Sermon for July 18, 2012 Eighth after Pentecost “Rushing to hear Jesus”
With summer into full swing and the veil of COVID lifting we are seeking even craving a time to rest. This need for rest is well ingrained into our makeup and physic. From Genesis to Revelation rest is a recurring theme and continues even today. With the advent of online inquiry, I discovered that rest is mentioned 275 times in 265 verses. The scope is for mind, body, spirit and soul and from what I can glean (and can vouch for personally) rest is essential for our good well-being.
In the Gospel text today Jesus is aware that both he and the disciples need a rest. The disciples have just returned from a ‘mission trip’ and after the stories and accounts were told the weariness became obvious. So Jesus sent them to rest. The quickest way to find solace was by boat so away they went.
What is interesting is that not everyone rests at the same time. When Jesus and the disciples arrived on the other side of the lake, the people arrived there before them and rest was fleeting. And that leads me ponder what it was about Jesus that people would actively seek him out and spend considerable time and effort doing so.
In a time when many were proclaiming to be the Messiah, when there were many itinerate preachers and many claiming to have the true way…including the various Rabbi’s and of course the Roman Empire, what was it about Jesus.
For me Jesus is all about authentic and heart. He met people where they were, all people; the privileged and outcast, the women and men, the clean and sick, the young and old, the lost, weary and searching. And there was no ‘fake’ in him. The miracles and healing were not for show nor were a publicity stunt, they were the genuine desire to bring wholeness to lives. Physical, mental and spiritual wellness to whomever he encountered.
These same attributes were expected of the disciples as Jesus sent them out to minister. No extra clothes, no extra money, no sacks of lollipops for trinkets for children. Just the simple mission to announce the mission of Jesus and to bring wellness to those who are receptive along the way.
I expect the disciples were anxious and scared. What if we get it wrong? What if it doesn’t work? What if we get beat up? Plenty of what ifs. And when they all returned to Jesus the stories of awe and wonder at what was accomplished. If you could only hear the stories; people healed, relations restored, maladies mended, and each pair of disciples desperate to share their stories, all the while amazed that their original fears were for not. It is not to say that each encounter was picture perfect and they did not encounter harsh words or even abuse. We do know they were excited to tell Jesus and the others of all the successes.
At the end of the stories Jesus knew the disciples need for rest. Rest has always been a key path to restored mind, body, spirit and soul. The disciples expended plenty of all aspects of their energy and rest is now the order of the day. After 18 months of COVID and the world almost stopping in many regards, you would think that we would have found time for rest. But for most, that did not happen. A weariness and lassitude evaded our minds, souls and bodies and we crave rest more now than ever before.
At the same time Jesus and the disciples seek rest, word is spreading that not only Jesus but the disciples too have the capacity to heal, restore and bring to wellness. There is a hunger for this healing, for this possibility for wholehearted living, so much so that Jesus is sought, followed and word spreads quickly as to where he is and the crowds are there wanting to be healed and to hear the message of Jesus.
The attribute I would somehow like to harness, bottle and then dish out again is the excitement of people for Jesus. They craved his teaching, healing and presence. So much so that they would set out on (for them) long journeys just to be part of a large crowd with the chance of seeing Jesus. That would be a delight.
The topic for another day is ‘what have we done to the teaching of Jesus?’ teachings that are meant to set us free, open us to justice and love, and to be welcome to all? I long for and work for the day when the teachings of Jesus again have the eagerness and gentleness to change lives. The Spirit is at work…are we dousing the flames or adding fuel to the Spirit’s changing?