Today’s Gospel Reading from Mark should give us all pause. While we may talk about it a lot, self care in not something that we do well. The reading shows clearly how hard it was for Jesus and the disciples to get away from people who “wanted something.” If those putting together the Lectionary had not dropped a chunk in the middle of this week’s reading, this would have been even clearer. Anytime you note in the bulletin that there are gaps in the verses used in the reading you should always ask yourself why this is so, and then read the entire passage to seek the answer. What we miss is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Oh, and Jesus walking on water as well and Peter doing a swan dive when he lost his faith while skimming his feet across the lake; and a time where Jesus said “enough already and went away to pray.” Big gap in the story and it isn’t necessarily helpful in our understanding. When all we hear is a few verses of Scripture on Sunday, we can hardly say that we understand Scripture. This is just to whet your appetite so that you will embark on a much more encompassing study of the Bible.
But I’m headed off course here, so let’s get back to the main point. Jesus modeled for the disciples that there had to be give and take to ministry and in fact to life. Now I’m taking a little liberty here, but given that this reading pops up on the day I head out of holidays, I’m not going to miss the opportunity.
Clergy in general, and myself in specific, are not very good at following what Jesus says in this matter. We tend to try to be spiritual super people, all things to all who ask. Clearly, this is a flawed path. In early days in ministry I never really left when I was on vacation. I felt I needed to be there for the people I served. A little egotistical is what is was. It’s Jesus that is needed, not Keith. If fact if I don’t take time away, if I don’t find a spiritual sanctuary that will recharge my introverted batteries, I will be no good to anyone.
This passage shows that Jesus struggled with this as well. When people showed up, tagged along, or seemingly materialized moments after Jesus arrived on scene, He often just got to it and did the ministry. But as I noted above, he is Jesus – you and I are not.
This has a much wider implication for all our lives. I’ve preached many sermons in my life suggesting that the idea of Sabbath wasn’t about God’s needs, but God’s understanding of what humans need. In a world of exploding technology and a mentality that the world needs to careen at break neck speed 24/7; we all need to learn to slow down, take a break. It’s not an option. So I invite you to do this. Go home and spend some time in thought and prayer about this. Do an inventory of how often you actually take time away, tell the pressure of the day to take a hike, I’m going for a glass of wine and a good book and when I’m good and relaxed, I might come back! How often do you put work before your family, your health. How much are you motivated to get more: money, things, vacations, whatever? What would it look like if you took more time for you, and gave less time to the “rat race.” As I mentioned, part of the verses that were skipped over in this reading contained the story of Jesus walking on water. That means we would also hear of Peter getting out of the boat haltingly and then when we saw that he could do it, prancing along. Maybe he was thinking about how everyone would admire him because he could walk on water? Maybe he was thinking this was going to move him up the social ladder, maybe even impress the opposite sex? Maybe he was dreaming about all the benefits that would come his way. And that is the point he sank like a stone!
Rev. Keith Nethery