Sermon for July 22, 2018 by Rev. Rilla Barrett

SSE 7/22/18


Proper 11B

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 23

Ephesians 2: 11-22

Mark 6:30-34 (AND 35-44), 53-56


George Carlin once quipped, “What do dogs do on their day off?; Can’t lie around – that’s their job. That’s certainly the job of Daisy the Dachshund, who shares life with Michael and me. It makes me wonder about the nature of leisure. I mean, for a dog, leisure could mean digging a big hole – for us, it might be a nap, a walk, or re-creation of some sort.  

I read a couple of articles this week about leisure, and the theme was the same – we have at least as much – or more – leisure as preceding generations had, but we feel that we don’t have as much. We feel that we are busier. The reason offered in all the articles I read? The amount of time we spend on our devices. More and more of our time is used in screen time. I’m guilty, I admit. So, why do we feel leisure deprived? I wonder if it has to do with the aspect of time spent in the company of others. Screen time is, after all, a pretty solo activity, and perhaps leisure, restorative leisure, in the form of re-creation – good, solid leisure, that perhaps involves some time with others…like over meals is what makes us whole again.

Because of our perceived busy-ness, our meals become grabbing a bagel or a piece of fruit for breakfast as we run out the door, rather than sitting down for a meal with our family. Evening meals, especially with kids in the house, often is lost to evening sports or school events…or at least it was in my house when my kids were still at home. Today, I often eat carrots, apples, nuts, and drink coffee in the car on my commute – that is, when I’m not with Dennis – then I have the pleasure of our full conversations. Leisure – that is time that involves a choice of activity or rest – and time that is sometimes spent in the company of others, is rejuvenating, and thus vital. We all need leisure.

Last week, I spoke about tables, and how we gather around them for many reasons, but sharing food is probably the biggest. No other creature consumes its food at a table. And it’s worth noting that at the center of the spiritual lives of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments, we find a table: the table of Passover and the table of Communion. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright captured something of this sentiment when he wrote, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” This morning’s gospel reminds us of how important it is to come together for a meal, slowing the day down for eating and for the fellowship – and even for a bit of leisure.

The apostles (notice the word here – apostles – meaning “sent ones” when disciples or “follower” has been used in Mark up until now) are worn out. Following Jesus has them knackered, and Jesus says to them, “’Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (v. 31)

Mark emphasizes the rush of their lives…he loves the word “Immediately.” Just in the past two chapters of Mark’s gospel, the disciples have been involved in these activities:

Jesus slept in the boat until they woke him to calm the waves

After that, they encountered the demoniac in Gerasa

Then they traveled on to Nazareth, where Jesus taught and then sent them out two by two to other villages

About that time, King Herod has John the Baptist beheaded, which added grief and trauma to their exhaustion

Finally, we heard, in today’s gospel, Jesus bidding them “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” They must have been thrilled at those words.

By doing so much good for so many, they have completely worn themselves out…and had no time for re-creation, for leisure.

Now, the lectionary designs readings for different reasons… For today, we were to have stopped at v. 34 and take up again at v. 53. In the middle, the left-out part, is the story of the Feeding of the 5000, and of Jesus Walking on the Water. I asked Dennis to add in the verses about the feeding of the 5000 because of the aspect of the meal, of what Jesus did, and of what the community did.

These exhausted apostles, who thought they were going to a quiet place to rest, were sadly disappointed at the events at end of the day when Jesus had spent time teaching this large crowd. Perhaps like all of us, at times, they felt the universal feeling of being exhausted, while, at the same time, being needed. The apostles thought that sending everyone into the neighboring villages for take-out would satisfy the hungry AND get them to that quiet place to rest a while sooner. But their work was not quite done. “Feed them,” said Jesus, in spite of the fact that all they had were five loaves and two fish. Then, Jesus, “taking the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.” He blessed, broke, and shared what they had…and there was enough, amazingly. In fact, after they had eaten and were filled, they filled the baskets with the broken pieces and of fish. More than enough for all.

Each week, we do the same. We gather in community, and bread is blessed, broken, and shared, and, each week, we are nurtured. We bring our cares, our concerns, our prayers, our weariness to the table, where bread is blessed, broken and shared – and there is enough, and we are nourished. Gathering in community, offering our whole selves to God in love, there is enough.

A story of such a community – not a church community, but one where God’s actions were apparent.

“After all the years of saving and dreaming, a young couple opened their restaurant. They aptly named it “Our Place,” which would be their place, in a small costal town in North Carolina. Of course, shortly after they opened their doors, Hurricane Hugo came to town. So, they, like other businesses in their town, boarded up the windows and left town.

In its wake, they rushed into town with other business owners to see what was left of their place. And they found “Our Place” perfectly, miraculously, intact. As they took it all in, a deputy sheriff rolled by behind them. He told them that theirs was one of only a few “places” in town that was still standing. And one of a very few that still had power.

What could they do?

They checked their rations. Bacon. Lettuce Tomatoes. Bread. Coffee.

They told the deputy —‘free BLT’s for all the emergency workers today.” And they went to work feeding people.

Later that day, they heard that another place down the road was gouging people—ten and fifteen dollars for eggs and toast—and so the couple put a sign in their windows. Free coffee and sandwiches. For Anybody. 

And so the crowd of rescue workers grew to a crowd of neighbors. And the neighbors who gathered, stayed to clean up—because isn’t that the way it goes.

Word got out—as word does, when there’s food involved. News of this loaves and fishes gathering got out on local radio. So folks from the next county over, who had fared better in the storm, cleaned out pantries and freezers and started hauling things to the “ Our Place.” A nearby grocery store sent staples. They were overwhelmed with supplies.

And at the end of it all, this one small neighborhood kitchen had served some 16,000 meals. It started with a spirit of hospitality and a few pieces of bread. Because one couple saw how their small gift might fill one small need in their place. And it was enough.

 Because the world is still hungry for sanctuary—we break the bread of life. And there is always enough.” 

Today, and in just a few moments, Liam and Lillian are to be baptized into the community of Jesus, the community, where the often-weary gather and bread is blessed, broken, and shared, and the community knows God’s abundance, and then goes into the world to share it with all of creation.

As community, we will gather today to witness the baptism of these two precious children of God, and we will give thanks for the abundance of God and for this beloved community in the blessing, breaking, and sharing of the meal.

As we witness their baptisms, we remember our own baptisms and the baptismal vows – the first one which asks us “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?” And “Yes,” we answer, “with God’s Help,” we will continue to gather around the table – rested or not, and be present where bread is blessed, broken, and shared, where we are nourished and there is always enough, and always enough to share with others. And in so doing, we glorify God.