A few thoughts based on the Gospel reading set for 19th July 2015 ….
Mark 6:30-56 includes the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Those who drafted our lectionary wanted us, however, to focus on the context of the story rather than on the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. So they have left the feeding of the 5,000 for another day!
Some interesting statistics:
- 7 out of 10 British workers want to put in only 40 hours a week at work. But the average employee works almost 45 hours a week – longer than any other nation in the European Union.
- One in four male employees works more than 48 hours a week. One in five manual workers puts in more than 50 hours. And one in eight managers works more than 60 hours a week.
- The average British lunch-hour is now only 30 minutes long.
- One in ten workers still get no paid holiday!
Just walking round Ashton town centre I see people on their mobile phones – keeping up to speed with work, running the home or catching up with friends. Social media and emails mean that we can contact people in an instant, and expect an instant response. Everything is busy, busy, busy.
For many life is too busy – they feel stressed. … But then others have no work at all – and that lack of work is stressful in itself. Stress related illnesses are now so prevalent in our society. Relationships suffer and so our homes and communities suffer.
Busyness was a problem in Mark 6. It began with the disciples returning from their mission. They want to tell Jesus all that they had done and taught. You can imagine them surrounding Jesus full of excitement. They’ve made a difference in people’s lives and they’re eager to talk about what they’ve done, how great it was.
Moments later we’re told that Jesus and his disciples were recognised by many people who hurried to meet them, in a rush to hear Jesus’ teaching or receive healing. At every village, town or farm that Jesus went to, he was surrounded by people begging for his attention.
Yet in the midst of this busyness, Jesus says something highly significant. Listen to his words: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while”. … Jesus recognised that without rest, refreshment and reflection neither he nor his disciples would be fit for anything. Throughout the Gospels we see this model: Jesus goes off by himself to pray and to find some peace – especially when he has a major task ahead of him. He goes into the wilderness for forty days after his baptism and before starting his ministry. The night he’s arrested he’s found in the garden of Gethsemane taking time to pray to prepare himself for the ordeal to come.
The needs around him were obvious, but Jesus took time to relax, to rest and reflect, and he encouraged his disciples to do the same. It must have been hard to do this, with needs pressing in on every side. … Jesus faced the same dilemma we do. If we take time out for ourselves, how’s the ironing going to get done; how will I find time to visit my friend who’s lonely? Or in my case, how will next Sunday’s sermon get written?! Can you imagine the vicar turning up on Sunday shrugging his shoulders – “Sorry, no sermon today, I needed time to rest!”
As Christians we seek to model ourselves on Jesus – to be like him, to make him known to others. This doesn’t just apply to the active Jesus – telling people about God, showing God’s love in action – it needs to apply to the Jesus we see resting, or seeking time to rest. Just as Jesus knew that he needed timeout away from the daily demands so that he would be fully effective in his ministry, we need to ensure that we get timeout in our lives so that we too are effective for him.
If we’re too busy to stop, to spend time with God, to spend time on our own resting, then we’re too busy. We need to hear Jesus’ words: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while”. I spend time reading and being quiet, when I can. Jo and I make sure that we keep our day off sacrosanct. But we need to heed Jesus call to rest more than we do. Each of us’ll need to discover our own pattern. But we all need to find rest & refreshment so that we can be effective in what we do, in who we are.
As well as making sure that we “rest a while” ourselves, we need to make sure that others are able to do the same. We need to be aware of others who are too busy and we need to seek to share their load so that they are not overloaded. We need to make it possible for them too to find refreshment.
Jesus and his disciples needed to rest, needed time out. We do too if we are to play a full part in building his kingdom on earth. But we also need to look around us, in our churches and parishes, at home, at work, wherever we find ourselves and be ready to share other people’s loads so that each person is able to have space for themselves and for God in the midst of their demanding schedules.