Mark 6, 30-34,53-56
TITLE: Being With Jesus
SCRIPTURE: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
William Barclay, in his commentary, says, "The rhythm of the Christian life is the alternate meeting with God in the secret place and serving men in the market place." That, I believe, catches the essence of today's passage.
When I was reading this account of the apostles returning to Jesus to report on their mission, it brought to mind a conversation I had recently received with a friend. He said that he was going to retire from the ministry early and explained that he suffered from "compassion fatigue." That is a term, which has entered the language along with its cousins, "stress" and "burnout." "Compassion fatigue" describes a reaction observed in certain helping professions after long years of service and/or after shorter, intense periods. My friend described it by saying his congregation had serious issues to confront, but he no longer had the emotional or physical energy to help them do so.
All of us who serve need rest. We need to observe the rhythm of meeting with God in the secret place and serving people in the market place. This congregation is one with a strong pattern of Christian service. Consider the youth mission of recent years. Consider the work of the Women's Association. Notice the activities of other Committees. Remember the ministries of our sister churches. Give thanks for and be aware of what many individuals are doing; such as supporting a mission society, volunteering at one of our colleges, participating in local service organizations. Recently two different people told me they were personally assisting individuals with terminal diseases. All of this is beyond the energy and effort expended on behalf of the programs of the church and to operate the church as an organization.
This is intensive and tiring service and we need to do as the apostles did. That is, we need to tell Jesus. This is a congregation that would have a lot to tell. It is a congregation that understands its call to ministry and is responsive to that call. You are doing and teaching much and you need to tell Jesus.
And we need to go apart, to a quiet place and be with him and let him speak to us. This is the essence of the devotional life. The devotional life is not another bit of work to do or another discipline to follow. It is rather, a Sabbath time; a time of rest and refreshing; a time to tell
Jesus and to let him teach us many things.
I recently read a little book by Donna Schaper called, "Sabbath Sense." In that book she urges slowing down and finding daily and weekly times of retreat. She gives many practical suggestions and examples about how to do that. If you are feeling overburdened by your service commitments or by the pace of life in general, you may want to find a book like that.
Are we not here today for a Sabbath purpose? Have we not come here to be quiet, to rest, to be refreshed and renewed by the presence of Jesus? Is not this our time to be apart with him? Sometimes we're even in a hurry about worship. We want to get out of here and on to other things. We have plans and we're anxious about time. We've scheduled the service for one hour! What would happen if we set only the beginning time, and let the Holy Spirit dismiss us at the right time? But we bring our way of life right into this special place.
In the Bible there are two words for "time." One is "kairos" which is special time, not discovered by looking at the clock. The other is "chronos" which is time measured by the clock. Our worship ought to be "kairos" time -- special time-- but we turn it into "chronos" time -- clock time.
In music you will sometimes find a little symbol over some notes. It has a technical name, but it looks like a "birdseye." A note with that symbol doesn't have a certain duration. It is held as long as the director determines. Of course there is a reasonable limit to what a director will or can do with that flexibility. If we cannot be completely open-ended
about worship, we might at least treat it as if it were a note with a 'birdseye" above it.
We are like those who have been on a journey and now we have stopped awhile so we can put down our burden and rest. Why, after all, do we refer to this room as a "sanctuary?" It is precisely because in this place we are separated from the violence, the turmoil, the troubles and the pressures of the world. Here we seek Jesus. Here we have a Sabbath.
When Jesus invited the disciples to go away to the desert, along with him, it was not an invitation to stop serving. He made no suggestion that their apostleship was ended or completed. It was an invitation to pause before continuing. It was an invitation to observe the proper rhythm of the Christian life. And they accepted that invitation. They got into a
boat and headed off to the first of all Christian retreats.
But a strange thing happened on the way to the retreat. A large crowd saw where they were going and got there ahead of them. When Jesus and the apostles reached the shore, over five thousand people were waiting for them.
Perhaps we can well imagine how the apostles might have felt when they saw that crowd, there in the desert, waiting for them.
But Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He did two things: he taught them and he fed them. Next week or further down the road we will loot at Gospel of John and its account of the feeding of the five thousand. We will not include that in the lesson for today. Nevertheless, it is part of the story as far as Mark is concerned. It is part of the message Mark is giving in which he shows a parallel between Jesus and Moses. Clearly Jesus is doing what Moses did, teaching and feeding the people in the wilderness.
And clearly Jesus is teaching his apostles what they must do as they continue his ministry. In telling this story, Mark is letting his own congregation know what their mission is.
So, Jesus found himself with his own apostles who had been teaching and doing many things and with a large crowd who were not there to rest from ministry, as they had not been engaged in ministry. They were there because they were leaderless and confused.
It is likely that some of us here today need a break from our Christian service. It is also likely that some of us are here feeling in need for other reasons.
I spoke a few minutes ago about coming to church to lay down our burdens. Sometimes we carry those burdens right into church with us. And it is right to do so. We may feel like sheep without a shepherd or, as the Spiritual says it, "like a motherless child." Life lays blows on us that we cannot bear alone. In our hearts we might be singing the old song, "I
must tell Jesus all of my troubles, I cannot bear these burdens alone." The apostles told Jesus all they had taught and done, but others told him of their illnesses and their suffering. We come to Church with these things because we expect to find comfort here. We tell Jesus about them because we believe him to be the One who will hear us with grace and healing. We trust him. We believe in him. We have faith in him.
Mark says that Jesus taught them "many things." But he does not spell out what Jesus actually said. Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not summarize a sermon by Jesus. In a way, Mark serves us well by leaving that question open. We don't all need the same things. We don't have the same trials. Yet here, today, Jesus is able to speak to each of us. Whether we are here because of "compassion fatigue" or because we need a shepherd, Jesus hears our prayer and speaks to our hearts.
Our worship is centered in prayer, the Word and the meal. What we do here, in this time together, is bring our prayers of praise and intercession and supplication to God. We hear the Word read and proclaimed. And we are nourished by the bread of heaven.
God responded to Israel in the desert by giving water from the rock, the law at Sinai and manna to nourish them. God responds to the prayers of the church by Word and Sacrament. These are the sustaining, comforting and healing gifts given to the people of faith.
During our prayer time there is a period of silence. This is the time to tell Jesus what you need. He is ready to hear you. It is also the time to accept the silence without praying, but to listen for the Spirit to speak to you. You may discover and learn more in those few moments of silence than in any other part of the worship service.
My blessing to you is this: May the Lord Jesus hear all your prayers with mercy and grace, and may the Word of the Lord sustain, heal and nourish you.