I am a child of the 70’s. My parents raised me in what was then a ‘traditional’ home. My dad worked out of the house and my mom stayed home to look after the children. My dad worked a lot – he left home early in the morning and sometimes he did not get home until evening. My mother cooked all the meals, cleaned the house, made sure we got to school, help with our homework and tucked us into bed at night. We did not see much of my dad when we were growing up. My father’s work was intense; he worked hard and he focused his energy on the demands of his work. Our home phone when Dad was home was often ringing with one work issue or another. People from work would drop in and for work conversations. My sisters and I knew how important my Dad’s job was – yet we also knew that we were important to Dad too, for when my father was not working, when it was holiday time – Dad left work behind and we had him 24-7. My Dad holidayed as intensely as he worked
One time my parents decide that we would go on a canoe trip for the summer – we would take the train to Cochrane, and paddle the Abitibi River north…ultimate destination Moosenee. Me and my sisters had never spent so much time in a canoe before, just some casual day trips but all of the sudden we spent weeks, sleeping in tents, carrying all our clothes, food and all our provisions in our back packs which we had to carry across the portages…
Another summer, we went west in our ¾ ton truck. Dad outfitted the truck with some side boxes to store gear, and put a mattress on the floor in the back and a cab on top and me and my sisters rode in the back of the truck as we drove out to Prince Rupert BC and back to Ontario in about 4 weeks.
And one time after a few really intense years of working, Dad took a whole year off, packed us up as well as the boat and we went to Europe where we lived on a sail boat for about 8 months motoring through the canals of England, Belgium and France and another four months in a caravan driving through England Scotland and Ireland.
What each of these trips had in common was they removed us from telephones and work responsibilities and made Dad impossible to pin down and get a hold of. Although on the surface these trips did not seem like down time because they were go-go-go …they were Sabbath for my Dad – this was the time that he was able to let go of all the responsibilities and concerns about work and come away for a while and rest.
When we join the story from Mark this morning, Jesus’ disciples have returned from their mission. They have been out in the world without Jesus, preaching, teaching; healing, exorcising demons – all on their own without Jesus there as the front man. And remember they just took themselves, no luggage, not extra clothes, no food or other sustenance. They have had to rely on the generosity and hospitality of strangers – and they have been successful – they are back together again now, all a little tired, yet all brimming over with stories to tell and adventures to share as they gather around Jesus.
Jesus popularity has not dissipated since they have been gone, in fact it appears that Jesus is becoming more and more popular. Crowds of people go out to meet him wherever he goes. They want to hear what he has to say for his words are fresh and exciting and they challenge the status quo. They want to witness this man heal people, and many are seeking healing for themselves.
So as the disciples share their stories with Jesus and the others, the crowds are pressing in on them, and communication is hard – “come away says Jesus, come away all by yourselves and rest a while.”
‘Rest. A break from all the bustle and activity. Rest. A chance to renew, to stop, to slow. Rest. An end of work, if only for a little while. Rest. An opportunity to stop doing that you may simply be. Rest.
What a beautiful word! writes David Lose
So much is packed into Jesus’ simple invitation to come away and rest. There is something about this invitation that speaks to me. It may be that this is the mid-July and hot and humid. It may be because when all is said and done I am not sure whether I really know how to rest. I have filled my life with so much activity, and many obligations that the very idea of rest is sometimes scares me for there is still so much to do. Please don’t hear a complaint. I love my life and would rather be busy than not. It’s more an observation that somewhere in all the preaching and meetings and parenting and all the other things that make up a hectic life, I wonder if I have forgotten how to rest. I wonder how willing I am to turn off my phone and computer and television and all the other distractions in my life and come away with Jesus and rest.
And I suspect that I’m not alone.
There was a study done at UCLA three years ago observing the typical week of thirty-two middle class families in the Los Angeles area. The idea was to take a detailed snapshot of American family life early in the 21st century. The results, according to one researcher, were “disheartening.” So consumed with working, collecting, amassing, and generally “getting ahead,” the families actually spent very little time together enjoying what they were working for. Jeanne E. Arnold, lead author and a professor of anthropology at UCLA, shared her particular dismay at how little time family members spent out of doors: “Something like 50 of the 64 parents in our study never stepped outside in the course of about a week,” she said. “When they gave us tours of their house they’d say, ‘here’s the backyard, I don’t have time to go there.’ They were working a lot at home. Leisure time was spent in front of the TV or at the computer.”
They have not time, in other words, to rest.
Nor it seemed does Jesus and his disciples in this morning’s readings – for as they get into the boat to find the time to rest, the crowds of people anticipating their destination move around the lake and meet them on the other side. And all thoughts of resting cease to be possible.
We need to be careful here when we read this next part – for it may seem that Mark is dismissing the need for rest, or honouring giving and giving and giving and taking no time to restore. But I don’t believe that is what Mark is trying to do in this instance – I think he is showing just how vital Jesus ministry is becoming to the people, just how much sorrow and pain that the people of Jesus time felt that Jesus could alleviate so they flock to him for comfort and release.
I think we often forget that when we read scripture we do so out of 2000 years of interpretation –with eyes that have seen and ears that have heard and sometimes the stories become commonplace and our interpretations and the meaning we gather is expected – but when Mark wrote this story about Jesus ministry, it was fresh and new and astounding and completely unexpected. People had not encountered anything like this before. And they did not know how long it would last, so they took any opportunity even it was clear that Jesus did not want to be teaching, preaching and healing in that moment, the people pressed in on him anyway. And here is what I feel the point of Mark’s story is – Jesus was offering the people something that they could not get from any other source – what he preached and lived was counter-cultural – was do different and live giving and the people found such hope and grace in what Jesus was saying and doing, that they pressed themselves on him and did not respect Jesus boundaries. The message that Jesus shares is so radical and live giving that the people are doing anything to get to hear it, and going anywhere they have to in order to experience it.
Jesus and his disciples get out of the boat, and find the crowds waiting for them – their rest will have to wait – please do not hear that their resting is not important or that the work takes higher priority – the message in this passage is that sometimes resting will need to wait….yet even if it has to wait – the resting is still important, and still needs to be giving a high priority but in this instance needs to wait.
In the story of this morning, compassion becomes the priority – Jesus meets the crowds in their needs and – in their pain and – in their suffering and offers to them hope, grace and love. He had compassion for them and he began to teach and heal. It is an interesting priority isn’t it – compassion but that is another sermon….
This morning’s sermon is on rest and restoration and taking time that is not filled with work and busy-ness and task and priorities…it is about coming away with Jesus and resting a while.
David Lose writes: “In light of all this, listen again to Jesus’ simple invitation to “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” This is not just an invitation to take an afternoon off or go on vacation — though those may be important elements — this is an invitation to loosen our shackles and climb out of the cages we’ve constructed from a culturally-fed belief that more is the ticket to happiness and that work is the ticket to more.”
Our culture thrives on busy-ness, and getting things done. We judge our day and others on what has been accomplished and how we spend our time. As trite as this phrase is, we forget that we are human beings not human doings. Jesus calls us in this time to take time away from all of the activities and daily routine that takes our time but do not feed our souls. And when better I ask you, in the midst of a July heat wave, to take a moment to rest and restore.
So I invite you this week to give some thought and more importantly to give some time to rest. Remember Jesus story – he had compassion on them, have compassion on yourself. Take a moment, an hour, a day and stop – stop whatever it is that you keep yourself busy with and then do whatever it is that is restful for you.
We all have stories about busy lives where rest has taken a low priority and we struggle through getting more and more things done and yet getting more and more separated from our centre ….our source….our God. However, we need to remember that …
• it is through rest that we restore,
• it is through rest that we re-connect,
• it is through rest that we re-fill our reservoir of energy
• and it is through rest that we repair our broken connections to God and self.
“Come away to a deserted place and rest awhile.” says Jesus. May these live giving words offer you hope and grace this morning, and my you find your moments of restfulness. Amen.