7/19/15 – COME AWAY by Samantha Crossley+

Proper 11, Year B
Psalm 23
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

“To achieve great things,” Leonard Bernstein said, “two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” In China, I understand, the polite answer to the question “how are you?” is “I am very busy, thank you.” We are busy, also, are we not? I find that even when I talk to a newly grieving person about how they are doing – “How are you really doing?”, I’m as likely as not to hear, by way of reassurance, “I’m keeping busy.”

We really must stay busy – there is so much to be done. The list gets longer and we must work faster because that is what successful people, effective people, worthwhile people do – they do more, they produce more, they are more because they are so very busy. Busy-ness marks our worth, measures our well-being.

Theologian Henri Nouwen said “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 write lists and keep calendars. We set alarms and reminders. And still we are behind, and still we must keep busy, do more, discuss louder, hurry faster…. Stop!

Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
We don’t do well with quiet, with calm, with rest. That was less than 1 minute of quiet contemplation, less than 60 seconds of time within a context already dedicated to worship of following the psalmist’s exhortation “Be still and know that I am” (Psalm 46:10). And still we hear the impatient wiggling of itchy bodies in suddenly too-hard pews, feel the uncomfortable irritation of time lost, and find we must consciously suppress or simply capitulate to the extraneous thoughts querulously demanding our attention in the brief moment.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
He leadeth me beside the still waters.

It’s poetic. It’s bucolic. It sounds perfect. But do they have wifi in those pastures? “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever” Right, marvelous! But how’s the cell reception? What if somebody needs me? What if something happens? What if nothing happens? What if I have to think? What if I have to face the notion that the overpowering thirst I keep trying to quench with more activity, more noise, more involvement, more activity, more planning – what if that thirst is for something I don’t control and never will?

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” The disciples have been busy. Busy in worthy, wonderful ways – healing, teaching, learning. Come away, says Jesus. Rest. Rest. Sabbath. Literally to cease.

We are frightened by what we might find when we stop doing, stop running. When the noise stops. Barbara Brown Taylor writes about a spiritual practice of keeping the sabbath – not simply going to worship service, but keeping a time of rest in which there is nothing on your list except “more God”. She recognizes the vulnerability intrinsic to this practice, “If you decide to live on the fire God has made in side of you [instead], then it will not be long before some other things flare up as well. Most of us move fast enough during the week to outrun them, but if you slow down for a day, then all kinds of alarming things can happen. You can start crying without having the slightest idea why. You can start remembering what you loved about people who died before you were ten, along with things you did when you were eighteen that still send involuntary shivers up your back. You can make a list of the times you almost died in your life, along with the reasons you are most glad to be alive.” She goes on to recognize the profound spiritual benefit, “Released from the bondage of the clock, you eat when you are hungry instead of when you have to. Nine times out of ten you discover that you are far less hungry than you thought you were, or at least less for groceries than for the bread no one can buy. As you slow down, your heart does too. The girdle of your diaphragm loosens, causing great sighs too deep for words to pour from your heart, a greater capacity for fresh air.” (An Altar on the World)

Rest, prayer, spiritual nourishment and re-creation are vital to following Jesus – following Jesus in his compassion, living His love for all the world to experience. Dominic 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.”

“Walk joyfully on the earth and respond to that of God in every human being.” said George Fox – beautiful advice that we cannot follow if we are spiritually cranky as tired toddlers who missed their naps. Come away and rest. Then live and love fully.

Blessing of Rest
Curl this blessing
beneath your head
for a pillow.
Wrap it about yourself
for a blanket.
Lay it across your eyes
and for this moment
cease thinking about
what comes next,
what you will do
when you rise.
Let this blessing
gather itself to you
like the stillness
that descends
between your heartbeats,
the silence that comes
so briefly
but with a constancy
on which
your life depends.
Settle yourself
into the quiet
this blessing brings,
the hand it lays
upon your brow,
the whispered word
it breathes into
your ear
telling you
all shall be well
all shall be well
and you can rest

– Jan Richardson

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