Sermon Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 “Resting in God” July 22, 2012
The other night, I put the dog out. It was after 10:00 and on the street to the right of the garage there were kids, still outside, still walking around, still playing, and still riding their bikes. And that got me thinking. You see, when I was growing up, summer or winter, school year or vacation, I was in bed by 7:30 p.m. every night. I didn’t like it much. Even back then, when the sun went down, my neighborhood in my hometown was still pretty active…there were children playing and riding their bikes well past 9:00 p.m. But, my Mom and Dad were certain that well-behaved and happy kids were well rested. So, 7:30.
It did occur to me, many years later, that my parents were the ones who benefited most from these early bedtime hours. When they put us to bed, they knew where we were and could finally relax and enjoy some grown up time with each other. But, at the time, it just seemed pointless and a bit mean. I certainly didn’t fall asleep until after 9:00 when my friends finally went off to their beds and to their sleep.
Mom and I have since laughed a bit about this early bedtime routine. She now admits it was as much for she and my dad and their peace of mind as it was for my brother and me and our health and welfare. Jesus certainly had some very real concerns about the health and welfare and, of course, the effectiveness of his disciples. They were tired; even Jesus was weary by the constant demands and the need around him. There were successes of course. People were being healed. The good news was being shared, but the disciples were getting a bit ahead of themselves and perhaps a bit ahead of God. They needed to be reminded through solitude, prayer and meditation, where and how they received their gifts to minister to others so, with that in mind, Jesus called them to come to a quiet place and rest. At least, that was the intent.
However, rest and relaxation were not as easy to come by as Jesus might have hoped. The crowds knew where to look for him and they arrived before he and the disciples arrived. The people who had trailed Jesus to this desired place of rest and quiet knew what they wanted; what they needed and they wouldn’t be put off or sent away. Their need was so great; the hunger they had for healing and for the power of God’s word were so intense that Jesus took pity on them. He simply didn’t have the heart to turn them away. So, while he knew what he and his disciples yearned for and really needed, he accepted the fact that the needs of the hungry and ill people around him were far greater than his need to rest. He responded with help and he called upon his disciples to do the same.
Well, we know what it feels like, in our harried and frantic world, not to have the time or make the time to just sit down and share a meal with our families. If you are one of the fortunate few that do hold meal times sacred, I commend you. With the demands life can impose on us, meal times aren’t always easy to schedule, but the rewards are plentiful. I think the best part of helping out at our public dinners, the Strawberry and Peach Festivals, the Harvest Dinner, and the Corned Beef dinner is the moment when the serving time ends and we, as the cooks and wait staff can sit down and enjoy the meal together. We’re like one big family coming home after a long day at work or school. We’re tired but we’re happy, happy that we can reconnect with one another and do so over good food. It’s an important time, a time when discussion can lead to celebration and interest in a topic can lead to solutions. Rested minds and bodies tend to make for more intentional living and can produce healthier relationship and nurturing growth. Ancient Roman poet Ovid expressed similar words when he said, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” 
Truth is truth no matter when it is spoken or by whom. Though rest was what Christ and the disciples craved, they were also aware that the message of healing and hope was in their sacred trust. It had to be shared and the abiding index was compassion toward those who carried the burdens of life, who were ill, in pain, in need, hungry for hope. Eventually, there would be a time when the need to pull away and reconnect would overshadow the continuing needs around them. They would take the time to be family together.
It’s not surprising how Christ chose to say his final farewell to his disciples who were his family; He did so over a meal, in an upper room, away from the crowds and the demands of his ministry. Christ made this time of coming away and eating, sacred. He blessed the elements they shared and reminded his disciples of their purpose as his followers and those who in his name would bear the message of hope he had placed in their care. It was a sacred experience, rich in emotion and filled with grace.
Well, we don’t need an upper room or a special meal to make those quiet moments with God and one another, sacred. They’re likely to happen just about anywhere if we stay open and aware of the possibility. But it doesn’t hurt to make some time, daily to intentionally build in a space and a place to be present to and with God. We have Sundays and worship here together, of course, but the rest of the week requires our intentional embrace of the sacred too. Let’s make one of those spaces now. Since we are here together this morning, we can take the time we need to connect – first with God and also with one another. To help us, let me invite you to rest in the moment, close your eyes if it helps to shut out the distractions. Listen to these words by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. It’s called “Rest a While”.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Let go of all you have accomplished.
Step out of what you have done,
the who you think you are
that comes from something,
into the who that is I AM.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Set everything down.
The great burden of being yourself,
what everyone thinks, even you,
the work of remembering,
what you must and mustn’t,
let them all go.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Come to the sabbath place
where nothing, even you,
is fashioned, everything just is.
Come into the rest that is God,
the silence from which your light pours,
the Spirit brooding over the waters.
Here where you are received,
Breathe in. Breathe out. 
Thank you Gracious God for this time with you and with each other. Thank you for calling us to serve and giving us the gifts to do so and the grace to know when we must rest in you. Help us to lean on your strength when ours fails. Equip us to connect with the hurt and the needy doing so with the compassion you have shown to us in your son Jesus. Give us the wisdom to know when to work for your reign and when to rest from our labors. As in all things, call us to come away with you and rest. Amen.
 Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light, www.unfoldinglight.net