Mark 6:30-34; 53-56
When’s the last time you really had the time to eat? The time to dine? It seems to be something that is slipping away from us as a culture, or has already slipped away. Did you know that between them, Huntsville and Madison have over 200 listings for fast food restaurants? Over 65 different chain restaurants have found a home here, and business is booming!
In our high activity, high productivity driven world, fast food fits right in. We don’t have, or don’t take the time to prepare meals that require more than 20 minutes to eat, except on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We allow ourselves to be pushed a pulled, prodded and dragged from job to job, from task to task, not taking the time to come away and be refreshed.
Jesus and the disciples find themselves in similar situation in our text today. The disciples have just returned from a time of great productivity. They had been casting out demons, healing the sick and lame, and spreading the good news.
But when they returned they found that there was not time to enjoy their efforts, they were pressed on all sides for prayer, assistance, help, miracles. They didn’t even have time to eat!
Eating was a BIG deal in Jesus’ day. There were no Taco Bells or McDonalds handy. Meals were cooked for hours before hand. You sat at the table and literally “reclined” at the table. You stretched out, you relaxed, you processed your day and planned the next. And who you ate with was often even more important than what you were eating! You surrounded yourself with those that were important to you, and those who were important to society, and you spent time interacting with humans, not screens!
But it seems the disciples hadn’t had the chance to eat, to unwind, to process and refuel. Jesus offers to take them on a retreat of sorts. “Come away with me to a place of quiet rest.”
Jesus doesn’t say “You’ve done great boys, but lets keep up the momentum!” He doesn’t say “We need to capitalize on the work you just did and make sure that the message keeps moving!” There is no “Let’s keep striking while the iron is hot.”
Jesus says, “Come away with me to a place of quiet rest.”
I’ve just returned from a three day retreat in Bowling Green, KY. It was a blessed event, where over 90 women gathered together from across our denomination and sang, worshiped, prayed and rested. It really was something to behold, and something I encourage you to participate in when the opportunity arrises once more.
However, there were at least six of us who did not rest. We were the leadership for the event. It was our job to make sure that the other 90 women encountered God and came away renewed.
As for the leadership team, well yesterday morning we had one limping around with a sore knee, one carrying an ice pack to calm her agrivated tooth, one running around in circles because she couldn’t find something she had set down just minutes before, and one, okay me, lying down in a pew with a killer migraine headache!
The idea of taking rest is wonderful, but you must actually rest in order to find a benefit!
The disciples enjoyed a leisurely boat ride with Jesus: a time to decompress, a time to debrief, a time to nourish their own souls. But when they reached the shore line, the crowds had followed them and it was right back to the work.
Sometimes we have to catch moments of rest and grace when we can. The disciples had the boat ride, and while it wasn’t a long retreat, it was a respite in the company of God.
I was blessed to spend three hours leading women through the labytinth experience. It was three hours of praying for these women and with these women. Three hours of standing guard as they walked the path. And it was an amazing renewal.
Even in the midst of the headache there was a chance for renewal. I led the renewal of baptism service for these women. I watched them come forward and dip their hands in the water and place the water on their foreheads to remember the claiming of God in their baptisims.
While I was doing this I got a tap on the shoulder from Nadara Jones. She whispered that her 10 year old grand niece, who was attending the conference with her, wanted to be baptized, and wanted me to do it.
A moment of grace that I will never forget. A moment of renewal that I really needed.
Alexis came to the front and stood by me as I asked her the questions from the confession of faith. She made a profession of faith and asked to receive baptism. The women in attendance covenanted to pray for her, to be mindful of her, to be a faith community for her. And she was baptized in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Moments of renewal are not always long, but when Christ gives us the opportunity we need to take them, and when we do, we find ourselves sustained for the journey.
Our session had such a moment of renewal last Sunday.
We met with some members of the session of Church Street CPCA. We spent time getting to know one another. We learned that we are more alike than we are different. We feasted together. Took real time to eat and enjoy a meal. To dine with and converse with one another. Then we prayed for one another in small groups. Lifiting each other and our churches up.
We promised to continue to pray for one another and for God’s work as we are intentional about forming a relationship with our sister church.
And when we came to a time to end, we didn’t want to leave. People continued to chat. We entered the room as strangers and left as friends.
We witnessed God working through us and in us during those three hours spent together. And we set a time and place to meet again. We have been invited to their place in October for another time of feasting, fellowship, and prayer.
Who knows what God will do through this interaction? Who knows what wonderful things the Lord has in store for our two congregations?
After their time of rest the disciples faced a shoreline full of waiting people. People who needed to be loved on. People who needed healing. People who were searching for peace. They were witness to the feeding of the five thousand, the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
In seeking retreat the disciples were met by the same people in the same places they sought to get away from. The rest they sought never happened. Yet it is still important that one is intentional in seeking to get away, even if one does not get the chance every now and then to get away. Jesus saw their needs and taught them many things. It is virtually impossible to be always ready to please people, but it is possible to do the things that are pleasing to God.
People are in our lives for a moment, but God is with us eternally. As Augustine of Hippo said, "Our souls are restless until they find their rest in God."
Getting things straight with God is a way of putting people in perspective. They are to be loved as we love ourselves. How can we love ourselves when we are always going and doing and not pausing for rest? For if we are not rested and well, how can we be the spouse we are needed to be? Or the parent our children need? Or the disciple God is calling us to be? No one will ask us to rest, but we must pause and rest in order that we might better be able to serve those who we are called to serve. Otherwise, not getting away can cause us to become annoyed by the needs of those who will need us.
Do we take time to renew and reflect? This is not a call to avoid our responsibilities, but it is a call to take a break so that we won’t become overwhelmed caregivers. Output requires input and intake. Work calls for rest. Caregivers ought to be the first to seek care. How can we serve when we're worn to the bone-without rest? The disciples take Jesus' advice to get away, but cannot manage to do this unnoticed.
As followers of Christ we are to live in God’s time. Our text this morning is a perfect example. The disciples thought they were escaping to a "deserted place" with Jesus. Instead, they had a short, restful boat trip and then witnessed the miracles of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, feeding the 5,000 and the divine Christ walking on water. God was present both in their time of rest and in their time of revival.
There are other God’s time moments. Have you ever just settled down with a cup of coffee, a favorite snack and a magazine, all ready to enjoy a little quiet time -- only to have a small visitor show up who has both the munchies and a favorite story he or she wants read? Which leaves you feeling more rested and refreshed: a half-hour with Newsweek or a half-hour with a snuggly child perched on your lap?
For Christians who live always fully immersed in "God's time," moments of rest and relaxation don't constitute "downtime." Rather this is "uptime," the time we take to refresh our spirits and breathe in more deeply the presence of the Divine.
Jesus said to his disciples come away with me to a quiet place and rest awhile. He taught his disciples about the importance of rest. Disciples of Jesus today should recognize the need for the quiet place to rest. That quiet place is a place where we can get away and rest, recharge, and refocus.
As we are in that quiet place we shouldn’t worry: The demands of life will always be waiting, as they were for Jesus. It doesn't take long for people to find you and cry out to you and place assignments before you and expect you to work miracles ... in real time, right now! But returning from the quiet place, you'll find yourself full of serenity, strangely stronger and ready to roll up your sleeves ready to go to work.
Right now, in this sacred moment, let’s go away and take a moment and stop, clear our minds and listen to God’s wondrous silence and rest in God’s unending grace.
Let’s imagine our way into this story. Picture yourself as one of the disciples, exhausted, but excitedly telling Jesus what’s been happening with you. Hear Jesus tell you that it’s time for you to take a break. What does that word mean to you?
Picture yourself sitting on the shore listening to Jesus. What do you see? Look at the faces around you. Can you hear the water lapping on the shore? Are there children playing in the distance? Can you smell the grass? Is the ground beneath you hard?
Is the wind blowing off the lake? Slow down and listen to Jesus speaking to you alone. Hear Jesus ask, “What would you like to tell me? What frustrations and hopes do you want me to know about?”
Jesus knew just how stressed we can become. He knew that we would get all of our priorities upside down. He was well aware that our frenzied lives would take their toll on not only our health but also our closeness to our heavenly Father.
Let this word from God today be a catalyst to get each one of us thinking about where our lives are taking us. Let’s take time out rest in God, seeking that refreshment that only our heavenly creator and savior can give.