Lord’s Supper. For although this looks quite ordinary, or like something we are doing, what happens here is quite extraordinary and something our Savior is doing. For here, the lovelessness of our sin and the sinlessness of God’s love come together, and love wins. We eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and we receive His life and salvation.
Therefore, in the midst of our desolation — the desolation of sin, the desolation of the world, the desolation that seeks to overwhelm you — Jesus has firmly planted His Cross, to do His greatest work in you. To turn your desolate place into the greenest pasture of all with the abundance of His gifts. To feed you and care for you and shepherd you. Though all the world forsake you or leave you or turn against you — He never will. For you have His promise, that He is here for you. Always.
In big churches or little churches, in groups of fifties or hundreds, all will be fed by our Savior, who is the Bread of Life. Fed first by His Word, then fed by His meal, that our desolate places be desolate no more, but be green pastures of life, forgiveness, and love.
And so it is as we sang:
The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.
She is His new creation, by water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died. (LSB #644, v. 1)
This is the foundation proclaimed by the prophets and the apostles, and the truth upon which we now stand. There is no other truth on which we can rely. No other Shepherd who can give us life. No other Savior who can overcome sin and death. Only one, and He is here, for you.
This makes a difference in how we live. We have a place to stand and a truth that will not change or let us down. There is one constant: our Savior, whose Strong Word created us, redeemed us, and will one day restore us, when He calls us from our grave and is for us forever what He is for us now: The Lord our Righteousness.
So we continue the Church’s song …
Through toil and tribulation And tumult of her war
[We] wait the consummation Of peace forevermore
Til with the vision glorious [Our] longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious Shall be the Church at rest. (LSB #644, v. 4)
At rest in green pastures forevermore.
In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.