Rest (Radio Version

A Thought for the Day for Black Cat Radio – 17th July 2021

(This is a modified version of my sermon on the same subject, which you can find here)

I’ve just come back from a lovely week away in the Lake District with my husband Keith, which gave us a chance to have a break from everyday life. Time off is important for all of us. But do we realise that Jesus was no exception to this? In church this Sunday we hear about Jesus and his closest followers being faced with people coming and going, not allowing them time for a sit down and a bite to eat. Jesus, in his wisdom, recognises that this can’t go on and searches for rest.

As Jesus took his followers away the crowds followed, desperate to get help from him. But whereas the best of us might get grumpy in such a situation, Jesus’s response is compassion. He sees them as sheep without a shepherd. Sheep like the ones Keith and I saw in the Lake District don’t really have much to fear, but sheep without a shepherd in Jesus’s time were in real danger. Jesus looked at these people and saw that they were needy and in danger, just like the sheep of his time.

This story might make us think Christianity says we need to always deny our own needs and help others even when we’re worn out. But it’s important to put it in context. There are plenty of references in the Bible to Jesus going away by himself to rest and recharge, and Jesus himself promises rest to those who come to him.

I think what this story does is remind us that there’s more to Jesus on earth than dying on the cross. Christians quite rightly focus on Jesus dying to save us, but we sometimes forget about his 30 years being a human being before that, experiencing all the same highs and lows we do. We believe God came to earth to be one of us, to change our actual physical lives by experiencing first-hand what it is to be human. So, God understands our need for rest, for food, for time for ourselves, and he wants us to have these things.

This is a good time of year for this story, as schools break up and people begin going on summer holidays. Hopefully, the summer will bring opportunities for all of us to sit back a bit, breathe, and get some rest from all the difficulties of the last 18 months.

And as we do so may we all meet with the God who invites us to come away with him to a quiet place and rest for a while.

Breaking Down Barriers (Radio Version)

A Thought for the Day for Black Cat Radio, June 2021

(This is a modified version of my sermon on the same subject, which you can find here)

I find it very strange when Christians insist on putting up barriers between people. The barriers might be between those who are considered godly and those who aren’t. They might be barriers of race, gender, sexuality or wealth. They might be barriers about how and when and where people worship. Sadly, it has happened a lot in the Church and still happens now in some places.

I find it strange because it seems to me that Jesus was all about breaking down barriers. He welcomed women and children and treated them as equals, at a time when that was unheard of. As a Jew, he spoke to non-Jews and was concerned about them, at a time when it was common to look down on non-Jews.

Jesus also broke down another barrier which seems strange to us today – the barrier between clean and unclean. This was about whether a person was considered pure under religious law or if there was something which had stained them. This wasn’t just about doing things wrong – a woman was considered unclean while bleeding, and dead bodies were also unclean. And if you had contact with an unclean person, you were also unclean. This was serious because an unclean person was a social and religious outcast until they’d been made clean again. Jesus, though, took no notice of this, with Bible stories describing him praising a woman who touched him for healing from chronic bleeding, and touching the dead daughter of a local religious leader to bring her back to life.

We still have barriers between people, both inside and outside the Church. But I wonder what it might be like if we took more notice of Jesus’s example of breaking down barriers. What if we reached past our social barriers to get to know people who are different from us, or who we look down on? We might be surprised at the good people we find and the ways in which our lives become richer.

Rest

Mark 6.30-34, 53-end

I’ve just come back from a week away in the Lake District with Keith.

 

We had a lovely time, walking, reading and generally relaxing.

 

I did some drawing as well, which I’ve come to really enjoy in the last few months.

 

The main good thing about it, though, was the chance for a break from everyday life.

 

There are lots of things that I enjoy doing, not least being an LLM here, but I was ready for a holiday.

 

Of course, there’s nothing special or unique in my need for rest.

 

We all get tired and need some time off, and we all have our own unique responsibilities, pressures, and concerns.

 

Even things we enjoy or find fulfilling can become too much at times.

 

But do we remember that Jesus was no exception to this?

 

In today’s Gospel reading the disciples have just returned from a mission and are eager to tell Jesus all about it.

 

He’s also recently been rejected in his own hometown of Nazareth and just learned about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist.

 

And people are coming and going, not allowing time for Jesus and his disciples to even sit down and have a bite to eat.

Jesus, in his wisdom, recognises that this can’t go on and searches for rest for both him and his disciples.

 

I imagine the England football team could also relate to this.

 

They’ve faced weeks in the spotlight, having to perform at the top of their game while dealing with constant media coverage and pressure, followed by horrifying abuse for 3 young men who tried their best in the penalties.

 

Yes, they get paid a lot, but that doesn’t save them from emotional, physical and mental tiredness.

 

Hopefully, they can have a break, but this was denied to Jesus and the disciples in today’s reading.

 

As Jesus took his disciples away the crowds followed, desperate to have their needs met.

 

But whereas the best of us might get grumpy in such a situation, Jesus’s response is compassion.

 

He sees them as sheep without a shepherd.

 

Sheep like the ones Keith and I saw in the Lake District don’t really have much to fear, other than the occasional out of control dog or maybe wandering onto the road at the wrong time.

 

But sheep without a shepherd in Jesus’s time were in real trouble.

 

They might not be able to find food or water, they were surrounded by dangerous animals, especially at night, and they might become injured or ill with no access to help.

 

Jesus looked at these people and saw that they were needy and in danger, just like the sheep of his time.

 

And like sheep, these people couldn’t see beyond their own pressing needs.

 

A sheep doesn’t care or even understand if a shepherd is tired or sad or ill.

 

It only knows that it has needs and the shepherd is the person to go to for getting them met.

 

So, Jesus turns and helps them, not just meeting their immediate needs, although that was important, but also teaching them to see the bigger picture of who he was and what was really important.

 

It might be tempting in the light of this story to think that to be good Christians we need to always deny our own needs and help others even when we’re worn out.

 

However, it’s often helpful to look at a passage in the light of the Bible as a whole, as doing this can give us a better perspective.

 

In this story Jesus is concerned to give his disciples a rest.

 

There are also plenty of references in the Bible to Jesus going away by himself to rest and recharge, and Jesus himself promises rest to those who come to him, saying in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”.

 

We can also look at the story of the prophet Elijah who, when he was worn out and afraid, was given food, water and rest by God, until he was ready to pick himself up and go on.

 

And, last but not least, one of the first commandments God gives is to rest one day a week.

 

I think what our Gospel story does is remind us that there’s more to Jesus’s experience of earthly life than the cross.

 

We quite rightly focus on Jesus suffering on the cross for our salvation, but we sometimes forget about the fact that he spent 30 years being a human being before that.

 

He was tired, hungry, thirsty, happy, sad, afraid, hopeful, lonely, frustrated, stressed, too hot or too cold.

 

God came to earth to be one of us, to save us in our actual physical lives, to redeem every part of them by experiencing first-hand what it is to be human.

 

So, God understands our need for rest, for food, for time for ourselves.

 

Not only that, he encourages us to meet these needs.

 

When Jesus tried to take his disciples away, he was recognising and honouring their need for some time out.

 

It didn’t work out this time, but I think it’s likely that Jesus found another time and place for them all to have some down time.

 

This is a good time of year for this Gospel reading, as the school year draws to a close and people begin going on summer holidays.

 

Hopefully, the summer will bring opportunities for all of us to sit back a bit, breathe, and get some rest from all the difficulties of the last 18 months.

 

And as we do so may we all meet with the God who invites us to come away with him to a quiet place and rest for a while.

Blog update!

Hello!

I’ve had a bit of a blog re-design, after running the site for nearly two years. I hope you like it – let me know what you think!

Highlights include a cleaner look, being able to see whole posts straightaway and a search box instead of the overly long list of tags.

Take care

Mel