9th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11, Year B)
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
It was a blisteringly hot day in Austin when I sat down beside Carlos, who had found a shady spot under a tree in a local park. It has been hard to keep up with these interviews during my summer of travel, and my grand plans to organize pairs of people in different cities has met roadblock after roadblock. But, on this particular afternoon, I just decided to ask one of the local residents who made the public park their daytime residence if he had any interest in talking with me about one of the Gospel lessons. I was grateful when he nodded and gave me a smiling “yes.”
We didn’t know each other at all, so I introduced myself as a member of this group of Episcopalians gathering for General Convention. Carlos introduced himself as someone who “made his way around” various parts of Texas. He chuckled when I told him I was from Buffalo and couldn’t survive long in the southern heat: “You get used to it!” he said with a grin.
I read the Gospel lesson to Carlos. “I never thought of Jesus as resting” he said “I always think of doing.”
It is interesting how many times Jesus pulls away…or at least tries to. For all of those stories of healing, teaching, and preaching there are plentiful moments where Jesus acknowledges a need for rest.
“I’m hoping to rest soon” I told him. “I’m here working, and then when I go home I have papers to write for seminary. I want to find some time for rest before it’s time for me to teach again in the Fall.”
“Rest is hard” said Carlos. “You have to know where its safe to rest, and sometimes its not safe at all.”
I had to think about that. To me…a busy, middle-class white woman…rest is a luxury. My own thoughts on rest are a longing to carve out a space for something indulgent. To Carlos, it was finding a space of safety to sit or lie down. Rest was not a luxury, nor was it a guarantee. It was a primary objective of each day’s activities.
I shared with Carlos about our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s “The Way of Love.” I had an extra handout in my bag, so I gave it to him along with a metal token that came from our Episcopal Evangelism booth in the exhibit hall and some cold water and wrapped snacks I had in my bag. It wasn’t much, I know. But it was what I had with me to share. I re-read the Gospel passage about Jesus’ disciples: “and they had no leisure even to eat,” I read.
“Probably no money, either” said Carlos. “No place to stay, no food, no money.”
“That’s probably true” I said. “I actually think you might know more about what the disciples felt like than most of us do.”
Carlos chucked. “Maybe!”
While Carlos wasn’t a man of many words, he helped me to see something in this passage that I hadn’t before. In all their moving, healing, and teaching the disciples were worn out. They wanted a break and Jesus opened the door to what they needed. And yet, everywhere they turned, people arrived before them seeking knowledge and healing, desiring a shepherd to draw them toward safety.
I don’t know what it is like to have to worry about finding a shady place on a hot day because I have no cool place to call home. I can daydream of going apart to places of rest and stilling my soul before God, knowing I will return to the comfort of my own home. But, what kind of faith does it take to make shelter where its provided on this earth, and to make room for God’s presence there?
I can’t help but reflect this week that our social location has a lot to do with how we walk the Way of Love. Maybe we begin with “Rest” or “Go” or “Pray” or “Bless.” Jesus invites us in, whether we are in need of healing or rest or shepherding. And when we dare to draw near, to encounter a companion on the journey whose starting place is so different from our own, it makes the path more poignant.
It makes me realize that we walk the Path of Love best by walking together, even when we crave that quiet place alone. The people we need will find us, and we will encounter God in every person that we meet.
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