The following is a reflection on Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, the Gospel lesson properly appointed for Proper 11 year B.
After an insanely busy and draining period of teaching, and exorcising, and healing—after Jesus and his disciples had given of themselves over and over again, day after day—Jesus tells his disciples, “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
There are four different parts to this statement which mean something on their own, and amplify each other. Come away. To a deserted place. All by yourselves. And rest a while.
Goodness gracious, do we need to hear these words today. I think we need to slow down and savor them—and hear the permission and the inherent command to rest.
A few weeks ago at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, Michael Curry, the Bishop of North Carolina gave a rousing sermon with the mantra: we need crazy Christians. His point was that Christians need to buck the trends of the world, and go against the grain—and when we do that it looks “crazy,” but it looks so much more like the life of Jesus.
A huge part of such craziness is do-ing stuff. Do-ing justice. Do-ing acts of love. Do-ing forgiveness.
But…if we’re going to buck the trends of the world, one such trend is bucking the idol of busy-ness.
We need to rest.
It will be of no surprise to anyone that our world is a crazy hectic place. With all the miracles of modern technology we are only a cell-phone’s *ding* away from whoever might think they need something. Or everyone’s *dings* of need.
And, we make busy-ness a badge of honor. “How’s it going, pastor?” “Pretty crazy! Pretty busy!” we answer. And that answer has an implicit message: I’m worthwhile because I’m busy.
No. Stop. Stop it right now. We have worth, but it doesn’t come from our seventy hour work-weeks, or our month straight with no day off.
Those things aren’t a badge of honor. They are marks of a imbalanced life, an imbalanced ministry, and an arid spiritual life.
Come away. It’s not just “going away,” but it’s “coming away” with Jesus. Jesus isn’t an angry boss who works us from sunrise to sunset. You better believe that the church can be that boss. The church can suck the life out of anyone–lay and ordained—until we break under the weight of burnout. But, Jesus is the one whose yoke is easy. His burden is light. And he is the embodiment of refreshment in the Presence of God. We need to get away from the grind of ministry, no matter our office in the church. We need to come away with Jesus.
To a deserted place. Group retreats are great. I just got back from a group mission trip, and it was a-ma-zing. But, we also need time alone. We need to go to where there is nothing. A place deserted. Perhaps desolate. I’d even add, deserted by wifi and 3G, email and voicemail. Deserted by Facebook and Twitter. We need to recharge our batteries, with Jesus, and no one else. We have a spiritual needs to get out of the trenches and be alone.
All by yourselves. Yes, in case you missed it in the last phrase/ paragraph—Jesus really means it.
And rest a while. This isn’t laziness. It’s not a perpetual state. It’s temporary. It’s for a while. But, for that while, it’s about rest. We cannot just minister to others day by day, month by month. If we don’t rest, we won’t be able to take care of others. If we don’t slow down, we will be of no use to anyone, especially God.
So, now that we are in the midst of summer—follow Jesus. To a deserted place, all by yourself. And rest. For a day here and there. For a week. Heck, take as much time as you need. Put down the iPhone. Don’t update your status. Set the away message on your voicemail and email, and don’t even think of checking on it.
For in so doing you’ll be embracing the spiritual practice of rest. And, while the rest of the world may think you’re a little crazy…you’ll be crazy in all the right ways.
You may also want to read my post on how to handle email in ministry, including while on vacation. It’s saved my sanity more than once.