These are the typed notes, not necessarily what was shared verbatim in either church. In fact, I added a section about heading home Thursday after SOULfeast and about hearing the news of what had happened in Chattanooga. At first, all I read in Facebook posts was "pray for Chattanooga" when I stopped along the Nantahala at Kelly's on the River to get my lunch. Then, I found another post that explained why everyone was asking for prayer. I mentioned that even though I had just spent a week filling up my cup and being renewed, it was instantly emptied. I took my lunch and found a spot on the Nantahala to eat, rest, and pray. I needed more time to "come and rest". I needed to bring my burdens to God, again. [Not shared this morning in sermons: I found myself stopping quite a bit on my journey home Thursday. Near the Ocoee lake to check out a cabin I had spent many summers in as a child and then the Cherokee Removal site near Blythe's Ferry and a cornfield. I stopped to reflect, renew, and pray. I prayed my flute at the Cherokee Removal Site.] Sometimes, our need to "come and rest" is moment by moment.
I shared some of the above during the sermon at some appropriate spot.
For what it's worth, here are today's notes and Scripture passage. Maybe there is something here for someone.
Blessings on your journey,
"Come and Rest"
July 19, 2015 (Pentecost 8)
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Flintstone UMC and Simpson UMC
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
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.
I contemplated changing my sermon in light of what happened in our community of Chattanooga this past week on Thursday and the deep loss we feel as a community and a nation. But as I continued to reflect and pray, I realized that this theme of coming away and resting, of becoming renewed, is crucial for us if we are going to respond rather than react to this particular situation. Thus, for what has happened this past week, for every day of our journey, I invite us all to come and rest today. May our ears, hearts, minds, and souls be attuned to the voice of God.
Let's look again at today's Scripture passage, starting with Mark 6:30-31: "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."
The disciples were admittedly tired and hungry. They had been doing the work of the Lord. Jesus knew their needs at that moment and invited them to "come away and rest". Notice their response in verse 32: "32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves."
Let's stop here for a moment. The disciples could have responded: 'No thanks, Jesus, we still have a lot of work to do. We're just going to keep pushing ahead until all the folks are healed, have heard about you, etc.' But they didn't. They must have known inside themselves that they DID need to rest. They accepted the gentle teaching of the Lord and this gift of grace in the form of rest and they went away to a deserted place by themselves. They had to let go of their work and ministry and accept the extended grace in order to even begin to rest.
That's a powerful thought, isn't it? We are called to let go of the things that get in the way of our being able to "come and rest". What kind of things do we need to let go? For me it was letting go of this past week's homework assignment. At the beginning of the semester, the professor offered us a "get out of jail free card" to use for any week during the summer term. We could then be free to travel, be with family, whatever we needed to do for one week. It meant we didn't need to participate in the week's discussions online by posting or responding. To let go of the week's assignments, I had to accept the grace extended to me by the professor in the form of this "get out of jail free card". I had to "turn in" that card in order for the grace to be redeemed. A gift is not worth much if it isn't opened and used. It took me until Monday morning to realize this for myself and to live into it. In the back of my head I knew the grace was there, but I thought I would just push through. But Monday morning it struck me that there was no way I was going to read the book and stay on top of my studies and enter fully into the week of refreshment and renewal at SOULfeast. Ironically, I knew I'd be preaching on "Come and Rest". How could I preach on something that I wasn't living?!?! I knew what I had to do and I turned in my "get out of jail free card".
Jesus invites us all to come and rest. It is in this rest, this renewal that we are able to hear and know Jesus better. In hearing and knowing Jesus better, we are better able to discern and to respond. Our cups are filled and we serve out of that filled place.
How often are we to respond to Jesus' invitation to "come and rest"? Very often. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Yearly. Our Sabbath times of making time to rest and listen are crucial.
You may be familiar with this passage in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus invites us to come and rest at any time we are weary or carrying heavy burdens. That could be a moment to moment timeline instead of what I already mentioned.
For me, SOULfeast this past week was indeed a time of rest and renewal. The focus for the week was "Renew your people". Each day the theme was centered around these parts of our baptismal vows: prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness. The speaker (Elaine Heath) and the preacher (Jacob Armstrong) wove these into how we are to be renewed, as did the morning and afternoon sessions. I won't take time now to share everything I learned this past week, but I will say that the combination of the speakers, the workshops, the trip to Asheville, NC to hear and see this vision of investing in a community and its renewal, plus joining in Holy Communion throughout the week and walking around Lake Junaluska.... all of this contributed to my renewal, my being able to listen.
Today's passage is just one of several in which we see Jesus and the disciples taking time apart to pray, be with a smaller group of disciples for prayer and teaching, spending time in solitude, etc. As we look at Jesus' example, we understand the importance of coming away to rest, of taking time to refresh prior to making decisions and/or continued service to others. (Luke 6:12-14 is one example)
Verses 33-34 in today's passage show us that the people really didn't give Jesus and his disciples a chance to rest this time. That happens. Sometimes our times of rest and renewal are put aside for a moment. Here, Jesus had great compassion on the crowd that arrived ahead of them and began to teach them. Jesus was mindful of their needs.
The lectionary passage skips the feeding of the crowd in verses 35-52. The disciples engage in servant leadership, learn first-hand from Jesus about miracles and serving. But that's a sermon for another day. Then, when the time is right, they leave again and set off for the other side of the lake.
They were going to get their time alone now, right? Not really. Read verses 53-56 again. But, think for a minute. They had their time in the boat, crossing over as alone time, just the disciples and Jesus. They were there on the water, able to reflect upon the day's activities. Sometimes it is a few minutes of rest and renewal that we get in our cars, standing in line waiting, sitting in the pews prior to the start of a service. We can use these times to rest in the presence of God and allow our spirits to be renewed.
It is through these times of renewal that we can more clearly hear the voice of God over all the other "voices" and demands in our lives. I picked up a book from the ottoman, one of the many books I look forward to reading now that required reading is almost over. :) Sabbath: Finding rest, renewal, and delight in our busy lives by Wayne Muller. The first line of the introduction sums up the problem we face: "In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm of work and rest." (1) Muller goes on to say this: "All life requires a rhythm of rest. There is a rhythm in our waking activity and the body's need for sleep. There is a rhythm in the way day dissolves into night, and night into morning. There is a rhythm as the active growth of spring and summer is quieted by the necessary dormancy of fall and winter. There is a tidal rhythm, a deep, eternal conversation between the land and the great sea. In our bodies, the heart perceptibly rests after each life-giving beat; the lungs between the exhale and the inhale. We have lost this essential rhythm. Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something---anything---is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed, to meet these ever growing expectations, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight. Poisoned by this hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger." (1)
Hear these words from Sarah Young in her devotional book, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. This is the devotion from July 17. As you listen to these words, imagine Jesus speaking to you individually.
"Come away with Me for a while. The world, with its nonstop demands, can be put on hold. Most people put Me on hold, rationalizing that someday they will find time to focus on Me. But the longer people push Me into the background of their lives, the harder it is for them to find Me.
You live among people who glorify busyness; they have made time a tyrant that controls their lives. Even those who know Me as Savior tend to march to the tempo of the world. They have bought into the illusion that more is always better: more meetings, more programs, more activity.
I have called you to follow Me on a solitary path, making time alone with Me your highest priority and deepest Joy. It is a pathway largely unappreciated and often despised. However, you have chosen the better thing, which will never be taken away from you. Moreover, as you walk close to Me, I can bless others through you."
In closing, listen to the passage from Matthew 11:28-30 again, this time in contemporary language:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)
May it be so. Amen.