Rest, Rejuvenation & Re-formation

July 19, 2015

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The 8th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11 
2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

So, remember two weeks ago… the disciples were empowered and sent out by Jesus, two by two, with only a staff in hand and sandals on their feet. They went out to do God’s work in the world.

In today’s lesson we see that they have returned from their work. They are gathered around Jesus telling him all about their excursions! They were probably amazed by how much they’d been able to accomplish – preaching, being witnesses for God, and healing the sick – these are the things Jesus had been doing – and now the disciples saw that by trusting in God, having been empowered by Jesus, they could do it, too!

I can imagine the scene – all the disciples trying to get a word in edgewise. The pairs of disciples were likely finishing each others’ sentences as they told their stories; marveling at the work they’d done on the journey; meeting new people in unfamiliar places. They were told to take no food, no money, no extra clothes, and now they’ve come back and are sharing stories of how their needs were met by the kindness of strangers; adding to the excitement of having embodied God’s work in the world!

When you get that fired -up about things, you just want to keep going, and going and going, right? You’re touching lives! You’re making a difference! You’re on-fire for Jesus!!!

And then what happens? Mark’s gospel says:

Day7 - 02

Photo by Jody (Iona, Scotland)

(Jesus) said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. (Mk 6:31-32)

In this act, Jesus is saying more than just “you’ve earned a break,” though that’s part of it. This going away to a deserted place isn’t new behavior for Jesus. At the very beginning of his ministry, after returning from the wilderness, he found a few disciples, and then began healing and casting out demons. It wasn’t long before the whole town was coming to his doorstep and he healed many people. But then we are told: In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. (Mk 1:35)

You see, doing the OUTSIDE work is good – great even – but as satisfying as that may be, we have to do INSIDE work, too! You see, going off to a deserted place the way Jesus did it, isn’t non-productive; it’s intentional – even necessary.

Easy for me to say, considering I’m about to go on a two week vacation. And not unlike Jesus and the disciples, I’ll literally be getting into a boat and going to a secluded place – not exactly deserted, but secluded, for sure.

It’s a little time for some R&R, but, I suggest we change the traditional meaning of R&R – Rest & Relaxation – and add one more R. So, we’ll keep Rest as the first R, for sure, Jesus invites us to do that; but he also invites us to a time of Rejuvenation & Re-formation!

Let’s take a few minutes to look at each one:

Rest – on the whole, we Americans don’t do enough of it! While our companies have become more and more efficient through the years, somehow, instead of taking that “time saved” for rest, we’ve added to the number of hours we work each week!

Then, after a long day at work, when we get home, we’re often still plugged in through our phones and computers. And even if we manage to put our devices down, we can’t seem to turn off our brains – we continually think about the OUTSIDE work at hand. It’s important, even essential, to find a way to take a break from our work – all of us. It’s the only way we can truly rest up for the next day.

And although it’s common for those with full time jobs to get several weeks of paid vacation each year, many people don’t take them. And those that do often take them in small increments – just a few days here and there.

Today’s lesson gives us a clue as to why… because more times than not, the work is still there for us when we return. Even so, taking only a few days does little, if anything, to give us true REST. It takes several days just to let go of the OUTSIDE world, and only then can the INSIDE rest begin. It’s important to give yourself that time.

Photo by Jody: Lindinsfarne

Photo by Jody: Lindisfarne, England

For those who grew up with a strong work-ethic and the expectation that you be an over-achiever, taking this kind of time for yourself may seem selfish, but it’s not. It’s self-preservation. And, if I have to play the “follow Jesus’ example” card, I will… it’s right here in the Book: (Jesus) said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

Resting a while is necessary to be healthy and productive in our lives.

The second “R” is Rejuvenation. The same Book says, “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

To be effective in life, and in our Christian walk, we must keep ourselves fed, both physically and spiritually. Once again, if you don’t believe me, believe Jesus! The gospels tell us again and again that Jesus went off by himself to pray. This time of being apart, of doing some of the INSIDE work, allows us to be rejuvenated.

Rejuvenation doesn’t just happen; we must be intentional about it.

One way to do it during our R, R & R, is perhaps to introduce a new practice in our daily life – maybe something as basic as a daily walk. It can be rejuvenating not only to our bodies, which have become stagnant from hours at a desk or in front of a computer, but also rejuvenating for our minds and spirits. A daily walk (early in the morning or just before sunset) will not only provide some exercise to strengthen our body, but also gives us time to think (not about WORK!); to pray (well, maybe about work); and to marvel at God’s creation all around us (all about GOD’s WORK!).

It’s also important to keep ourselves properly fed. You may have noticed that Mark’s gospel brings up “eating” a lot. Right after Jesus healed the young girl, bringing her back from the brink of death, he said, “Get her something to eat.” And even today he mentions that so many were coming and going that the disciples didn’t have time to eat.

Which will you choose?

Which will you choose?

Being more mindful of what we put into our bodies is important. In this fast-paced life, it’s easy to go through a drive-thru and pick something up – but is that something that restores our bodies? It may satisfy the hunger temporarily, but it’s hard on us in the long-run. Our bodies are not only gifts from God, but our tools for ministry, so being mindful of what we eat is important.

Feeding our spiritual-self is also essential for rejuvenation. Attention to our outside life can overpower us with worldly demands and deplete our spiritual strength. During our R, R & R, we might take time, among the mystery and romance novels, to add a book that is spiritually enriching. Or, take on a daily prayer or meditation practice. From this, we may find a quote or mantra we can use as a sort of refrain, the staff in our hand, if you will, to empower us when we head back into the OUTSIDE work.

And the last “R” is that of Re-formation.

Photo by Jody (Iona, Scotland)

Photo by Jody (Iona, Scotland)

Jesus calls us to Re-formation – always inviting us to take it to the next level! When we are rested and rejuvenated, we have the clarity and strength to explore re-forming our mission in life. Discerning “what’s next” is difficult if you’re treading-water. It’s much easier if you’re in the boat – with Jesus – figuring out what you’ll do when you arrive at the next shore.

You see, we are called to keep moving to the next shore of ministry, and it will look different than the last one. Mark’s gospel has Jesus and the disciples crossing back and forth into new territories all the time. That’s what it’s all about. In today’s reading, after the disciples had a little time to rest, there were many in need that came to find them. It says:

As (Jesus) went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

You see, once we’ve rested, rejuvenated and re-formed ourselves, we keep moving forward.

Our newly elected Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, calls it being part of The Jesus Movement! If you haven’t seen his closing sermon to General Convention given earlier this month, I commend it to you. You can read it, but you get a much better sense of his personality if you watch it on Youtube.

He spoke in his sermon about us being the Jesus Movement! In it, He reminds us that:

“God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to change the world, to change it from the nightmare it often can be into the dream that God intends. He came to change the world, and we have been baptized into the Triune God and summoned to be disciples and followers of this Jesus and to participate in God’s work, God’s mission of changing and transforming this world. We are the Jesus Movement now.”

images (3)He goes on to say:

“Some of us are children!

Some of us are young people.

Some of us are young adults, and they’re gonna change the world!

Some of us have got AARP cards. [He said] I do!

And some of us… are Republicans. And some of us are Democrats.

Some are traditionalists and some are progressives.

But if you’ve been baptized into the Triune God, you are a disciple of Jesus, and we are all in the Jesus Movement.”

Photo by Jody

Photo by Jody

Now, I believe in this Jesus Movement, with all my being. I also believe that we have an example of what it takes to maintain this Jesus movement… and part of that is the intentional act of Rest, Rejuvenation, and Re-formation!

Jesus calls on us to do his work, and part of that call is an invitation to rest, eat, and pray. We aren’t able to GO OUT with only a staff and sandals if we aren’t physically, spiritually, and emotionally equipped.

And in OUR willingness to boldly follow this example of Jesus, by taking time to take care of ourselves, I believe we provide an example for others. We will see just how much this strengthens us for our journey. If we do it well, we stay empowered by Jesus, and through it, we are able to be his agents of change in the world!

Photo by Jody (Iona, Scotland)

Photo by Jody (Iona, Scotland)


Link: Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry Sermon from July 3, 2015

Gospel Text:

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mk 6:30-34, 53-56)

I invite your thoughts and insights.

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