Give It A Break
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
New Revised Standard Version
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Imagine you just got home from a lengthy business trip. Your spouse or partner says, “Just relax, change your clothes, put your feet up, and have a cold iced tea. I’ve got everything handled. We’re going to have meatloaf, your favorite!” You’re thinking about the wonderful sandwiches you’ll get to take to work for the next few days. As you are sitting there relaxing, suddenly you hear a strange noise in the kitchen. “What was that?” you call.
“Oh, nothing. I just accidently dropped a spoon in the garbage disposal and turned it on.”
Then one of your children comes in and says, “Could you help me? I am really working hard on learning to ride my bike and I need you to hold it for me.” Another child comes in and says, “I just fell and skinned my knee. I need a band-aid and a kiss.” Even the dog comes bounding up, licks your face, looks at the leash as if to say, “I need a walk. Do something about it.”
So much for your time of rest. You’re thinking, “Can’t someone else take care of all this? Don’t you see I need a break?”
And then, as you are crawling under the sink to see if you can figure out what is going on with the garbage disposal, the Holy Spirit tickles you a little bit. That Holy Spirit that we are told reminds us of all we have been taught and teaches us new things. Into your mind comes this message, “I think a few weeks ago I heard a sermon about this kind of situation. About Jesus and the disciples when they return from a lengthy trip exhausted, sort of like a business trip. Jesus says, “Just rest. I am going to get you your favorite meal” (I doubt it was meatloaf!). We’ll find a secluded place where you can sit back and take it easy while you tell me all the stories of everything wonderful you did, all the experiences you had, and how you felt while on your trip. How you experienced God’s presence.
You climb into the boat. You let out a contented sigh. The breeze is blowing as you sit back and put your feet up. You head over to the other side of the lake. There is not a deserted place over there. You realize there is nowhere that is free of people when you are with Jesus. Somehow the people recognize Jesus and run to see him.
Have you ever wondered how people recognized Jesus? It’s not like there were cameras taking pictures that were posted in windows and on bulletin boards throughout the towns and villages, or TV ads, or posts on social media that announce that Jesus is coming to your town in the coming days. We don’t even have any descriptions of what Jesus looked like. So how did they know that Jesus was nearby?
As you are sitting there in the boat as it reaches the shore these thoughts are going through your mind. You say to yourself, “Hmm. Maybe I should think about what I have heard as I have listened to Jesus.”
Maybe I should think about the sermon I heard a few weeks ago. Maybe that sermon had a message for me. Maybe this sermon has a message for you.
Notice what happens. You are exhausted, you’re tired. You get out of the boat and see all these people. You look at Jesus and say, “Wait a minute. You said we were going to a quiet place where we could relax.”
Jesus doesn’t relax. Jesus rarely takes time off. We read of times he goes off by himself to pray in solitude. But most of the time he leaves the disciples behind to figure out for themselves what to do while they wait.
Every time he encounters a crowd he walks into their midst; he stands before them and interacts. Jesus says, “Come. Listen.” And all the people come and want to be healed. That’s what he does when he sees people in need.
Mark tells us that Jesus teaches them. I don’t know about you, but that’s probably not the first thing I would do if someone came to me with a need. To say, “Sit down first and let me teach you a little bit about God. I’m not sure that is what we would want if we had a pressing need. We wouldn’t want to come to church and sit down in anguish because of something that happened during the week to hear the preacher say, “Just sit down, relax, and listen. Let me teach you a few things about God. Don’t worry about your problem. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to let go of what is going on in our lives. It’s hard to put a problem aside for a bit. To clear your mind to listen to what God has to say.
I think it is even harder for those of us who have learned that people who are hurting need someone to connect with them and that someone should be us. For those of us who have invested ourselves in helping others, providing food, giving someone a ride, or meeting needs in other ways it can be especially hard.
How do you go in front of someone who needs a meal and say, “I’m sorry you are hungry, but sit down and let me teach you a little bit about God first.”
Most of us aren’t comfortable teaching anyway let alone telling someone in need, “I want to help you but not until you learn a few things about God.” We are more likely to help someone first and along the way maybe say something about God or after their stomachs are full talk about the Lord who has given you this food, blessed it for you. Often, we provide a meal and leave it be at that, afraid to mention God because we don’t want to offend someone or talk about what we believe.
When things happen in our lives, rarely do we sit down, put our feet up and say, “Let the garbage disposal grind up the spoon. Does it really matter?”
“Of course, it matters! Do you know how much a new garbage disposal costs? Let alone how much the plumber who installs it will charge!”
“No, it doesn’t matter that much,” someone might say. “Sit down, relax, and I’ll teach you something about garbage disposals.
Now, as you are sitting in your comfortable chair waiting for the take-out pizza to arrive (of course there was no time to put the meatloaf in the oven and make the potatoes and vegetables), you might be thinking, “What is it God wants me to learn in the midst of all this chaos?”
I know patience is almost always one of the lessons. We often hear that God wants us to be patient. God wants us to be willing to take in stride what happens. God will take care of things in God’s time and way.
But Jesus didn’t have a garbage disposal to worry about! He didn’t know what it’s like to deal with that. Rather, Jesus tells us to stop and look at what he is doing. Jesus tells us that yes, we need that time away but sometimes things come into our lives that need attention at that moment. That need us to be compassionate. That need us to show that we care and love others.
Compassion is not just doing for someone but being with someone. In fact, the word in German can be translated “with-suffering. How often do we understand compassion as something that drives us to do for another? Rather, I think that what Jesus is teaching is that compassion is entering into the suffering of others. It’s entering into the lives of others – really stopping what we are doing, putting aside what is on our minds, and focus on someone else.
We all know how hard that is to do. We all have busy lives, stuff going on, concerns that dawn on us that fill our brain with what ifs and possibilities. We worry about what lies in the future.
We might say, “It’s not so easy, Jesus, to put aside our own things, turn to another and ask, ‘what do you need? How can I be there with you? Can I sit down with you and talk for a while? Can I join you in a meal? Can I take you to get some new clothes? How can I stand with you in the midst of your suffering?’”
We often hear that as church people, as Christians, as a community of faith we are supposed to reach out to others. Jesus teaches us that we are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Sometimes we wonder about that “love ourselves part.” “Where does that come in God?” we wonder. “If I spend most of my time loving God and loving neighbors, when does loving myself come into the picture? Where is that deserted place Jesus talks about where I can rest awhile?”
Often, we don’t get that physical place to go for rest. Maybe we need to find a spiritual place to go for that longed-for rest. A place where we connect with God in our soul.
It could be as simple as, while putting a band-aid on a skinned knee, reflecting on where God is in this task, this time. God is allowing me to have a moment alone with this child. To be with him or her in their pain.
As you are holding onto that bicycle running alongside the child who is learning to ride on their own, instead of thinking about how hot you are, how tired you are, or if this child will ever learn to ride, you connect with God, thanking God for this time, this moment, this spiritual recognition that you have the privilege of being here with this child as they are learning something new. The realization that you can be his or her teacher.
We hear in church that Jesus calls us. Calls us to a variety of different ministries or ways of life. These potential callings rattle around in our brains. We focus on which one God is calling us to do. At times, Jesus is calling us to is that time of rest. That deserted place where we can be by ourselves even if, outside of us, it doesn’t look like we are alone with him.
When we end up with take-out pizza instead of the meal we love or when the needs of others crowd into our mind and space, Jesus asks us to look at those around us. The people who are like sheep without a shepherd. They need someone to lead them, to show compassion, to be with them in their time of need.
Jesus reminds us that it is he who ought to be there in times of pain, hurt, and need. Not just him, but you and us. We can be those who are the shepherds to the sheep. Those who lead. Those who teach. Those who allow people to come to us even when we are tired. At those times we look to the Holy Spirit to provide a place of spiritual refreshment and to give us peace that only God can bring even when there is chaos all around us.
The rest, the deserted place, may look different than what we were expecting. It might not be one where we can put our feet up to relax after a long trip with a cold glass of iced tea in our hand. It could be an experience that allows us to refocus, to open our hearts and our spirits to the Lord in a new way.
Sit and be quiet when you can. But know that life intervenes shortening that time to relax. When that happens, we get up, go out, and show compassion by being with those who need our help. And to let God give us spiritual rest by filling us with the Bread of life, Jesus.