Proper 11, Year B Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector
Some years after my parents got divorced, my family decided it would be best for my brother to live with my dad, and for me to stay and live with my mom. We still alternated weekends with my parents, but the bulk of our time was spent in different households from middle school on. While I still spent time with my dad and brother, many of my family hours were with my mom and grandmother.
I often think of this configuration of family, my mom, grandmother and I, as a particular layer of my family of origin. The three of us spent countless hours walking outside, visiting botanical gardens, having lunch on our back deck, and perhaps one of my favorites, signing up for whatever Parks and Recreation outings we could do as a family. Whatever it was that we were doing together, there was always a sense of adventure, learning, and a profound sense of compassion for one another.
Like many families we were very busy, and likely overscheduled. But we always made time to get outside. On our many nature based adventures it was inevitable that we would stay out too long for one of us, and the deep sense of being tired would settle in. And by tired, I mean not just the occasional sleepy yawn. I mean the type of tiredness that settles into your entire being. In our family we have two terms to describe levels of being tired to the point of exhaustion. The “sleepy ha-has”, where you are just so tired the mundane, trivial, or even odd things bring on such deep body shaking laughter that it becomes borderline inappropriate and often leaves the tired one gasping for breaths in between bursts of uncontrollable laughter. The other is “cry tired”. Where you are just so tired the tears come and come. They are deep, heaving, and reminiscent of the tears of a tired toddler. I may or may not still experience these moments on occasion.
And I wonder… did the disciples, did Jesus, ever get the “sleepy ha-has” or “cry tireds”? Perhaps Jesus’ sense of urgency, knowing he would meet his end soon, was such a driving force that it allowed him to keep going and pushing through even though, in this story, they had been so busy there was no time to eat. The Gospel of Mark does a good job of conveying that deep sense of urgency.
We are in the midst of a series of deep lessons and powerful miracles. Mark doesn’t waste a minute! We are being given the instructions that help us to try and understand how to follow Jesus, what it means to live of Jesus and not of Rome. Jesus has shared the words from the hillside, what we know now as “the Sermon on the Mount”; the section of scripture where we receive instruction on praying what we call The Lord’s Prayer. And, in the passage before us today, the part that comes between these two sets of versus is the feeding of the crowd… a miracle of abundance.
We are being given clarity of who Jesus is, and who we are called to be as his followers. So, what are we to take away from this today? What are we supposed to invite into our own hearts as we hear this passage of the instruction for rest countered with the continued work of compassion for others?
“Come away and rest a while”. Right now, after all that we have lived this last year plus, I am reminded that the first day of humanity in the creation story is the day of rest. God makes humans and tells them their work, and then the first full day of human existence is the day of rest.
Though, in our modern culture we are trained that success is measured by being busy, having a full calendar, working well beyond the hours of full time work, and trying to have it all.
And because of all of this we have a growing sense of what my and younger generations call FOMO, fear of missing out. These days, it is all the more tempting to fill the hours of our days as the last year has kept us from doing so. But what did we learn in the last year of forced rest? What have we come to realize about the ways our lives were maybe too full and not restful?
For decades now taking rest has become counter cultural. Having boundaries around rest is almost shocking, unheard of, and in many spaces not well received. Jesus seems to know this. He seems to know that we need some time to rest together, to take a break even from the work that Jesus puts before us.
When studying this scripture this week I noticed that many of the commentaries focus on the compassion of Jesus. Of course we should remember the compassion of Jesus and hold it central in the ways in which we follow him. Compassion is indeed something I have seen and felt in this community time and time again. It is something that the people of St. Paul’s do rather well. AND I am so keenly aware that every essay and article I read this week was written before this last year.
As I wrestle with the passage before us today, I truly struggle. What does it mean for us to hear Jesus call the disciples to rest and then have them keep working? Are we too supposed to just keep pushing through no matter what? Are we too supposed to just ignore the ways our holistic beings are crying out for rest, recovery, and restoration? And this is where a big truth rings in my heart. The difference for us in this story…. Is that we are not Jesus. We are not Jesus and as Christians, and especially myself as someone called to ordained ministry, we can forget that.
This is not to say we don’t take compassion and tend to those before us. It is to say however, that we must actually take the rest. We can’t just keep it going all of the time. The work will always be there. There will always be those who need tending to, and for us to keep doing the work Jesus asks of us we must rest. We must rest as individuals and as a community. Of course we hold compassion for those who are seeking love, care, support, community… AND we hold on to the direction to rest for a while. Yes, we will strive to be compassionate and let our actions be guided by the compassion of Jesus. AND my hope is that we do so sustainably. That we actually take the time to eat, to rest, to cherish the sabbath that was made for us.
How will you, how will we do this? It feels so easy to rush back to how things were before the pandemic. The busy days followed by busy evenings and weekends. The feeling that I barely even have time to simply be quiet and still in our home. For me lately, mindful breathing as helped to keep the “sleepy ha-has” and “cry tireds” at bay. Though, I know that I will need more than that to keep holding the compassion of Jesus in my heart. So, as we look at our full calendars, visits with those we have been missing, how will you take these words of Jesus, who has compassion for each one of us, and live them right now? “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”