A friend of mine recently e-mailed me a maxim which read, ‘Work tip: Stand up. Stretch. Take a walk. Go to the airport. Get on an airplane. Never return.’ I sometimes wonder if this is what Jesus and his disciples felt like in their own ministry. When you read the gospel of Mark, one thing you will notice straight away is the fevered pace with which Jesus and his disciples move in their ministry. After Jesus is baptized, Mark writes that the Spirit immediately drives Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan. He then begins his ministry, chooses his disciples, heals a man with an unclean spirit, heals Simon’s mother-in-law and then others who catch wind of Jesus power. He then begins a preaching tour through Galilee and cleanses a leper he encounters along the way. And this is just the first chapter and in as little as 870 words!
We’re now in chapter six and we read that Jesus’ disciples have been out on their own preaching, teaching, healing, and casting out demons. They have met up with Jesus again and you can sense their child-like excitement as they begin to recount how they had put to use all that He had been teaching them. With all this commotion around them they had not even had time to attend to their own needs of sustenance and rest. We then hear Jesus tell them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” The sigh of relief is palpable as we read that they got in a boat and set sail for the other side. Can you identity with Jesus and the disciples? Have you ever had one of those days or even weeks that just doesn’t seem to stop?
As we read on, we find that this respite is short-lived. The crowds see them depart and estimate just where they will arrive on the other side. It is helpful to know that the Sea of Galilee is not a sea at all but rather a large lake. The crowds rush around to the other side by foot and are there to greet this itinerant rabbi and his disciples on the other side. I can only imagine the frustration and perhaps disappointment they had when they realized that their Sabbath was short-lived. But we read that Jesus had compassion for the crowd ‘because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.’ He saw their need and like a good shepherd began to share with them once again from his abundance. The passage that follows today’s lesson recalls the feeding of the five thousand.
So what can we take away from today from this excerpt from Mark’s gospel? Well I think we hear an affirmation from Jesus of the need for Sabbath; not only a time for rest, but a time for rest with God. If you have ever been on a pilgrimage, you will know that the time immediately following the journey is a one of rest, recollection, and especially remembering: a time to unpack and then put the pieces back together again (re-member) in order to see the complete picture, to find meaning, to integrate the experience into your life, and to share that experience with Jesus in prayer. Our founder Richard Meux Benson once wrote: “As a child delights to bring some new possession to a mother’s lap to show what it has got, and to rejoice in the loving smile with which it is welcomed, so must we bring every joy of our outer life to the loving eye of God. That eye will not disparage the joy of this state of earth, and that loving Father will welcome us as we come to Him to be a partner of our joy, because He is the author of all causes of rejoicing.”[i]
Indeed, not only our joy, but I think also the trials, tribulations, desires, and our own need for being ‘re-membered.’ Sometimes we need to share with God those things that are just too heavy to bear; to ask God for sustenance for the next leg of the journey, and to rest in the comfort of his stillness, because life will move on feverishly, whether we’re ready or not. Sometimes this may only be a moment where we intentionally break away for a pause to say ‘help!’
In a moment, we’ll gather around the altar and pray the ‘Great Thanksgiving.’ Bring something from your journey to share with Jesus, whether it be a joy, a desire, a need, or something that is burdening you that you need to leave behind. Then stretch out your hands and receive a piece of bread and a sip of wine, and a moment of stillness; sustenance for the next leg of the journey. Jesus is our good shepherd, full of compassion and a he will supply our need.
[i] Benson, Richard Meux. Instructions on the Religious Life. A. R. Mowbray and Company, 1935.
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