Summary: We learn from Jesus that life is a balance involving, among other things, rest and compassionate servanthood.
Sermon for 6 Pent Yr B, 20/07/2003
Based on Mk 30-34, 53-56
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
According to Bill Heider, “The only thing wrong with being retired is that you never get a day off.” I know in my conversations with some of you, you have told me that you’re actually busier now that you’ve “retired” than when you were working! Some of you still live such full and active lives that you need an hour stretcher to make your days long enough in order to complete your busy tasks. We are all familiar with the old adage: “No rest for the wicked.” If that’s the case then some of us church-going people must be very wicked! J However, there is also an add-on to that old adage which you may have heard before: “No rest for the wicked, even less rest for the good!” Even though we cannot rest as much as the wicked, lest the powers of evil get the upper hand—nonetheless, WE ALL, ON OCCASION, NEED OUR REST!
A traveller in Papua describes how his guides and carriers would sometimes sit down by the road-side and refuse to go any further without a rest—they explained “We must give our souls a chance to catch up with our bodies.”
Tiredness is not just a physical thing—a person may feel weary at the thought of cutting the grass as Dr. Leslie Weatherhead once said, yet go off cheerfully for a round of golf.
Prayer and meditation, mental relaxation, the stimulus of some consuming interest, the delight of doing something to help someone else—these are different kinds of things, but they all have this in common: they can revive our energy, banish our tiredness and “give our souls a chance to catch up with our bodies.” 1
Contemporary philosopher, Anthony O’Hear a couple of years ago wrote an insightful piece on our “life in the fast lane,” and our need for rest and solitude. Here is what he had to say:
To those of us accustomed to a life of modern diversion—TV, cell phone, Palm Pilot, laptop at the ready—this essential solitude and quiet will seem hard. It may even seem boring. But there is an old saying, beloved to ascetics, that it is because the trees are still that the birds come to them… Each of us… has the potential to bring to the world a unique perspective, a unique kind of wisdom even. But to realize this, even for ourselves, we need space and quiet to escape the clichés of the conventional. 2
Now that we here in Canada no longer observe Sunday as a holiday-Sabbath and our malls are open nearly every day of the year, seven days a week; I believe that we are all losers because of it. ALL OF US NEED A SABBATH—WHICH LITERALLY MEANS A PERIOD OF REST. Yet, because families are running in every direction and having to work on Sundays, there is precious little opportunity for all of the family members to gather together for rest and relaxation; to do the enjoyable things in common that strengthen the bonds of marriage and the parent-child relationship. How can we live a healthy, full, meaningful life if there is no time for us to rest as individuals, or together as a couple or a family?
In today’s gospel, the apostles have returned from their mission of preaching, teaching and healing, which Jesus had sent them on earlier. Jesus, being the excellent listener and caregiver that he is, sees how tired they’ve become. Indeed, Mark tells us that the clamouring crowds are still milling about so “they had no leisure even to eat.” How could these crowds be so insensitive and lacking in understanding or empathy for Jesus and his disciples? Didn’t they realise how demanding they were? At any rate, Jesus sees the disciples are in need of a rest. A time of peace and quiet. So he invites them to come with him to “a deserted place… and rest a while.” Here we see that Jesus cares for and has compassion on not only the crowds, but also his own followers.
So it is for us too, there are times when we can become so overloaded, so run down, so tired, that we, like the apostles, need our deserted place to stop and rest awhile. All of us need that resting place and resting time. Hopefully by coming to church faithfully every Sunday that you are able to receive some of that needed rest and renewal for your life. All of us need times out to reflect, to meditate and pray. Peace and quiet times help us all to recharge our spiritual batteries; to sharpen our focus and see the larger picture and meaning of our life; to be drawn closer into our relationship with God; to be more aware and appreciative of God’s holy presence in our life and in all of life. We, like the disciples and those Papua guides and carriers, need to “give our souls a chance to catch up to our bodies.” So I complement each of you for being here today and doing just that!