7/19/2015 Eighth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Before I entered seminary, I worked a 9-5 job in Hartford. I was working in an accounting firm when the IBM Mag Card word processor entered the marketplace. When I left for seminary, personal computers were in their infancy, with limited memory and big floppy disks. Microsoft hadn’t developed the Windows software yet, and Apple wasn’t the “I” company that we know it to be today. Programs were written in Basic or DOS or some other now antiquated language. I entered the seminary with a state-of-the-art typewriter with correction tape and a one-line memory. When I left seminary, I upgraded to a word processor, and it wasn’t until that machine began to breakdown that I purchased by first computer.
Although I bought the computer for some pretty practical reasons, I was like a kid who just got a new toy. Whenever I would go into a store that sold programs, I felt like I was in a candy shop. Temptation abounded. Yet, at the same time, there was something disturbing about owning a computer. For, I found that I was ignoring my family and friends as I worked both day and night. My workaholic tendency had spilled over into my free time as I found that there was so much that I wanted to do and there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Thanks to being hooked on things like notebooks, smart phones and now little devices like I-watches, we are connected 24/7. This means that more and more people are finding themselves in the same boat that I was in when I purchased my first computer. They are finding out that if you are always connected, then you never fully get away from work. Whether you are a mom, a teacher, a lawyer, a brick layer, it doesn’t matter. For, if all time is potentially work time, then no time is really protected for personal rest and renewal.
What is potentially lost in this all work/no play culture is a balanced life, the kind of life that God intends for us and for all people, a life in which there is a time for work and a time for play, a time for doing and a time for just being, a time of action and a time of rest, a time for family obligations and a time for prayer, a time to connect to the world and time to connect to God.
In the sixth chapter of Mark, we get a vision of this balance as we look at a few days in the life of Jesus. It begins with the disciples returning to Jesus after completing their assignment of going to neighboring villages to preach and heal and cast out demons. When they return, Jesus leads them into the wilderness for a time of rest. But, before long, the crowds follow them and Jesus ends up feeding 5,000. After supper, Jesus sends the disciples and the crowds away and goes into the mountains alone to rest and pray. The next day, Jesus is out teaching and healing once again.
Jesus makes it a regular habit to leave his responsibilities behind, to turn off all those voices clamoring for his attention, for even the Son of God needs a balanced life. In order to be sustained in his ministry, he needs time for himself and a time to communion with God and to rest in God’s grace.
Every time is purposeful for every area of life is under the lordship of Christ. If God calls for a Sabbath rhythm in human life, then we need to take it seriously. If Jesus invites us to come away to a lonely place with him, we would do well to accept that invitation. We would do well to rest with him so he can refresh and renew us for the work which lies ahead. That might provide a nice change of pace for those of us who claim to believe that we are saved by grace through faith and yet live like we expect to be saved by our hard work.
Our hard work will not save us or make everything right with the world. For, you and I are not God. The weight of the world is on God’s shoulders not ours. The world will not fall apart if we turn everything off and take some time away from obligation in order to spend some quiet time with God. After all God can handle the salvation of the world without us. If we don’t take regular intervals of rest in the Lord, we can lose sight of this and lose sight of our true identity as redeemed and loved children of God.
If we believe that we were put here on earth in order to make money, to produce, to contribute to the economy, then our value depends on how hard we work. If we are here to meet some else’s expectations of us, to be the perfect parent, the perfect spouse, the perfect employee or employer, then our value depends on how hard we work, how much we accomplish and the flawlessness of our actions. Sure, God has gifted us and expects us to do the very best with the talents we have been given, but God save us from being so immersed in what we do that work becomes the sole purpose of life!
There is a better way – the balanced life that God would have us live as his children in Christ. In a balanced life our worth has nothing whatsoever to do with how much we accomplish or how hard we work. Our worth is found in Jesus Christ who proclaims us priceless as he spreads out his arms on the cross for us. We have an identity, a value, in him. We are priceless even when we are less than perfect and even when we are not working at all.
Without regular time set apart from the demands of life and regular time set apart for conversation with God, we are in danger of losing this perspective. Only through unhurried conversations with God, holy daydreaming and playful imagining, will we become the best that God has created us to be. There needs to be a time for work and a time for rest, a time to be connected to the world and a time to disconnect in order to reconnect with the God of our salvation.
There is a legend about St. John that says it best. The legend finds St. John, in his old age, playing some silly children’s games with his disciples. The leaders at Ephesus are scandalized that someone who had actually traveled with Jesus would waste his time in such foolishness. To answer their charges, John sends for a bow and arrow. He chooses a strong man from the group to fit the arrow in the string and draw the bow. “Now hold it like that,” he says. After a few moments, John asks, “What would happen to the bow if you keep it drawn tightly?” Someone answers him, “Soon the tension will warp the bow or break it.” “Exactly!” exclaims John. “And so it is with the human spirit if it has no rest. In the end we will either warp or break.”
Heaven forbid it! May that not be so with us! But, may we lead the balanced life that God intends for us. May we take the time to disconnect from work and family obligations and all the other stuff that fills up our days, in order connect to the Lord, to rest in him, to be renewed and refreshed and strengthened for the days ahead. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.