July 22, 2018 - Proper 11B
Now that is one conversation I would like to have listened in on… Did you catch the opening line of the Gospel reading? “The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.”
To understand this clearly, it is necessary to look back a couple of weeks. Earlier in the 6th chapter of Mark, we heard that Jesus sent the twelve disciples, you know: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, (the other) James, Thaddeus, Simon and Judas – were sent out 2x2 and given “authority over unclean spirits.” In chapter 3 we were told these guys went out and “proclaimed that all should repent... and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
Now, if I were a betting person, I would bet that some of their teachings were rejected, especially teachings about repentance – about turning around and heading another direction….
We don’t know about the pairings of the disciples or exactly what they were teaching, but we can be sure their stories were everything from great successes to great disappointments. Can’t you just imagine ol’ Bart and Andy sitting at Jesus’ feet, filled with excitement and sharing a story about what they had been up to? How they encountered someone in the grocery line that needed a word of blessing or encouragement and they were paying attention enough not to miss the opportunity.
Or Tom and Jim sitting at Jesus’ feet feeling a little disappointed because they tried, but were not very successful in their attempt to heal and teach? How they stood on the corner offering free prayer and hugs but had no takers.
Or Thad and Johnny trying to explain to Jesus some great idea they thought they would try and were met with resistance “because it had never been done that way before.”
An interesting and important point to note is that Jesus didn’t call them to succeed, but to be faithful. To go out and do as they had been commissioned to do. The results were less important than their faithfulness.
There is room for everyone in this story. Can you imagine having the opportunity to sit with Jesus and give an accounting of what you’ve been up to. I don’t know about you, but I love it when I have the wherewithal to be aware of being of use to God or inspired by God. I have begun a simple experiment for a few weeks at the QT convenience store just down the street. I stand at the door that additional 4-5 seconds and hold the door open for the next person. Some people are surprised at the gesture and express their gratitude. Some don’t seem to notice and just barrel on in or out without a thank you or acknowledgement. It is just a very small act of kindness, but I read somewhere recently, “Of all the things you could be in this world, be kind.” One gentleman approached the door and said, “Oh, you embarrass me.” Indicating he should be holding the door for me. I just smiled and said, “No embarrassment at all. You have a great day.” Something happens when I take those few seconds, look a stranger in the eyes and extend a simple act of kindness. There is a connection. I become a better person and I hope they experience a moment of care that makes a difference in their day…. Or at least a difference in that moment of their day.
I have been hearing stories of experiences at our own 4Saints Food Pantry – Just imagine sitting at Jesus’ feet and saying: “I donate 25 gallons of milk each week (because when I was a little boy, we never had enough milk at home;” “I walk people’s groceries to their cars and am honored to listen as people share a sliver of their life story with me.” Or as a 10 year old boy reporting, “Jesus, I handed out cold water to people who were sitting in the heat while waiting to receive their groceries.”
I have seen a few new faces volunteering at 4Saints, so I imagine there will be new stories to tell while sitting at the feet of Jesus. Maybe it will simply be, “Jesus, I care for your sheep….”
Maybe some of you would sit at Jesus’ feet today and say, “It has been a long time, Lord….. I am tired…. I have little to offer…. I don’t know what to do….
Maybe you’d say, “I have done nothing, Jesus, but I sense you calling my name…. I am ready now…. How will you use me to love your sheep?”
Jesus’ response to all who come is the same, “Come on, let’s go away and rest a while….”
Your grief and disappointment are heavy, “Let’s go away and rest a while.”
Your accomplishments are worthy of celebration, “Let’s go away and rest a while.”
You give much of yourself caring for my sheep, “Let’s go away and rest a while.”
You work hard to provide for your family while being my light in the world, “Let’s go away and rest a while.”
Jesus models the importance of re-fueling -- of taking time away in solitude for spiritual replenishment. It is not easy to do! Our need to be busy and productive is hard to curb. The demands of life don’t stop. We even see here that Jesus was literally chased down by people needing something from him. I am sure that sounds familiar to some of you who have many responsibilities – someone is always clamoring after you for something and it is very hard to ‘go away and rest awhile.’
We read, “Then hoards of people chase him down….. he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; …people at once recognized him and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 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.”
These people had needs and they knew they did. We sometimes hide our needs or try to ignore them… We are rehearsed in saying we are “fine” when indeed we are not fine. It reminds me of several months ago when I was going through an especially difficult time and struggled to contain tears at the simplest question, “How are you?” My therapist suggested I practice answers to “How are you?” by saying things like: I am better… I am ok right now… I am getting better day by day… I am on the right path…. Then one day Marsha dared to ask me, “Are you ok?” -- Well, I hadn’t practiced an answer to that question!
We all have needs and the people in today’s story were well aware of their needs. They had hope in the One they had seen and heard about. They rushed to him just to touch the hem of his garment.
If you were to sit down with Jesus today,
Jesus extends his welcome to you. Tell him what you’ve been up to, how you are, and what you need. Accept his invitation to “come away and rest a while.”
Come away and rest a while… Come to the altar today, to Jesus’ table… better yet, “rush” to the altar, crowd in on Jesus, touching even the fringe of his cloak; open your brokenness before him and be filled with his healing love.