Last week, I was feeling so proud of myself, having written about 2/3rds of my sermon by Friday afternoon.
Then, like most every other preacher out there, I woke up Saturday morning, saw the news, and promptly chucked the whole thing.
I tell my students that ordination did not give me super powers. It certainly never gave me the Hallmark-esque power of What Perfect Thing to Say When the World Ceases to Make Sense. But, as my wise preaching professor used to say, you still have to say something.
So I said this.
July 22, 2012
Ordinary Time, Proper 11
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Something funny happens to people when they’re exhausted. With kids,
it’s easy to spot. Babies have a special cry when they’re tired that adults
learn to pick out– and plop the kid down for a nap. With toddlers, there’s
that glassy look in the eye, and every little thing becomes a fight.
But with older people, with actual adults, exhaustion takes varied forms.
Forgetfulness can set in. There was a stretch in seminary where I locked
myself out of my apartment 5 days in a row. Snappishness can set in, or
you can go the other way, and suddenly, everything can become very
funny. And you find yourself laughing over the dumbest jokes ever.
And then, soon after, you find yourself collapsed in a little heap.
And unlike being a toddler, when you’re an adult, generally speaking, there
isn’t anyone looking over your shoulder to hand you a juice box and send
you off for a nap, before you completely crash either yourself or something
else. In fact, as folks who have grown past toddler stage, many of us sort
of resent the idea that we might need a break at all.
Because we’re grown ups! We’re self sufficient! We need no help, we’re
indestructible, rest, reflection, time out is for lesser mortals than we, we’re
We’re Fine. Always Fine. Keep going. Stiff upper lip and soldier on. Keep
calm and carry on, as those signs say.
But watch Jesus and the disciples this week. In the past few gospel stories
now, Jesus has been attempting to take a break. The man is tired out.
Now, he has welcomed back the disciples that he had sent out to preach
and heal in his name, the disciples who have gone out and done all this for
the first time.
Now they are back, full of stories and experiences. Some good, some not
so good. It’s the first mission of the church– a trial run, sort of, and here’s
And Jesus says– Come away by yourselves, to rest and pray.
Take a break! Think about what you’ve seen, and done, and take a
moment. It’s ok, to take a moment, before rushing on to the next thing.
Because, otherwise, how will you know how to continue? If you don’t rest,
and reflect and take a moment? The work of ministry, the work Jesus calls
us to is too big, and too complicated to be done quickly and without
thought. Living in the world, Actually, is too complicated to be done without
reflection, or care, or pause for rest. It’s too complex and shaded with grey.
If we are forever charging forward with no time to listen to God, or listen to
each other, or listen to our own hearts, we cannot do the work we are
called to as Christians.
There’s this comment, in the text, about Jesus’ reaction when he sees the
crowd before him– he saw them harassed and helpless, like sheep without
a shepherd, so he has compassion on them.
How often do we ignore the signs of our own exhaustion– be it physical,
emotional or spiritual, and just charge ahead? How often do we end up like
the crowd, harassed and helpless and tired, but milling about, still, because
we just don’t want to rest?
Rest, prayer, contemplation– these things aren’t luxuries. They’re
necessities for people of faith. They are how we gain strength to work in a
confusing and unruly world. They are how we stay in close relationship
with the God who sends us out into this world. They are our daily bread.
Trying to go for long without does not make us superheros; it makes us
Especially in weeks like this one, when we stare into the face of loss, the
horrific tragedy in Aurora– it becomes so easy, it becomes tempting to
charge ahead without reflection, or contemplation. To be the first to blame,
or to explain away what happened. To cover the gaping hole of loss with a
lot of words.
That’s easy to do. But harder, I think, to pause. To take a breath and reach
out to the God who suffers with the suffering, and mourns with the
mourning. And who surrounds all of us with a love more powerful than
The evil that destroyed the lives of so many people in a movie theater
Friday night cannot be papered over by any quick and easy explanation,
however much we might want to, just to make it stop. But all of our words
and solutions won’t make it stop and won’t help the pain and confusion.
The only thing that ever stops evil, really really stops evil, is the love of
God. God’s love, cutting through our exhaustion and confusion, and our
easy solutions. It doesn’t bring back the lives that were lost, but it does
bring redemption and healing into even the most painful times in our lives.
And the way we let that happen is to ask for it. To be open to the Christ
who cared for the helpless crowd, and who cares for us, and not be so
hasty to charge ahead with our own solutions.
Wait. Rest and pray. And the Jesus who had compassion on that crowd
back then, will surely have compassion on Aurora today, and on us too, and
will show us how to have better compassion and love for each other.