“Come Away and Rest”
We live in a busy, noisy world. Busy is the description of the day and noisy is the environment in which we live. Our schedules are tight – our diaries committed – our ears are full of radios, TVs, iPods, music streaming, music downloads, YouTube, maybe even CDs and tapes and when the songs stop, our ears pick up voices, ours and others, talking about achievements or failures, hopes and dreams, fears and worries. This is the norm today and it is socially reinforced time and time again. Busy is good even though we might sigh or complain that we are busy. We keep talking because work needs to be done or just to make sure those around us notice our efforts. To say that we are not busy would not build a good impression these days. To create silence around us would be seen to be strange. As the world seems to spin faster, we can wonder how we might get off the merry-go-round or even slow it down a little, but we usually just pick up the pace instead. Jesus said simply, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ (Mark 6:31 ESV).
The disciples had come back from preaching and healing and casting out demons and ‘reported in’ to Jesus. But it seems there’s a crowd there (perhaps they followed the disciples) and now there’s so much to do that they don’t even have time for takeaway. We acknowledge that God’s kingdom work is important so what Jesus does here is interesting. Surely Jesus wants all people to be saved – but at this point in time he is focused on the disciples and says to them ‘come away and rest’.
Beauty! What image do you have here? 13 banana chairs by the resort pool, sunglasses, and margaritas? Maybe it’s cards for some, sleeping for others, while Peter jots a quick letter to his wife and James and John email their father? Rest for us is associated strongly with no-work, no-busy, often silence or at least non-routine music, time for us to get off the treadmill and do what we want for awhile.
So when the crowds beat Jesus and the disciples to the other side of the lake – how do you think they would have felt? Annoyed, disappointed, frustrated – ‘oh well, there goes the rest – back to work’?
We have no account of anything like that – what we do have seems puzzling
– When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34 ESV)
Jesus called his disciples out of their busy-ness (even though it was kingdom work) and into the rest he had prepared for them and he included the crowd in the same rest. You see, we think of rest as doing our own thing in the time we have, almost the opposite of work – and we miss the link in the Bible – going back to the 7th day of creation – in which God rested (surely he wasn’t exhausted?!) and he wasn’t just doing his own thing – but blessing and sanctifying the day and his creation – so that they receive and know of God’s goodness (not because God needed to share it but because that is how we are fulfilled) – living with God, knowing he is good, trusting him because he is trustworthy. God always works – this rest is his way of blessing and making holy. Jesus continued this work by teaching his disciples and the crowd – giving them God’s Word – speaking it to them and over them – and they would have been refreshed, revitalised, recharged – all because they rested with Jesus.
Nothing really has changed from that time to this – except that Jesus has ascended – so he can be physically present everywhere – and he is still saying ‘come away and rest’. Our busy lives don’t give us brownie points with him – our noise, whatever it is, doesn’t get us more attention – he loves us from the beginning – suffered and died for us precisely so that we can be in a relationship with him for the barrier of sin no longer condemns us and death no longer eternally separates us – and he comes and blesses us.
Through faith we know ourselves to be saints – holy ones – washed in Holy Baptism, guided and encouraged and challenged by the Holy Bible, and feed in Holy Communion – so that we might live as a person who is ‘in Christ’.
Through our experience, we know that we’re self centred, prideful, lazy who fear that others won’t think well of us and fear silence because of what we might see about ourselves. In Lutheran terminology, we’re saints and sinners in one person – but this one person is still blessed for Jesus says ‘Come away and rest’.
Each week this call comes. God is working, we are resting. God calls us in the Invocation and brings us out of the world and into his presence. God forgives our sins, cleans and unshackles us. God speaks to us – each of us – a
living word through the readings and sermons. God listens and guides our prayers and then acts on them. God feeds us body and soul as we receive the body and blood of Jesus. And then God sends us back into our world of schedules, to-do lists, meetings, noise, commitments, pressures with his blessing – I am with you always.
Each day this call ‘Come away and rest’ comes to us as the worship service echoes in our lives. We pray the Lord’s Prayer each day. We can reread the readings for the day or follow another lectionary (set of readings) – not as just another thing to do mechanically like brushing one’s teeth (though the discipline of regular activity is good to emulate) – but as an opportunity to rest. Whether it is called quiet time, devotion, meditation is not important but in the busy-ness and noise of life, God still calls us to ‘come away and rest’. Reading God’s Word, meditating on the catechism, recalling God’s messages and then spending time in silence – a scary thought at times – allows us to hear how God’s Word speaks into our world – our relationships, hopes, dreams, specific situations. It is personal and quite specific – God’s Word addresses us in our contexts. I think one of the reasons Christians, at times, struggle with a daily time of meditation and prayer is not because God doesn’t change our lives but because we want the magic wand version of change and God seems to point us to repentance, humility, maybe even pain as the path of change.
Resting affronts our pride and desire to work our way through life. Silence is unpredictable. The Old Adam or Old Eve are still seduced by the serpent’s promise – you will not die – your eyes will be opened – you will know good and evil – you will be like God. So worship for some is a waste of time, devotions are delusions, it is better to be practical doing good then spiritual nonsense. Or worship and devotions are just another job to be completed and done and ticked off. ‘Come away and rest’ says Jesus. ‘I know you better than you know yourself. I accept you as you are. You can’t buy me or bluff me. I choose to love you – don’t be afraid.’
So I think, to be too busy or too proud to rest is to live in the rat race!
When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34 ESV)
- Mark 6:30 - 34