Pause! A Sermon on Mark 6:30-34

I confess to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, that I am, most grievously, a chronic pleaser. I get some weird thrill out of waiting for the last minute to agree to do something only so that I, in some strange way, can rescue someone else. Don’t panic, it’s more common than you’d think.

Regardless, that’s how I ended up being scheduled to preach on this day, this Thursday before the Fourth Sunday of Easter… This Thursday before the commemoration of Mark, comma, Evangelist… This Thursday, the day we commemorate Toyohiko Kagawa, the renewer of society who worked for peace and justice in Japan.

Well anyway, as any aspiring seminary graduate, I read the gospel text. Thanks for this, Mark, comma, Evangelist! Great story. I see where you’re going. But then, as any good aspiring liturgist, I immediately questioned why this specific pericope doesn’t appear by itself in the lectionary year.

To answer that question, of course, as an aspiring biblical scholar, I looked at a biblical parallel.  Well, I searched “biblical parallel mark 6 matthew question mark” in the interweb machine. And that’s where things got worse. See, I was lead to be an aspiring redaction critic: in Matthew Jesus goes away alone, but in Mark Jesus takes his disciples along.

But in both instances, Jesus has just done public ministry and is about to do more public ministry. And in both instances, Jesus takes a little time to sit back, take off his Air Christs, put his feet up, and rest. Great! I’m getting somewhere with the sermon!

So, as an aspiring homiletician, I had devised two approaches to this gospel text. First, doing ministry is hard—and lonely—work, and there isn’t much of a break unless you force yourself to pause. Second, even Jesus reaches 21 days before an end of some foggy outcome, and says “shit, I’m done!”

And that, my fellow sojourners, that is where I paused. And as any aspiring academic would say, I promised myself, “Mark, you need to title your sermon!”

So, I tapped my inner cynic and wondered, should I title this sermon “JC’s guide to self-care ” or “JC’s diagnosis of stage four senioritis”? But unfortunately, I couldn’t decide, until I tapped my inner aspiring exegete, where I found the answer!

Either phrase works! See, there’s an interesting use of a word in today’s gospel reading: ἀναπαύσασθε. Ana-paus-as-the. Ana-pause-as-the! The word only shows up twice in Mark’s gospel, which makes it special enough for my aspiring etymologist to drag me into a lexicon!

Anapausasthe! To cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his or her strength. Or, to give rest, refresh, to give one’s self rest, take rest to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation.

And then I realized that to which only an aspiring Master of Divinity Graduate could fully aspire. Patient expectation. Rest. Refresh. Pause.

Ordained or lay, MDiv or MAPL, PhD or STM, we are ALL called to work for the sake of the world. There is no argument there.

But at the heart of that call is our nature as created beings who need rest and quiet; peace and pause. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus begs us to pause, to cease, to rest, and to be fed. That’s the only way we can get through what we’ve just done. That’s the only way we can get through what lies ahead in, say, 21 days. A little pause with Jesus.

See, we know that the journey ahead is filled with uncertainty. The list of tasks is never-ending. The papers are daunting, and the hour of deadlines draws near. But if we can learn anything from Jesus on this day — if we can learn anything from Mark’s sparing use of anapausasthe, it’s this. Take care of yourself, take care of your people, and God will help you take care of everything else. And, for Christ’s sake, ask for an extension on that damn paper!

Hey — we’re not just reading the gospel of Mark, comma, Evangelist but we’re living in a Mark, comma, Evangelist world and studying at a Mark, comma, Evangelist seminary — where everything else is “euthos” — “immediately!” Take an anapausasthe. Take a pause. And take Christ with you. Amen.

This sermon was preached on April 23, 2015 at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

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