Grace to you and peace, from God our Shepherd and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
For several months now, we’ve been reading Mark’s gospel. From the very beginning of Mark’s story, Jesus has been busy. Healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out demons — you name it.
But if you’ve really been paying attention for the last three-quarters of the liturgical year (which I know you all have been doing…), you’ll notice something curious about today’s passage.
The apostles return to Jesus after doing a bunch of great stuff, and he tells them to take a break. Mark goes so far as to tell us they didn’t even have time to eat — but now, right now, right here, is the moment to rest. Imagine that. In the world that Mark is describing, there isn’t even time to eat.
Now, as tested this morning on my drive to St Mark, I can consume a ClifBar in about four-and-a-half minutes. So, I can sympathize with Jesus’ followers. I mean, they were so busy, they didn’t even have time to swing by a Kosher drive-thru between preaching gigs.
But no! Rest! Jesus tells them to rest! Hallelujah! Then, of course, matters get worse.
The crowds, drunk on this healing, feeding, casting-out, proclamation thing, have gone ahead of Jesus. Mark tells us that the “whole region” ran to Jesus and his exhausted band of friends. And Jesus, the healing, feeding, casting-out, messianic-son-of-God that he is, goes and does, well, you name it.
So let me get this right, Jesus. First you tell us to find some time to be away from the crowds, to relax a bit and, you know, recharge our batteries. Then, you want us to keep doing what we’ve been doing all along: healing, feeding, casting-out — you name it. Can you just make up your mind already?
I think this strange dichotomy begs a question — what, exactly, does “rest” look like as a follower of Jesus? What does “rest” look like in Mark’s world. What does “rest” look like in our world?
I don’t know about you, but I recognize Mark’s world. I know what it’s like to be rushed at by a crowd. To have a boss or a coworker, a spouse or a child, a sports team or a sitcom, all demanding my attention.
I know what it’s like to work a long day without making a dent in my to-do list. I know what it’s like to hear “Honey, can you come here a second?” the second I sit down and put my feet up. I know what it’s like to not even have time to swing by the Kosher drive-thru.
But to be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s only the work we have to do for ourselves. What about all the other work that needs to be done?
What about fighting hunger and homelessness in Trenton? What about ending gun violence in Philly? What about fighting to raise the minimum wage nationwide? What about shouting “Black Lives Matter” in front of a police station?
Still just the tip of the iceberg.
The truth is, Mark’s world saw the same
shit, the same kind of privilege, the same kind of injustice that we see today. And it’s right there, smack in the middle of Mark’s world — in the middle of our world — that Jesus says, “come to me, rest a while.” It’s here that Jesus says, “take and eat; this is my body.”
Jesus knows how ridiculous it is to expect a break when there’s so much to be done. He knows how hard it is to do God’s work in this world. He knows what it is to be rushed at, to be targeted in a crowd, to be unjustly executed while proclaiming the truth.
But wait a minute. Maybe that’s exactly where we find this rest. Yeah, we’re on to something; that must be where we find our strength for this journey. In that holy meal where we touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak.
In that holy meal, we are made one through those few crumbs of bread and drops of wine. Then we’re sent back out into Mark’s world to touch the lives of others: to heal the sick, feed the hungry, cast out demons — you name it.
So, this is our rest. Here, where we eat righteousness. Here, where we drink compassion.
And I guess that means we’re on our way back out into Mark’s world. But we don’t go alone.
As long as there are sick, we are all sick. As long as there are hungry, we are all hungry. As long as there are demons, we all have demons. As long as there is work to be done, we all must work.
This is exhausting work. This is God’s work. Are you ready? Amen.
This sermon was preached at St Mark Lutheran Church in Hamilton NJ on July 19, 2015. Image “DSC06562” is copyright (c) 2015 Light Brigading and made available under license Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic.