Friday, July 20, 2012

Rest (Connecting What with Why). (July 22, 2012)

Homily:  Yr B Proper 17, July 22, 2012, St. Albans
Readings:  2 Sam 7:1-14a; Ps 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mk 6:30-34, 53-56

Rest (Connecting What with Why)

Sometimes when I’m looking over the Scripture readings for the coming Sunday there’s a verse that just kind of leaps out and grabs me.  This week was one of those weeks.  And the verse that did it was this one:

Jesus said to them:  “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

If you recall, Jesus had sent the apostles out in pairs to travel through the countryside of Galilee, healing and teaching and proclaiming God’s kingdom wherever people would receive them.  They’d gone out with no cash, no food, and no change of clothes.  They’d traveled dusty roads, they’d slept in the streets, they’d missed meals.  They’d healed the sick, they’d taught crowds.  And now they were back, probably exhausted by what appears to have been a successful mission.

And the first thing that Jesus says to them when he sees them is this:  “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

The Heart and Stroke foundation released a survey a few months ago that found that an overwhelming majority of Canadians are choosing to not eat a healthy diet and avoid regular exercise because they are too busy.

Another survey just this past week done by UCLA looked at American families and concluded that the typical American family is so consumed with working, buying stuff, self improvement and generally “getting ahead” that they actually spend very little time together enjoying the things that they’re supposedly working for.

I’ve found that when I ask people about their lives, the most frequent response I get is “I’ve been really busy.”   Sometimes it’s said almost as if it’s a badge of honour.  And I’m as guilty as anyone else.

Do you think that when Jesus spoke to his apostles, he might just as well have been talking to us?

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile”

Many of us live busy lives, hectic lives, over-scheduled lives.  We need to rest.  We need to rest for the obvious reasons, because we become physically and mentally tired.  Sometimes we even burn-out.  But I think there’s more to it than that.

We need to rest because if we don’t, then all those things that keep us busy, all the work we do, all the events we schedule, all the things we worry about, all of what we do can become disconnected from why we’re doing it.  Without rest, the what becomes disconnected from the why.

I think Jesus knew this.  Jesus was after all a busy guy.   He was someone with a strong sense of vocation, with a keen awareness of his mission.  He was in demand, he was swarmed by crowds, sometimes he didn’t even have time to eat or drink.  But we’re told over and over again in the gospels that Jesus made a point of withdrawing from the crowds, and of going to a deserted place, to rest and to pray.  To spend time with God.

Because these moments of rest that we need, these “Sabbath” moments, are certainly meant to refresh and renew us, to restore our energy and our health.  But they are also meant to provide us with the opportunity to reconnect with God, to pray, to give thanks, to unload in God’s presence.  To recover our sense of purpose and priorities, of values and vocation.  To re-connect the what of our lives to the why.

We used to call this Sabbath, this idea that we need to have times of intentional rest.  The Sabbath was one of God’s gifts to humanity.  The teaching on the Sabbath was one of what we now call the ten commandments:  “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labour, but the seventh day you shall not do any work”

But we’ve forgotten that the sabbath is much more of a gift than a commandment.  For the most part we simply ignore it, but if we do think about it at all, we think about it as an obligation, as another rule that we have to follow, another thing that we have to do like going to church.

But do you remember who Moses was talking to when he gave them this teaching?  He was talking to a bunch of slaves, slaves who had been forced to work harder and harder and longer and longer by the Egyptian Pharoahs.  This commandment to rest one day a week wouldn’t have been heard by those slaves as an obligation.  It would have been heard as something too good to be true, a gift beyond their wildest imaginations.  We get to rest?  There’s a day when no one is going to make us work?  Praise God! would have been their instant reaction.

We too need to hear this teaching as a gift.  For even though we were never forced into slavery by others, for many of us our slavery is the most insidious form of all, a slavery that is self-constructed and self-imposed.  We have become slaves to our illusions about what constitutes success.  We have become slaves to the expectations of others.  We have become slaves to a culture that tells us that we always need more to be happy.  We have become slaves to our own confusion about our self- worth and to our forgetfulness about where our identity comes from.

We have become slaves to the what of our lives because we have been disconnected from the why.

There is much more that we could talk about in the readings this morning other than this one little verse.  We talk about King David and the mixed motives that made him want to build God a house, and how God responds by saying that God is the one who will build a house.  Or we could continue the gospel story, and marvel at the way that when all these people race around the shore of the lake to get to the deserted spot before Jesus and the disciples, wrecking their plans for a little rest, Jesus responds not with anger and frustration, but with compassion.

We could talk about those things.  But I’d rather not.  Instead I’d rather offer you this gift.  Why don’t we take the next few minutes and simply rest a while.

(If you're reading this, please take a few minutes to rest)


(with thanks to, a great weekly source for insights about the lectionary readings)

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