30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He 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. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As 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.
53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And 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. (NRSV)
|Trommel und Trommelstock - Köln Marathon 2017 by Marco Verch on Flickr. CC BY 2.0|
At Lutherlyn, we played the game Two Truths and a Lie. I’m going to give you three statements, and I’m going to poll you on which one isn’t true:
1. A three-year-old recently said our Sunday worship service is fun.
2. A mother with no family ties to any of our congregations drove her daughter thirty miles to our Vacation Bible School, because she loves it so much.
3. A woman gave $1,000 to our church because of her fond memories of growing up here in the 1980’s.
Which one of these is isn’t true?
Well, all three are true—because I can’t lie in church!
The amazing thing is that there are tons of great stories just like these about what Jesus is doing in people’s lives through our church. The only problem is that we don’t often share these stories. Then, we miss out on the hope and joy Jesus is creating right in our midst.
Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ disciples sharing with him and one another all that they had done and taught when Jesus sent them out two by two into the surrounding towns and villages.
Afterwards, Jesus invites them away to a deserted place so that they can rest—because thus far, they hadn’t had any time to eat.
But it wasn’t long before a huge crowd began waiting for Jesus—and he has great compassion for them, because they are as sheep without a shepherd. They come from all over, bringing the sick on mats.
And once again, Jesus teaches, and Jesus heals.
What strikes me is that there were surely enough sick people around to keep Jesus and his disciples busy 24/7. It would seem appropriate, then, for Jesus to press forward with this work until there wasn’t anyone left to heal. It would seem inappropriate, foolish, and even selfish for Jesus to go away, and then spend precious time teaching and chatting.
Can you imagine walking into a store only to be told by the person behind the counter, “I’m on break!” or “my shift’s over;” or even stranger than that, “I’m reading my bible right now, and you’ll have to wait”?
This sequence of events highlights just how out of sync Jesus is with the rhythms of our modern-day world.
For starters, rest is for the weak. Functioning without rest is a badge of great honor.
Furthermore, time is precious—and you’re always going to want something to show for it!
You’ve got to stay on top of your to-do list! There’s meals to cook; grass to cut; an inexhaustible supply of dirty laundry…. The kids need to be taxied from here to there, so that be well-rounded and qualify for college scholarships. An aging parent is relying on you to stay in their own home and out of the nursing home. Deadlines at work are approaching and the boss is on your case. Your promotion and pay raise are on the line.
And then there’s all the vacations you want to take; trendy restaurants to eat in; the big games you don’t want to miss.
“Busy” isn’t a big enough word to describe how we live. In reality, we are religious in our pursuit of what matters most to us. And still, we wonder why we feel so empty; so frustrated; so bored even. We wonder why we’re not happy.
The problem with running on a hamster wheel is that sooner or later, you’re going to realize you’re not a hamster! God did not create you to prove to yourself and everyone else how successful you are as an employee, parent, and child; nor did God create you for the maximum enjoyment of all the stuff our materialistic and image-obsessed society has to offer. The life God intends for you is teaching (and learning), serving, telling, and resting.
When Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion on them and began to teach them many things. They were sick, broken, rejected, and poor—and they needed to hear a word of assurance from God. Even more than literal bread they need the heavenly bread that is the Gospel; the truth of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Those whom the world rejected needed to hear that God loves them unconditionally.
Jesus does the same for you. You experience this as Sunday worship; bible study; prayer and private devotion.
Once Jesus taught the people, he then served them. He ministered among them. You who are fed with God’s Word compelled by it to serve. Your eyes are open to the cries of God’s children. Your heart is encouraged to love. You see God’s love in action when you minister among those in need—and when others minister to you.
As you see God’s power at work, you are going to tell others about it! God’s mighty acts can’t be kept secret. The discouragement and frustration we experience all too often turns to hope and eagerness as we talk about what God has been up to—and give thanks.
Then finally, you are invited to go away with Jesus and rest. You must stop and let Jesus do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Your fed and nourished with Word and Sacrament—and the rhythm of discipleship.
If this does not describe your existence, you’re malfunctioning! The church is malfunctioning! Anxiety, frustration, and emptiness are signs that death is at work in you. But it’s not up to you to get yourself out! Jesus has compassion for you—and he comes to break the vicious cycle to lead you into the life that is really life.
As we look to our future as a congregation, as you look ahead to your day or your week, there must be teaching, serving, telling, and resting. This is the rhythm of discipleship. This is the liturgy of life. This is the life of a sheep in Christ’s sheepfold. This is the life you are meant to live.