ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH July 19, 2015
Taking Time to Rest
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Life is busy! I would imagine everyone here would agree with that statement. You’d think that with all our new technologies, that life would be much simpler and less chaotic. After all, technology and innovation are supposed to improve our way of life, making things easier and quicker. However, for all our advancements, our lives continue to be busy and hectic.
There are so many activities, events, and other responsibilities, which take up our lives. As a society we seem to be on the go all the time. We can see the results of our busy schedules in the way we eat, and the way we shop. Fast food has become the norm. As a society, we’re too busy to sit down in the morning and make breakfast or even a coffee. Drive-throughs are backed up as commuters and others going to work, line up to get their morning coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Power bars, bagels, and vending machines have replaced lunches as people look for quick bites to eat as they go about their daily routines. When the workday is done, there isn’t time to cook a meal before the kids have to be at a practice, dance recital, or music lesson, so the fast food restaurants are a convenient stop between activities. Even if we do have time, prepackaged foods offer convenience and speed to our food preparation.
The busyness of our lives has also affected the way in which we interact with others. We just don’t seem to have the time to visit. Our society has moved away from face to face encounters, moving more towards video chats on computers, tablets, or phones. Many people text instead of calling, as it’s a quicker way of letting someone know what is going on. Hand written notes and letters are going the way of the dinosaur, as sending off quick e-mails is just as easy, and much faster and cheaper than sending it through Canada Post.
What it comes down to is that life is extremely busy. Regardless of our age, we seem to be occupied, or have something on the go all the time. However, despite our busy lives, we need to remember to take time for ourselves. We need to take time to rest. Deep down we all know this, whether we choose to listen or not is a completely different thing. Our bodies remind us that we can’t go all the time, as we become physically and emotionally tired or exhausted. Even still, many of us try to push through often because we know that there are so many things that have to be done. There are deadlines to meet, places to go, things to do, people to see. Sadly for some of us, it is only when we overdo it and can’t physically or emotionally go on, or someone forces us to stop, that we reluctantly take a moment to rest. However, the great thing about taking a pause is that through rest we regain energy and are able to reflect on what we have done. Through rest, we can become reinvigorated, motivated, and driven to continue. However, most importantly as Christians we need to take time to break and reconnect with God. It is through our times of rest that we renew our relationship with God and become closer to Him.
This week’s passage, speaks directly to our lives as Christians. We like to think that life is more chaotic and hectic than in the past; however, the Scriptures we read this morning tell us that, despite our advances in technology and jam packed schedules, busyness is not a new thing. In Mark 6:31 it says, “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Sound familiar?
This passage begins with the apostles returning to Jesus from their travels, where they were preaching around the area. They come to him like children to their parents after an adventure, excitedly retelling their works and teachings. Seeing the apostles, Jesus recognizes that they are exhausted from their mission so he says to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Jesus identifies that despite their elation and happiness of their successes, they need a break, so he invites them to go away to a secluded place where they can rest. So, this is exactly what they do. They all get into boat to travel to a deserted place where they can be by themselves. It was to be a down time, a time where they could reconnect with Jesus and share their experiences, a time away from the busyness of the world; however it doesn’t turn out to be much of a break at all. In fact, as they boarded the boat, many people who were around the seaside recognized Jesus and his disciples. Word spread quickly that Jesus was on that boat which they could see out on the horizon. As the apostles and Jesus sailed, the people pursued them on foot along the shore, anticipating where the boat would come to land. As they hurried around the seaside, the crowd grew larger and larger. The news of Jesus brought people out of all the towns and villages in the area. By the time Jesus and the disciples arrive on shore, there is a great crowd waiting for them. The crowd brought forth those who were in need, the sick, the lame, and the blind. Seeing the lost and wounded people, Jesus left the boat and went to help them.
So what happened to the time of rest? What happened to the deserted place that Jesus and his apostles were supposed to go to for a break? This is an interesting passage. It seems to contradict itself. On the one hand, we find Jesus telling his tired and weary apostles that they need to take time to rest, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way. Jesus himself exemplifies the need to take time and rest, as we see in Mark 6:45-46, “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.” In those verses, after feeding the five thousand, Jesus says goodbye to the crowd and sends his disciples ahead of him on a boat, while he goes off alone to rest and be with God. However, in this story, Jesus and his apostles never get to that place of rest. They moor their boat, and are immediately surrounded by a large crowd, seeking help and healing. Jesus, doesn’t turn away from the crowd, he doesn’t tell them to go away and come back after a day or two so that he and his disciples could have a rest, no, he has compassion for them and helps them. So are we supposed to rest or not? There are always things to do. There are always people who need help, so how can we take time to rest?
The simple answer is that we are called to do both. We are called to share God’s love in this world, and we are to take time to rest. The key is that our time to rest may differ in length and appearance depending on the situations we find ourselves. It is true that people inundated Jesus and his disciples when they came ashore. We assume that the awaiting crowd negated their time alone in the wilderness, but what about the time they had on the boat? Instead of the wilderness retreat, they had a personal cruise with Jesus! The text doesn’t tell us how long they were on the boat, and we don’t know what they did while traversing on the water, but I think we can safely say that they would have had time to sit and share their experiences. It was a time to reflect on their struggles, their successes, their concerns, and their joys with Jesus while sailing. It was a time for the disciples to reconnect with Jesus. It was a time for them to experience refreshment and to experience God away from the crowds.
Times of rest aren’t about quantity, they’re about quality. Jesus tells us that we need to take time, but he doesn’t stipulate an exact measurement of time. He does however, model that in our busy lives we need to take time to rest, and take time to be with God. It is both important and necessary. God knows that we need time to recharge, but God also recognizes that resting doesn’t always come easy! For some of us, we are always on the go and active in many things, and we enjoy that. For some it is difficult to stop and take a break, while for others slowing things down and stepping aside is much more natural. Either way, we do live in a busy world, where we have many demands on our time; however, despite our tendencies and personalities, we need to be intentional and carve out time to rest. The disciples were sent out and they worked hard in God’s mission, but they returned to Jesus. We too need to make time in our lives to return and connect with and talk to God.
Rest can come in many shapes and forms. It may be found in the form of time each day set aside for prayer; a time dedicated to reading and discerning Scripture; a time of Bible study or small group discussion, listening, singing, or playing uplifting music or songs, quiet meditation, etc. Rest can take the form of worship on Sunday mornings. Spiritual rest is all about taking time to reconnect with God, in whatever method or practice that works best for you. Jesus invites us all to take a time to rest so that we can be recharged and ready to continue with our lives and mission.
Summer, offers us a natural break from our busy schedules. It is during this season, where many activities, meetings, committees, and other commitments we have, take a hiatus. But, this doesn’t mean that we should take a break from our time with God. We should take advantage of this time where life isn’t as busy and hectic to recharge physically and mentally, but also to boost ourselves spiritually. With less to distract us, this is a perfect time to talk to and experience God. It is a great time to get in the habit, if we are not already, or to continue to be intentional in our time to rest, so that when the fall comes and everything starts up again, we will be prepared and in the habit of taking a break with God. My challenge for you this week is to consider one thing that you can do to rest, and try to implement it. Remembering it is not about quantity but quality. The summer season is the peace and calm between spring and fall. It is like the disciples on the boat with Jesus. Let us take this time to connect with God, to talk to God, to take a rest with God, before we find ourselves in the crowds again come the fall, amen.