Monday, November 9, 2015

Telling It - Giving Rest

Preached on Sunday, November 8, 2015

Scripture readings: 1 Peter 2:11-17; Mark 6:30-44

Being Jesus, and following Jesus, can be exhausting. I hate to say it. I would like to protect you from it, if I could, but I don’t think I can.
In fact I have a strange personal history of getting in trouble with people I tried to protect from getting exhausted. Once, in a church I served while I was an seminary intern, the husband and wife of a new family in our church accused me of looking down on them as if they couldn’t do all those things that they were being asked to do by the people of the church who were giving them all the jobs that were exhausting them. Of course they wouldn’t have put it that way because they didn’t realize what I was trying to protect them from. After I left to go on my next internship, they left that church because they got exhausted.
Being Jesus, and following Jesus can be exhausting, and Jesus and his disciples had reached that point. They didn’t even have time to eat. So Jesus said, “Let’s get away from it all. Let’s take a break and rest.” So they set sail across the lake.
I think that Jesus must have let them rest at their oars, and that the wind wasn’t blowing, because the crowds cut them off from their rest. The boat should have beaten the crowd, and the disciples should have been able to slip away before the crowd got to them.
Maybe Jesus even arranged it all on purpose. I wouldn’t put it past him. That Jesus can be a tricky fellow.
So their much needed rest was interrupted. What was it that interrupted their rest? Was it the needs of others, or was it the compassion of Jesus? Well, it was both. Their rest was interrupted by the needs of others and by the compassion of Jesus. And knowing that and conducting your life accordingly is a good way to stay exhausted.
Jesus had a good idea about sparing his friends from exhaustion. He showed the compassion of the creator. Jesus is our creator who has come to live beside us, in the flesh. In the beginning God created rest and blessed it. The seventh day of creation is about rest and renewal.
The interesting thing about that seventh day is that it is a day without sunset or sunrise. It’s a day without beginning or end. It means that, in the middle of our life, we must spend time with eternity, and we must spend time with the God who made us for eternity.
Sunday is one of my days off. I preach on my day off so that I can spend some time today with eternity; and with the God who made me for eternity and died to give eternity to me as a gift.
We need rest to interrupt our lives, and so we are just as needy as the disciples who needed rest and as the crowd that ran to Jesus in order to be amazed. The fact is that everyone needs the same rest and the same amazement as we do.
Separation from God is the opposite of rest. The world clearly needs rest. And Jesus is compassionate and Jesus interrupts our exhaustion and tells us to rest; and to help others rest as well. Our job is to tell the good news that rest can be found with Jesus.
Mark tells us that, on that lakeshore of Galilee, Jesus looked at the crowd and “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34) Jesus’ compassion didn’t begin then and there. It began earlier, when he saw that his followers (his friends) needed rest, and he showed them that he wanted them to rest.
Then his compassion made him speak to the crowd and teach them many things. Then the compassion of Jesus made him want to feed them.
Actually it was the compassion of his friends that made him feed the crowd: maybe. They were the ones who told Jesus that that people needed to eat. Maybe the compassion of Jesus made his friends compassionate, just as he was. They were learning compassion, and they showed they cared about the world by sharing the world’s needs with Jesus.
Then Jesus did a clearly tricky thing. Jesus proposed that his friends give all their food to the crowd; and they did. But the trick was to show his friends that, when they came to the end of their resources, they did not come to the end of his resources at all. They exhausted their food, yet they had more in the end than they had before they gave their all.
Sometimes we Christians get exhausted. But it is usually for a different reason than the exhaustion of Jesus and those who follow him. Too many Christians exhaust themselves with church committees, and church work, and it’s true that something has to be done to take care of things.
But our church business often has no compassion in it. Our stewardship of our building, our practice for worship, our determination to be organized often has no heart and no compassion in it. We have compulsion but little compassion. We have forgotten the story of the good news of Jesus even when we are in the church business.
There is no secret of rest in a lot of what we are doing for Jesus and with Jesus. If the rest of Jesus was in it, maybe we would be in a better mood and a better place.
If you read on in the Gospel of Mark, it doesn’t look like the disciples ever got their rest. There was only a lot more drama. But all the drama that followed showed them Jesus in a new way. They found their much needed rest by seeing Jesus in that new way.
Maybe we need that kind of rest: to see Jesus in a new way, to see the compassion that Jesus has for others and for us. Have you seen enough of the compassion of Jesus?
The compassion of Jesus that saw countless people as though they were sheep without a shepherd didn’t begin on the shores of Lake Galilee. It all began in eternity. It began when the Lord looked out over the wreckage of a world that had not even been created yet. The Lord looked out over the wreckage of countless broken hearts, and countless scarred and aimless lives, even before he gave them life.
His eternal compassion brought out the good shepherd in his heart. The Lord knew that he would be their shepherd, and that he would give his life to rescue those sheep from their scarred and aimless lives.
He knew that there would be a power in this compassion that would change them. The power of what he would do on the cross and in the resurrection would set them free, and give them rest.
That is the power of the compassion of Jesus for us. It’s the power of Jesus to make a difference in our lives. It’s the power of the good news that we are called to share with others.
What we call salvation is a miracle that changes everything. It works like magic. We try to work. We try to be responsible. We try to play and rest.
We do the best we can at all of these until the miracle of Jesus surprises us. The compassion of Jesus changes everything about what we do. It changes us.
We are called to tell the good news of Jesus and how Jesus makes a difference in our lives and sets us right. The whole world needs this change. This world of broken people will never work right unless the people of Jesus show the way.
Strangely, what Peter says in his letter about living as strangers and aliens in this world shows the difference that Jesus makes in our lives. Peter talks about living “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13) He talks about living for “the Lord’s will”. (1 Peter 2:15) He says, “Live as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16)
Peter told us to “abstain from sinful desires” and we have taken much too narrow a view of what such desires are. It is not just about sex. When we limit these desires to sex we lose a lot of the change in our lives that Peter was writing about.
Our sinful desires affect our reasons for loving our neighbor as ourselves. For instance, we want love to serve our own interests. The New Testament word for the love of Jesus, and for the love he requires of us, is called “agape” (in Greek). Agape means a love that doesn’t serve our own interests. The dominant world of the Greeks and the Romans almost never used that word for love because they wanted their love to serve their own personal interests, just as we do.
The dominant world of Jesus’ time also thought that compassion was soft and weak. They thought that humility was only fit for slaves and other underlings.
Peter told us to do amazing things. Peter told us to respect everyone. Peter told us to love the whole set of those who belong to Jesus as brothers and sisters, whether it fit your interests or not. Peter told us to love those who have legal and constitutional authority over us. Rome was proud of its constitution and of the way the emperor played his part in respecting it. Peter told Christians to honor the system that was persecuting them and killing them.
Peter told us that our fear of God (or our living with God in a state of wonder and awe) was a part and parcel of this holy discipline of love; this strange way of life. It was and is the way to live for the Lord’s sake. It is the way to be a servant of God. It is the way to do God’s will.
We often miss the point of this. The point is that the way of life that the Bible gives to Christians is meant to be the heart of a miracle. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)
Peter didn’t tell us how this would happen. It’s like the change that Jesus makes in our lives. It is a miracle. The compassion of Jesus wants everyone to love and enjoy what he has to give in a kind of miracle that changes lives from anger to glory.
People who look down on you and people who judge Christians as inferior will be willing to lose their own desires and priorities (as taught by this world) and they will learn to desire what Jesus gives.
This miracle that changes life will prepare the world that looks at us suspiciously: it will prepare them for the kingdom of God. They will learn to love the softness, and the weakness, and the slavishness of a love that does not serve their own interests. They will love humility. They will love compassion.
We are called to tell how Jesus made this difference in us. We are called to tell it by living in this world in ways that can heal the world around us.

The Lord’s Table is the table of the one who pursued us because he didn’t pursue his own interests. This is the table where we find true humility and compassion. Here we find the healing of our exhaustion. We are called here to find rest. We are called here to Jesus and to his great story that makes all the difference.

No comments:

Post a Comment