Friday, June 29, 2007

First Seminary Sermon

(Originally posted July, 2006).

Preached this this morning in class with Renita Weems.


"Come Away For A While"

Mark 6: 30-33

Come away. Come away by yourselves. Come away for a while and rest.

Coming and going, coming and going, that’s what the disciples had been up to. They’ve just returned from a very successful mission trip, healing and preaching and anointing, and can’t you just see them, falling all over themselves to tell Jesus all about it.In fact, the whole gospel up to this point has been like this, coming and going, coming and going, healing after healing, town after town, miracle after miracle, parable after parable, crowds everywhere, following him, touching him, chasing him, questioning him, no time even to eat, to think, to breathe...Come away for a while, and rest.....

Jesus says to the disciples it’s time for a break...for quiet...for, perhaps, an absolute doing of nothing. To sit back in that boat, and just enjoy the view.Now, the text says the disciples just got into the boat and went, but I wonder...I know that if it were me, I’d be thinking..."You know, Jesus, there’s still people to be healed, people to be fed, you know, there’s still work to do, I mean, look at them just waiting for us, the world needs us!"But Jesus just says, let’s go. Rest. Eat. Get into the boat with me, and come away. In the midst of a suffering world, Jesus gave them permission to take care of themselves.

Come away for a while, and rest...

There’s a website I check* just about every day, essentially a photo-journal of a fellow who lives in east Tennessee and hikes around the Applachians and Smokies. All summer long I’ve clicked on his site and enjoyed beautiful photos of someplace I’d rather be than my study carrel in the library. My favorites are his shots of forest creeks and streams and waterfalls...and the occasional photo of his toes pointing downriver on a float trip. I love water, wading in it, floating on it, standing under it, listening to it...I see his photos, and something inside me sinks down around my ankles, a wishful, bittersweet "Ahh," that provides a momentary respite on a busy day.

Come away for a while, and rest...

Seminary life, I think, can be a lot of coming and going, don’t you? One hopes it’s a good coming and going – I mean, the disciples were doing the good work of God, after all, healing and preaching and whatnot – but nonetheless, there’s a lot of coming and going, especially during summer school. I have certainly felt that, and I’m willing to bet you have too: the creeping sense that there is not one more piece of information I can squeeze in between the folds of my brain, not one more drop of creative juice to be wrung out of me.

Coming and going, coming and going, thinking and writing and studying and processing and discussing and reading and debating and standing up and showing up and getting up and what, I’m supposed to eat? Well, let me do that while I check all my e-mail and keep up with the news and write letters to congress and maintain long-distance friendships and answer my voice mail and go to church and volunteer and attend the next meeting and devotional life? What devotional life? I use those extra ten minutes to sleep! Yes, or to clean the cat’s box or load the dishwasher or tend to the weeds or run the errands or fix the toilet or, oh yes, try to have some semblance of life with my beloved...

......all before I have to go back to thinking and writing and studying and processing and discussing and reading and...and...and...

And I tell you one thing. I am ready to get in that boat with Jesus.

Come away with me, and rest...

The truth of the matter is, of course, that life itself is a whole lotta coming and going. We can leave seminary and while the pieces may change or re-arrange, our time and effort and intellect will continue to be demanded of us, by our churches, by our communities, by our families, by our own integrity in following our call, and by our intensely broken and suffering world. Yes, the sermon must be written, yes, injustice must be protested, yes, the sick must be visited, yes, the war must be stopped, yes, the books must be read, yes, the children must be held, yes, our friends and our partners must be loved...And even so...even so...Jesus invites us, in the midst of the suffering and the loving and the healing and the coming and the going...Jesus invites us onto the boat.

Come away for a while. 5 minutes in the middle of studying, a day spent hiking, an evening stretched on the couch letting others tend to you, a sabbatical, a vacation. Come away for a while. Those people who need you will be waiting on the shore when you get back. Come away for a while. Rest up before you burn out and aren’t able to do the work anymore.

Come away...all by yourself...just you and me, says Jesus. Just you and me, and the boat, rocking on the calm water, under the deep blue sky. Come away for a while, and rest.


*Now defunct. Very sad.