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“Come away… and Rest awhile”

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May God’s word be spoken and God’s word be heard, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Amen 

The weather this summer leaves nothing to the imagination – this is truly summer!

Sometimes Southern Ontario summers can be filled with rain (always landing on the weekend, it would seem)

Sometimes our summers are much cooler than this year’s - and could easily be confused with spring or fall

            But this year, the hot weather we have had – is undeniably summer

And even though 80% of Canadians live in urban centres where 100 years ago it was reversed with 80% living in rural settings

We still base our school year and by extension much of society on the agrarian model

Making summer prime time for vacations

                                    Our church is no exception – generally programing takes a hiatus

Choir, bible study, children’s mid-week gatherings – and many people are away on vacations or cottages or trailers

            Summer is a time where rest is most likely to happen

Vacation… time apart… rest… solitude… Sabbath…

In the world where God doesn’t take a predominate place we have books like: Brave New World — by Huxley & 1984 — by Orwell - these two books maintain that people should not be left alone to develop individuality.

Pascal once said that most of the disorders and evils in life are the result of man's inability to sit still and think.

Our own age, however, is not likely to be distinguished in history for the large number of people who insisted on sitting still in order to pursue serious thought.

Plainly, this is not the Age of Meditative Man.

It is a sprinting, squinting, shoving age...the age of 1984 and Brave New World.

Substitutes for repose are a billion-dollar business.

Almost daily, new antidotes for contemplation spring into being and leap out from store counters.

Silence, already the world's most critical shortage, is almost a nasty word.

Modern people may or may not be obsolete, but they are certainly wired for sound, and they twitch as naturally as they breathe.[1]

"Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." (Mark 6:31a)

These are the words of Jesus to His disciples in the reading from Mark for today.

It reminds us of the importance of self-care and Sabbath living for all of us as we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ.

The key thing about Sabbath rest, is that it invites us a chance to step back and stand apart from all the things that usually drive and consume us…

That we might detect God's presence and providence and blessing, experience a sense of contentment, and give thanks.

Jesus restates the 4th commandment -- or, better, teaching – because He knows firsthand how difficult it is to do … and how important it is that we rest

Somebody once told me that the best advice he ever heard was from a flight attendant.

The advice, of course, is, "Put on your own oxygen mask before helping your neighbor."

What wisdom lies in those few words!

Jesus was calling the disciples back to him, to a place of peace and rest,

Where they could find wholeness and hope so that they could share that hope and wholeness with the world they were serving.

Consider for a moment this question… This summer, this predominate time of leisure and rest - How are you doing at caring for yourself, at coming back to Jesus for a while to be recharged?

It is a curious thing, this craving for solitude that we all seem to have.

Socialiologists will tell us that 2/3’s of us are extroverts, Gregarious by instinct

Yet even in early childhood we hunger to be alone.

Who has not known the child's passion to become inaccessible — the secret cave made out of a blanket thrown over upturned chairs, the house in the tree to which one climbed and pulled up the rope ladder?

Yet the terrors of isolation are well known to explorers, prospectors, prisoners, lighthousekeepers — and, more recently, submariners, Arctic weather and radar station operators, and astronauts.

"Cabin fever" and "going stir-crazy" are potent expressions for the effects of isolation.

But there is a difference between isolation and solitude.

Isolation is usually inflicted upon a person, whereas solitude is freely chosen.

More importantly, isolation is a negative aloneness,

Whereas solitude is a positive companionship with the forces of silence and the mysterious presence of the universe.

In the book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ there is the contrast of isolation and solitude, pointing out how we are prone to confuse the two.

"Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is not a place but a state of mind and heart,"

Out of solitude comes a new increased sensitivity and compassion for life.

There is an ability to be with people in a way that is not possible before an experience of solitude.

Solitude is one of the parts of life one must will.

One must be intentional about finding time for it.

It is difficult, but if one is willing to block out the time, one discovers a whole new dimension to life and it will be as refreshing as a good night's sleep.[2]

I think that St. Mark understood the deep spiritual importance for solitude

Although the shortest of the Gospels, the accounts of Jesus’ life, Mark repeatedly records times of solitude – and it is routinely displayed by the imaginary of ‘the desert’

The desert is an important place for Mark – it occurs 9 times his writing

                                    It is where the Gospel starts – where we first hear of Jesus from John the Baptizer

It is a place where Jesus enters into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights

                                    The desert is a place of unknown/desolation/lonely place for some 

                                                But it is also a place where God provides renewal

Even in the wilderness the Angels were there to minister to the Lord at the end, in the time of greatest need

We are to see the desert imaginary of the Mark’s gospel telling us an essential truth about God

There are no lonely places… God is there – God is with us… always

Consider that when Jesus instructed the disciples to “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." (Mark 6:31a)

When they get there – people are already there… – for everyone in the story

– even in the solitude, Jesus is there

            Even in death – empty isn’t an end - the empty tomb is in fact Good News…!

For the ancient Hebrews, the 4th commandment and Jesus’ restating it as a teaching would have been unbelievably good news

To a people who were recently slaves in Egypt whose time was never their own and who never, ever had a guaranteed period of rest.

When Moses brought down the message of Sabbath

"Wait a minute," we imagine the ancient people saying upon hearing it read,

"You mean we get to rest? We even have to rest? Glory Hallelujah!

I have this hunch that more and more of us find ourselves in a place not all that different from the Egypt where the ancient Hebrews were enslaved.

Except our slavery is self-constructed, self-imposed, and therefore far more difficult to detect or overcome.

We are enslaved to notions of success, and therefore put few limits on work.

We are enslaved to ideas about our children or grandchildren having every opportunity possible, and therefore schedule them into frenetic lives and wonder why they have a hard time focusing.

We are enslaved to the belief that the only thing that will bring contentment is more -- more money, more space in our homes, more cars, more things to put on our resumes or in our closets, more....

Go ahead, name that thing you've fallen prey to wanting more of...

And such levels of wanting, quite frankly, don't permit much time for anything but work. – work at the job, work at home, work even during our so called leisure.[3]

In the slavery we call success… and the rat race we call modern life.

Be honest, how much time have you spend together with family or friends,

How much time have you spent outdoors and enjoying all the things that you’ve worked so hard to attain…

God does desire more for us… But the more God wants is qualitative, not quantitative

The abundant life that God wants for all of us is to “come away… and rest awhile…”

The solitude of rest, whereby we look at all the Lord’s provides and be thankful – of all creation … to spiritual soak in it … and marvel in it … it is good

Perfect grace is what we have heard in all the readings.

This is the grace that reminds us, even when we miss the mark, when we ignore the call, when we live a way that is contradictory to the promise of Christ, we can always come home

—home to the Lord, the Lamb of God.

Just as I am... I come. Just as you are... you come.

And Christ welcomes us with open arms.

God of rest and peace, grant us the courage to step away for a while and be refilled by your presence in our own lives so that we can love and serve as you have called us to do. Amen.


[1] Illustration Sourcebook – Series II #1932 - SOLITUDE, CONTEMPLATION

[2] Illustration Sourcebook – Series II #1182 - SOLITUDE, ISOLATION


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