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Come Away With Me
A sermon preached by Sandi Albom on July 19, 2015

I’m one of those people that almost always has a song rolling around in her head. Music has always had an important place in my life. I come from a musical family. Everybody sings, in one fashion or another. I grew up singing around the piano with my aunts, uncle and cousins at Nana MacDonald’s house almost every Sunday. It is never unusual for folks in my family to break into song at any time and place. Nothing like a rousing , “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad”, to make washing the dishes more fun than it actually is.

I will confess that, as much as I love our traditional church music, (I sang in the choir starting at age 6), I am mostly a rock and roll kinda gal, with a smattering of bluegrass and contemporary folk thrown in. So, as I read the portion of Mark’s Gospel for today an old Bob Seger song , “Runnin’ Against the Wind”, started paying in my head. Maybe you know it too. He sings, “I’ve got so much more to think about”, and he asks himself, “What to leave in?….What to leave out?”

So, that’s what I was thinking as I imagined the disciples gathering around Jesus, excitedly and all at once, filling Jesus in on their exploits. They are out there doing the work he has given them to do. They are beyond excited and can’t wait to tell their Master what they have discovered and how they have been driven by the Spirit to place after place, healing and casting out demons. They have barely had time to eat and there has been no rest. They have so much more to think about these days. And they hold out to him their joy-filled weariness as an offering and as evidence of their faithfulness to his command.

“Come away with me”, Jesus tells them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” ………Wow, that sounds nice doesn't it. A deserted place…….rest. Sabbath. We know Jesus valued rest and renewal. Luke tells us, “as often as possible, Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.”

Don’t we all long for that space for rest and recharging? We are busy people. We are always ON. But that being “ON” doesn’t often seem to equate with actual connection or even the results we think we are striving for; a better life for us and for our families. In a survey conducted by the UK periodical, The Daily Mail, the responses showed that:

  • Families spend just eight hours a week together on average
  • With the weekend being best, with two hours twenty min. devoted to the family each day
  • During the week the amount of time shrinks to just 36 minutes on average each day

    (Huffington Post) The average mobile phone user checks their phone every six and a half minutes (roughly 150 times a day), and one survey found that nearly seven in 10 people are actually afraid to lose or be separated from their cell phones. I have to tell you folks, that was me….

    Several years ago, I experienced a wake-up call of sorts. I was working for a large healthcare consulting firm, doing work I truly enjoyed. In fact, I am doing some of that work this summer while I’m off from seminary. I was a Senior Director in the clinical practice and I was always ON. ON my laptop. ON my Blackberry.

    At the company meeting I was given recognition as my division’s Consultant of the Year. I was also presented with the “Night Owl Award”, given to the person you could email at 3:00 in the morning , and that person would reply at 3:01. I was both honored and amused.

    When I received the Night Owl award again the next year, I had to admit to myself something might be a bit out of balance. Believe me, it was not that I did not like the work I was doing. It was demanding and interesting. It was work I found very full of meaning. And….. I was not truly engaged in my life.

    Yes, we are truly busy people here in the U.S. Just ask someone how he or she is feeling and they may likely tell you they are tired or worn-out. Ready for vacation. Ready to stop for a bit. The Germans have a word for the weariness many of us experience in our zooming, uber-tuned-in, information-at-our-fingertips existence. It is welschmertz, which means world weariness.

    In many ways, we are a very tired and weary people as we bring forward the evidence of our efforts to show just how hard we work at life. Our tradition tells us we have been created to find meaning and value in the work we do in God’s world. We are just like the excited and exhausted disciples looking for recognition from their teacher and master. Lord, see how tired and busy I am? Doesn’t than mean I am valuable? Doesn’t that make me worthy in your eyes Lord?

    But Jesus’ response to his tired disciples is not to ask for a full report in light of their stated goals. He does not demand, as we do of ourselves, one more thing on the to-do list. What he offers is rest. “Come away with me.”

    To be sure, Jesus and his disciples are themselves challenged as they try to find a bit of space to rest, recharge and partake in nourishing companionship with each other. They go off in a boat by themselves, but as we learned last week, word is getting around. Jesus and his followers are bringing to the people the healing, teaching and hope that they need and the crowds follow them wherever they go.

    These people are not paparazzi or beggars. They are earnest, curious, insistent, even demanding in their want of Jesus’s attention. Jesus recognizes this; he knows their need and has compassion for the crowd. They are God’s people needing a shepherd to guide them. And so, Jesus begins teaching. And even though Mark does not tell us exactly what Jesus says to them, we know that it is what those who seek him need. Jesus is their respite, their nourishment, their rest., and he does not disappoint them, even though many may have not completely understood his message.

    What Jesus gives them is his time and attention….his caring and compassion….and nourishment. Who does not need that?

    So, what about Jesus, you might say? When in this lesson we read today does he model his own rest and renewal for us? One of the challenges in the passages we read on Sundays from The Revised Common Lectionary, our three-year rotation of scripture readings, is that many are composed from verses in multiple locations, like today’s selection. You’ll notice that our reading is taken from Chapter 6: 30-34 and then resumes at v. 53-56. In between Jesus teaching and the ending verses is that the feeding of the 5,000 happens and Jesus walks on water; not small insignificant happenings. Add that to the mix and it may seem to us that Jesus and his disciples do not rest at all, but that is not really the case.

    In those missing verses, after the crowd is taught and miraculously fed with loaves and fishes, they are sent on their way spiritually and physically sated. Then Jesus sends the disciples out again to the boat to find time away from the crowds. And finally, Mark tells us, Jesus goes up on to the mountain to pray.

    So what about us? Now, I don’t mean for a moment to compare equally the important choices we make each day about priorities and “what to leave, what to leave out”, to the choices Jesus makes as he encounters his people in need. I do however want to acknowledge the very real fact that we have multiple competing priorities and demands we face each day.

    Like Jesus and the disciples, there are responsibilities we have, people we must care for, people who rely on us. There are people and places that want access to us all the time. Days, nights, weekends. And sometimes, no matter how diligently we try to set boundaries in our lives, we are faced with letting in exceptions for very good reasons. And……and I will speak just for myself…… it is much harder than it seems to determine just what ARE the “good reasons”.

    So…. I’ll ask myself, and try, with God’s help, to answer honestly these questions: (Will you join me?)

    What boundaries are hard ones for me to keep? How can I demonstrate care and respect to maintain them without allowing them to be pushed beyond healthy limits?

    What kind of example am I for those around me, especially young people, of where and how to find regular rest and renewal?

    Can I put down the distractions of being a busy plugged-in “human do-ing” , instead of human being, long enough to hear the small voice of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me?

    And most important……Where and how can I create regular and consistent renewal time with my family and friends on a regular basis?

    Once again, Jesus is our example for living a God centered life. Our caring Christ looks into our hearts, knows us, and gives us green pastures in which to lie down and he restores our souls. He says, “Come, away with me, come to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.”

Last Published: July 21, 2015 12:47 AM