Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Good morning, and welcome to the small green pasture, and to the sometimes still waters of Rainy Lake. Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to come and worship together this morning.
Because you do have a busy life, don’t you? We all do. It is practically a defining feature of life today. As theologian Henri Nouwen describes, “One of the most obvious characteristics of our daily lives is that we are busy. We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make, and appointments to keep. Our lives often seem like overpacked suitcases bursting at the seams. It fact, we are almost always aware of being behind schedule. There is a nagging sense that there are unfinished tasks, unfulfilled promises, unrealized proposals. There is always something else that we should have remembered, done, or said. There are always people we did not speak to, write to, or visit. Thus, although we are very busy, we also have a lingering feeling of never really fulfilling our obligation.”
We have an on-going thirst for more, and a self-imposed need to work continually to quench that thirst. Professor David Lose opines, We are enslaved to notions of success, and therefore put few limits on work. We are enslaved to ideas about our children having every opportunity possible, and therefore schedule them into frenetic lives and wonder why they have a hard time focusing. We are enslaved to the belief that the only thing that will bring contentment is more — more money, more space in our homes, more cars, more things to put on our resumes or in our closets.”
It seems almost a badge of honor to claim business. The question, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” is as likely to inspire the answer “Busy” or produce a list of activities as a description of the state of one’s well being, or quality of the day.
And it doesn’t end with retirement, a fact that seems to take many by surprise. My brother and I used to chuckle at my father. In his working life, he had a busy, busy job, with long hours, and travel. At some points of his career, he was making decisions that ultimately affected many lives. Yet, after he retired, we were no less likely to hear, “I just don’t have time”, “Today was just crazy.” And it was quite true. All the projects that had to be put on hold in the rush of the working world day suddenly loomed large for him.
Even in our leisure, we have forgotten how to stop and rest and be still. We are connected to computers, iPods, electronic games, ear pieces, even books or radios or projects. Anything to keep us distracted, busy. Spiritual rest demands tuning in, not tuning out. We have a very hard time with the concept of simply being still and knowing that God IS (Psalm 46:10).
Apparently, this is not a completely new issue. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,” the psalmist says. The psalmist does not say “The Lord provides a green pasture that I had an option of lying in for a while if I find the time between other obligations.” The stopping, the resting, the stillness are all part and parcel of the restoration of our souls.
John O’Donohue has this advice:
“You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.”
The apostles came home from the mission that Jesus had sent them on. This crazy mission of traveling 2×2 into unknown regions, casting out demons and healing the sick. They were full of stories and adventures – the grown up version of a little kid after the first day of school…” and we did this… and the gentile said, said…and there was this one kid, you know what he did….and….” The community was excited and the people pressed around, “many were coming and going, and [the apostles] had no leisure even to eat.”
Jesus saw their weariness, their need for communion, for nourishment both spiritual and physical, for rest and re-creation. “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” They needed to step back, and get a perspective. This applies no less to us as we go through our daily lives. We need the Sabbath rest no less than the disciples. The sabbath rest is not a Sunday only thing. It is not about church services, although that can be an important part of it. Rather, the sabbath rest “invites a chance to step back and stand apart from all the things that usually drive and consume us that we might detect God’s presence and providence and blessing, experience a sense of contentment, and give thanks”. (David Lose)
Do not fear that we will be lost in the resting. The world soon calls us back, as it did Jesus and the apostles. Those needs are ever before us, and we are called to respond with the compassion of Jesus.
We are called to rest. We are called to serve. We are called to compassion. We must faithfully do the first in order to accomplish the others. As Crossan explains “[The gosple writer] Mark joins contemplation and action in the healing process. Those who serve Christ must take time for prayer; they must nourish the connections that enable them to experience the lost and broken as brothers and sisters rather than nuisances and nobodies.”
The people of Evanston, Illinois combined rest and prayer and service in this way:
In response to a growing number of homeless people a Baptist church in a wealthy suburb of Chicago decided to open its doors as a shelter. Other church leaders were considering doing the same. When the Evanston city council heard about this, it moved to pass a new zoning ordinance forbidding the use of churches as shelters for the homeless. The organizer of one shelter project had no complaint. They didn’t open a shelter. Instead, they combined spiritual rest, service and compassion. They decided to host an all-night prayer vigil to which all were welcome. Participants in the prayer vigil bulletins and hymnals, as well as pillows and blankets. (Source: Denise Griebler from Aha!!! July-September 1999, Vol. 8, #4.)
Let us pray –
Help us to be the fringe on the hem of Jesus’ garment, O God.
We pray that you give us threads of compassion when others reach out for healing.
We ask for threads of awareness of those around us who feel as if all is hopeless.
Give us threads of willingness to become weary for others.
Give us threads of strength and rest when we do indeed become weary.
Holy God, form these threads into fringe, that we may be visible reminders to the world of who you are and who you have called us to be.
Help us to be the fringe on the hem of Jesus’ very call on our lives.
adapted from a prayer by anna murdock