Sacred Soil


The Jesus-Mandated Vacation
July 19, 2015, 10:15 am
Filed under: Sermons

waterJeremiah 23:1–6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11–22
Mark 6:30–34, 53–56

I can think of few things that would be quite as awesome as a Jesus-mandated vacation. Imagine, a time away in a deserted place. A place that is beautiful and quiet, the water gently lapping against the boat. The breeze is gentle, the sun warm. Not too hot.

I should stop before you all fall asleep…

It has seemed to me lately though, that so many of us are in this place of needing a break. Needing the world to stop for just a moment, so that we can catch our breath. Summer is supposed to be a time of vacation—but there are days when it’s not really seemed that way.

  • Because those of you who are taking care of an ill spouse know, you can’t just step away from their daily needs.
  • Because grief isn’t just going to take a little break.
  • Because the job still requires you show up each day.
  • Because the taxes, the mortgage, they all have to be paid.

In our text today, Jesus says to the disciples, “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” The disciples had just been sent out to the surrounding towns and villages, teaching and healing folks. They had amazing stories to tell—but they too were tired. Exhausted. They needed a break.

Come away to a deserted place. All by yourselves and rest.

We know the desire well.

So, I’m not really into playing games about who has it worse—because, well, who wants to win that one? But, it is fairly impressive to look at what the disciples were up against.

  • The whole region was occupied by Rome, who saw the Israelite people as little more than tax revenue. Workers to be used.
  • The division between the rich and the poor was so great, that with the exception of a very few, folk were lucky to just get by.
  • Poverty was the norm.
  • And If you really wanted to be realistic, even Jesus, the son of God, couldn’t even begin to make a dent in all that need.

It is no wonder that they needed to get away.

But as we read the story, it becomes clear, that this escape is not possible. The rest is short-lived, taking the span only of a short trip in a boat. The crowds discover them, and overwhelm them. The Jesus-mandated vacation is over.

But, as Jesus sees the crowds, he is not calculating how long he’s got to keep this up until the problem is solved. He’s not scheduling his time until he gets to escape again.

No, rather, he comes to us with this wild proposition that the kingdom of God has come near, and he wants as many of us to see it, to know it, to experience it, as possible. So that we might share that joy with others.

Indeed, the people have come because they’ve caught a glimpse of it—a glimpse of the feast to come.

In other words—he is not merely working, he is revealing. Revealing God’s love for all of creation, bringing hope and healing and possibility to a people who had been treated as if they were less than nothing.

You see, Rome was following the playbook used in this and every century—in order to gain power and control, they told the people that they didn’t matter. They led folks to believe that they were worthless, and that their pain, their grief, their callings, were irrelevant. They were led to believe these things didn’t matter. All that mattered was their work, paying the bills—making Rome rich.

But Jesus came with a different message. He came to tell people that they were beloved. That their pain and their grief were held in the arms of God, and that life and possibility was theirs to have—they didn’t need to suck up to Rome to get it.

He came to say that the kingdom of God is breaking in right now. Right here. In this place. All we have to do is see it.

Think of it as a thin curtain. When the curtain is down, it seems as if the powers of Rome will always win. That the task will always be overwhelming. There will always be too much to do. The curtain gives power to hopelessness, apathy. But when the curtain is pulled away—

  • The sun shines brighter
  • Rome is revealed as powerless over our hearts
  • We see that all creation matters
  • And we are compelled, urged, cannot help but, love as God has loved.

The curtain of Rome leads us to believe we are powerless against evil. But Jesus comes to pull that curtain away and reveal that God’s love will always be more powerful.

The pain is not erased—but rather it is now held in the arms of God, in the arms of hope—rather than hopelessness.

And so the disciples go back to work. They heal, they feed, they teach. They pray. Their frenetic pace continues. But this time it is clear, this is not a task to do, but a God to reveal. It is not a hopeless penny dropped into a can, but it is a revealing of God’s love, a transforming of our hearts.

It is a reminder that it is better to live as if the kingdom of God were here now—than to wish for a way to escape. It is better to respond to that which breaks our hearts, than to run away. Better to hold each other in our grief, than to suppress and ignore it. It is better to hear the cries of the poor and respond, than to blame people for their poverty. It is better to live as whole-hearted people of God, than to let the curtain of hopelessness divide and suffocate us.

But the need is real. And it is overwhelming. And there are days where we do need that Jesus-mandated vacation. There are days when we cannot see to pulling back the curtain. These are the days when we need most to hear our fellow members of the body of Christ, we need to hear them remind us that yes:

Yes, your heart is breaking. Life is overwhelming. But do not forget, so is the kingdom of God. The powers of this world have been broken by the love of God, which calls us to love as God has loved. And it’s a love that cannot wait. Indeed, the best way to experience the love of God, is to live it.

May it be so. Amen.

 


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