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Pulled in to Nazareth….

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

the debrief.

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

even death.

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.


About megancastellan

Episcopal priest, writer, wearer of fancy shoes.

One response »

  1. Charming and to the point. Can be applied to many times in all out lives.


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