Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Sometimes, life gets hectic.
There are children to care for. You have a job or maybe two. A spouse who needs your attention. Sports games, piano lessons, and doctor appointments to get your children to. Meals to cook, and homework to help with. Friends and family who need your time or help or advice. Volunteer work to do for the school or church or other organizations. Bills to pay. And probably many other things that occupy your time.
For some of you, especially those who are caregivers to someone who is unable to care for themselves, life seems to stay at that hectic pace. In addition to the incredible amount of demands most people have, you also have additional demands that come with taking care a person with special needs. There are more tasks, more problems, more worries, and a lot more demands on your time.
There is always one more thing to do. There is always one more person demanding our time. And so we keep trying to meet these demands. Many of us seem to think it is selfish to say “I can’t help you right now” when we’re tired and rundown. We see it wrong to put ourselves ahead of others. But, we’re not alone in being met with these constant demands. We’re not alone in trying to meet all these demands.
This seems to have been the case with Jesus’ disciples as well. Throughout the book of Mark, we are constantly seeing them bombarded with one more immediate need, one more task that has to be done, one more person who needs to be healed, one more crowd that needs to be taught and guided. In our Gospel reading today, we hear Jesus’ response to this hectic pace. When the disciples tell Jesus all they have done and taught, Jesus tells them “Come away to a deserted place, all by yourselves, and rest awhile.”
Rest. It’s a nice concept, isn’t it? Wouldn’t each of us at some point love for someone to come up to us and just say “Go be by yourself. Go rest.”? This is exactly what Jesus is telling us. Yes, it is important to provide care to loved ones. It is important to do all those menial household chores, and to go to work, and help our Church. And it is especially important to help those in need. But it is equally important that we take time to rest – that we take the time to rejuvenate ourselves.
We all need rest. We need physical rest. Our bodies need a break from the constant running. Without that break, we get run down and sick. We need to rest emotionally and intellectually, otherwise we find ourselves spent, unable to adequately care for others. Unable to make wise, rational decisions. And we need to rest in Christ – we need this rest time to grow closer to God, to revive our spiritual selves.
Jesus recognizes this need in each of us. And he calls us to rest. In our Psalm this morning, we’re told God makes us lie down. He leads us to drink. He restores our souls. This restoration is done through our periods of rest.
Some of you may be sitting here thinking “Thanks. Sounds great. I wish I could rest… but…” And you probably have a long list of valid reasons for why you can’t get that rest. Or even if you do find time, you get disturbed. You finally get a chance for a break, but then a child gets sick, or a friend calls in need, or your spouse needs your help. There are still demands. Unfortunately, just because we take time to rest, does not mean the demands disappear.
This, too, was the case with the disciples. Just when they leave to go get their needed rest, we find the crowd hurrying to get to their destination ahead of the disciples, needing attention. Needing to be healed. Needing to be guided and taught. We don’t hear in our Gospel lesson today if the disciples ever got that chance to rest, but most likely they finally did. They would had to. None of us can keep up the hectic pace. And none of us are asked to do so.
Despite the fact that Jesus had just told his disciples to rest, when he sees the crowds interfering with that rest time, he does not turn them away. Instead, Jesus had compassion for all the people. “They were like sheep without a shepherd.”
The image of Jesus being a shepherd is one that is used quite often throughout scripture. But in this verse, when I close my eyes and picture sheep without a shepherd, I see sheep scattered around everywhere, some lost from the group, some just wandering around on their own, tending to their own cares and worries.
Perhaps some of you have felt like this – or are feeling like this right now. When the demands get so great, do you ever feel alone?
Feel like you are without a shepherd?
Without someone to guide you or help you?
Feel like all you’re doing is wandering around from one worry to the next on your own?
This is not how any of us should feel, but I’m almost certain that some of you have felt that way. Especially those of you who are caregivers for someone with health problems. Sometimes you feel alone. As if you are just wandering from one worry or problem to the next one. But, even in those times when it seems this way, God does not leave us without help, without a solution, without hope.
In our text from Jeremiah this morning, we heard a story where shepherds weren’t doing their duty, and the sheep were scattered. God stated “Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock… and I will bring them back to their fold… I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing.”
This is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus – the new king whom will be shepherd over all of us. It speaks of a gathered flock, who, under the care of this shepherd, will not need to fear, or be dismayed, or wander alone. It speaks of us – of each of us gathered here today, gathered in Christ, gathered together to restore our souls through worship.
When life is moving at that hectic pace, it’s easy to let Church become just one more thing on our to-do list. It’s important for us, then, to realize that worship is actually the best rest for us. While sleep helps our bodies heal from the stresses of life, worship allows us to heal spiritually and emotionally.
Through singing hymns; through the prayers, both spoken and silent; through listening to the Word of God; and especially through receiving the body and blood of Christ – our souls are restored. They have that chance for healing rest.
We’re assured of Christ’s presence in our lives, even through the tough times. We’re assured of our forgiveness through the death and resurrection of our Lord. We’re assured that we are beloved children of God – we are His gathered flock.
Worship also reminds each of us that as a gathered flock – as the Church - we also have responsibilities towards one another. We have the opportunity to reach out to one another. We have the responsibility to help ensure we each get the rest that is needed. We have the opportunity to say “Let me take on your burdens for a while so you can rest. So you can rest in all ways needed – sleep, prayer, time with our Shepherd.”
Additionally, the one needing the rest has been called through our Gospel today, through the words of Christ, “Come away to a deserted place, all by yourself, and rest awhile.” God is giving you permission to give yourself a break. He is telling you that you need to also take care of yourself. And you are being given permission to give your burdens to Christ, through the loving hands of another of his flock, so you can rest awhile. So you can rest in our Shepherd’s care, so God can strengthen and restore you – body, mind and spirt.
And now, may the Word of the Lord which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in true faith.