Saturday, July 21, 2018

9 Pentecost Yr B Proper 11 July 22 2018

9 Pentecost Yr B Proper 11 July 22 2018 Audio

Jesus said, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” And so they went.

I had the great gift of sabbatical a few years ago. I took three months away from the congregation and did some traveling. The first couple of weeks Rick and I, and Tom and Amanda, who were newly married, and Willie, who was newly graduated from college, went to Norway. We saw family, we saw spectacular fjords and mountains, and we stayed in some mighty fine places. The kids flew home, and Rick and I were in London, and then we traveled through Europe ending in Paris. We were with a group of people who turned into friends, and we saw beautiful sights, ancient ruins, and ate really well. Rick flew home from Paris, and I had a month, by myself. The first two months were highly planned, and rightly so when you want to make sure you do and see some very particular things. But I purposefully did not plan out my month by myself. I went where the Spirit led. So the deserted place for me was the Scottish Island called Iona. Iona is a thin place, it is a place where the land and the sky meet. It is a place where prayer has been placed throughout time. It is a place where sacred and secular dance. And it is a place where there are not many people, mostly sheep.

Have you been to a deserted place? It doesn’t have to be far away. In fact, I believe we are called to deserted places that are not far from home. Sometimes it is in the deserted place, the quiet place, where we may listen and know we are God’ beloved.

As you well know by now, Mark doesn’t waste any time getting down to business about Jesus, the Son of God, those are his very first words. Jesus is then baptized by John in the Jordan, and we hear “You are my beloved Son, I am well pleased.” And in an instant, Jesus is in the wilderness. I believe that event, and this excursion to the deserted place, are related. Between these two desert place stories, Jesus calls the disciples and sets about healing and teaching. Jesus calls out unclean spirits, Jesus heals a paralytic, a woman who was bleeding, a man with a withered hand, and a little girl. Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. Jesus feeds five thousand with five fish and two loaves of bread, and Jesus walks on water. The disciples are in all of this with Jesus, and they need to rest.  

We don’t hear the feeding story, with five fish and two loaves of bread, nor do we hear the walking on water story this morning, but we know they are there. After the feeding story, Jesus goes off by himself to pray. And when evening came, Jesus saw that the disciples were in trouble on the water, and goes out to help them. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost and they were terrified. That’s also what is left out of what we hear this morning, and we pick it up again when they all get to the other side of the lake. At this point people recognized Jesus, and wanted to touch Jesus, or at least the fringe of the cloak, and be healed. Remember the woman who was bleeding, she reached out her hand to touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak and was healed.

This is a good news, bad news story. People were recognizing Jesus, they knew what Jesus could do, and what Jesus could do for them. The trouble it seems is that Jesus was beginning to feel closed in, torn apart, mobbed. Expectations of Jesus were rising, this man could heal, and so many needed to be healed. The disciples were beginning to feel afraid of what might happen. Just like at the very beginning, Jesus goes to a deserted place, a lonely place, but this time, Jesus invites the disciples to come.

I wonder if you’ve ever experienced what Jesus and the disciples might have been experiencing? Sometimes I feel like we live in a cacophony of noise, motion, input. With the world at our fingertips, we are bombarded with news and information from all over the world. It’s not all a bad thing, we create a community of prayer when we see the images of the young boys stuck in a cave and rescued from that danger. Or when we witness an explosion in Sun Prairie, and we can join in the prayers for all those people. Or when we see homes destroyed by tornadoes and storms and our prayers go to them. All of this information gives us opportunities to contribute our money when we are so moved.

But we also hear and see news and information that engenders fear and anxiety. The Mayhem guy has us convinced that at every occasion we need to be fearful of what will go wrong. Drug companies have us convinced that we’ll die if we don’t take their drugs, forgetting about the fact that we’ll die anyway. And your nightly news always leads with the disease, or the product, or the event that we must be scared of today.

But this Good News from Mark tells us a very different story. Jesus said, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” And so they went. Jesus makes this very same invitation to us. Come away to a deserted place. And yet, the deserted places are often the places we avoid and yet know somewhere deep down they are necessary places, truthful places. They are not just “time to get away” places. They are not just “we all need a break” places. They force us to recognize what’s necessary. What’s absolutely needed. And who will truly be there when everyone else walks away. And none of this is what we see and hear on our televisions and in our news today.

When I was away, on my own in Canterbury, Durham, Edinburgh, Iona, I listened. I found quiet places, sometimes deserted places, thin places, in the catacombs and the cathedrals, in the countryside and the seaside. And what spoke most loudly to me in the quiet, was this, “In the end only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

And so Jesus takes the disciples to a deserted place not just for a well-deserved respite, but to teach them what was learned in the wilderness -- and what will be essential for them to remember when it comes to their role in bringing about the Kingdom of God. Deserted places change our perspective. In the quiet places we have a chance to meet Jesus again. In the quiet places we have a chance to hear Jesus’ claim on our lives and our hearts. We are followers of Jesus. We are invited into the quiet places with Jesus so that we may hear Jesus’ call to us. Jesus says to us, you are my beloved, you are my beloved, and together we may build this Kingdom of God. Amen.

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