July 18, 2021 - Proper 11 (8th Sunday after Pentecost)
It’s July, and for many of us that means it’s vacation time. We can see this in our attendance trends, and it is totally due in part to the weather. The congregation is sparse because half of them are away doing what all of us would like to do in July – goofing off!
But today’s Gospel passage from Mark tells us that even Jesus and his friends needed to get away sometimes, even if just for a bit. And it didn’t work… when Jesus saw people hurting, he couldn’t help but go to them, even when his emotional gas tank was running underneath that line marked E!
I have heard stories of theologians who claimed to have spent two months one summer without thinking about God once. Knowing how theologians work (and how they find it enjoyable to argue whether God is present in that tick that has decided to affix itself to your leg during the relaxing hike you took), I find that hard to believe. But I believe it begs the question: does vacation time for active church members mean taking a vacation from God?
Truthfully, that’s a bit hard to do, at least if we believe that God is with us all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. But maybe we can take a little vacation from the heavy-duty ways we often think about God. Maybe we plug our spiritual arteries with all that profound thinking.
Several summers ago, I had a break and I had gone to a cottage on Chautauqua Lake with my family. We had a lovely porch that overlooked the water and I had brought two weighty books that I needed to read to prepare for my ordination exams. “Serious” stuff like ethics in the Episcopal Church and how to engage other cultures in worship.
And then, about 2 days after we arrived, I realized that I hadn’t even touched a book; I had simply sat there and allowed the summer day and the presence of my nephews and family to let my mind disengage from the pressing matters. I tried to recall exactly what had occupied my time during those days, and I couldn’t… but I felt so relaxed physically and spiritually. And who says that God wasn’t part of that encounter?
We all need that time… a time to clear our minds from all the pressing tasks and weighty responsibilities. Don’t take catch-up work with you… your mind needs a rest. Your body and your mind are the temples in which God dwells. If you don’t give yourself the needed rest, you will find it hard to be aware of God’s presence within your soul.
My friends, we are a tiny church. We all wear many hats and pitch in when it’s time to get the work done, but there are times you -- as active, hard workers in God’s vineyard -- need to take a break too. You need a chance to relax… all year long we work to build a faithful community, and now we just need to enjoy what has been built so far. Let your minds and your bodies be free to just be for a while, and take a break from the hard work for a week.
We need to give God a bit of room to move out of our heads and heal our whole selves. Then we might be able to believe the truth about ourselves no matter how beautiful it is.