Pentecost 8, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
The Feast of St Francis October 4, 2015 The Feast of St Francis Matthew 11:25-30
Pentecost 18, Year B September 27, 2015 Proper 21, Year B James 5:13-20
Pentecost 17, Year B September 20, 2015 Proper 20, Year B Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Psalm 54, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37
Pentecost 16, Year B and Baptism September 13, 2015 Proper 19, 2015 Mark 8:27-38, Psalm 116:1-8
Pentecost 15, Year B September 6, 2015 Proper 18, Year B Isaiah 35:4-7a, Ps 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37
Pentecost 12, Year B, Jonathan Myrick Daniels Commemoration August 16, 2015 Pentecost 12, Proper 15 Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55
Pentecost 11, Year B August 9, 2015 Proper 14, Year B Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Pentecost 10, Year B August 2, 2015 Proper 13, Year B Ephesians 4:-16, John 6:24-35
Pentecost 8, Year B July 19, 2015 Proper 11, Year B Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Pentecost 7, Year B July 12, 2015 Pentecost 7, Year B Ephesians 1:3-14
Pentecost 6, Year B July 5, 2015 Proper 9, Year B Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:3-10, Mark 6:1-13
Pentecost 5, Year B June 28, 2015 Proper 8, Year B Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 30
Pentecost 4, Year B June 21, 2015 Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41
Pentecost 3, Year B June 14, 2015 The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34
Pentecost 2, Year B June 7, 2015 The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5 Genesis 3:8-15, Ps 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35

 

Pentecost 8, Year B

Sermon Date:July 19, 2015

Scripture: Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 11, Year B


" Sheep in Paradise" from Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe

PDF version 

The past few weeks have been a perfect storm here in th

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.”

Rest seems to be in short supply these days. All of those things and people that demand our time can be like thieves that steal our lives away from us. We have too much to do and we’ve convinced ourselves that we have to cram even more into our already packed days.

Other thieves also steal our rest.

Pain is one of the biggest barriers to good rest that I know. Not only can pain keep us awake, but pain can be completely consuming, so that all we manage to think about, when we can think, is the pain.

Worry is another thief who steals away our rest.

And like the disciples, we can get so busy thinking about how “I did this and I did that” and even telling God how much we’ve done for God that we forget that God sent us out to start with and what we’ve gotten done is through God’s grace and strength, not our own.

And as a result of any or all of these things, we don’t rest and we get worn out and discouraged or maybe even depressed and hopeless.

So maybe we try to do something about this lack of rest. We might take a vacation, or take a day off, or spend some extra time in prayer, or take some extra pain pills, but these things are only band aids if we rest only because we have the ulterior motive of resting simply to obtain more energy in order to continue being busy and self-sufficient again, or to ramp up what we’re already trying to get done.

Meanwhile, Jesus seems to have plenty of energy.

"Trail to the Cross, Shrine Mont"

In today’s gospel, when the crowds follow the disciples and Jesus to the deserted place where they had hoped to rest, Jesus looks at the people in the crowd and has compassion on them, and instead of resting awhile, he starts teaching the crowd. And then, even though we don’t read that part of the passage today, Jesus feeds them all at the end of the day, and the last few verses we heard today, which come at the end of Chapter 6, tell us that he continues his ministry of healing as he travels throughout Galilee.

Where did Jesus all that compassion and energy?

My guess is that Jesus had all that boundless energy because he knew how to rest in God, and a side effect of that sort of rest is to be constantly restored and renewed by God.

We know that Jesus knew his scripture because he read from scripture when he taught in the synagogues. When he cried out in agony on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was quoting a Psalm of lament, Psalm 22.

So I’m betting that Jesus knew and must have loved Psalm 23. In fact, Mark tells us that Jesus had compassion for the great crowd who needed so much because they were like sheep without a shepherd, an image straight out of the psalm. And so he cared for them—as a shepherd cares for his sheep.

Jesus could tirelessly care for all of these people because his complete focus was not on himself and his power, not even on the crowds and their needs, but simply on God.

Psalm 23 must have reminded Jesus of how God was loving and caring for him as he walked this earth; how God loved and cared for him as he at last walked through that lonesome valley, that valley of the shadow of death that only he could walk on his way to the cross.

Jesus focused on God and God alone. Psalm 23 had to be not only in his head, but in his heart as well, because for Jesus, God was all there was.

Only God.

And because God was all there was, nothing in Jesus blocked the energetic power and universal compassion of God, which flowed freely through Jesus out into the world.

We often hear the 23rd Psalm at funerals. That image of the good shepherd leading us through life and even through the valley of death brings comfort.

The deeper promise of the psalm, though, is that God has been available to us all along and that God is waiting and longing to lead us gently into rest.

From that first gasping breath we take on this earth as newborn babies, and then in every subsequent breath we take, God is with us.

Our challenge is not to wait until there’s a funeral to hear this psalm again and to use it only as a panacea for our grief and pain, but to take this psalm right now, remember that God is right here with us, providing a resting place, and to use the psalm to help us focus on God as Jesus did.

And we need help to remember that God is with us here and now, because

our minds get clouded and “wearied by the changes and chances of this life,” as the prayer book puts it in one of the Compline collects (BCP 133)—we just get too worn out to remember that God really is with us, and “to rest in God’s eternal changelessness.”

We’d be deeply and richly blessed and restored if we could, through all of the changes that life brings us, simply rest in God’s eternal changelessness in spite of our physical pains and our aging bodies, in spite of all the responsibilities we have and all we keep adding, in spite of the wearying events that we must endure and move through and beyond in order to keep our sanity.

Ronald Rolheiser, a Catholic theologian, has some interesting suggestions about keeping our focus on God, in spite of the hardships we endure, in his book Forgotten Among the Lilies: Learning to Love Beyond our Fears.

Rolheiser says in his essay “Praying through a Crisis” that “prayer is a focus on God, not ourselves…and when we pray in a crisis we must force ourselves to focus upon God or Jesus…resisting entirely the urge to relate that encounter immediately to our wounded experience” (page 130).

He goes on to say that when we focus in prayer on whatever it is that is hurting us—the death of someone we love, our own pain, our own shortcomings, our own exhaustion—whatever—the result is “disastrous.” On the other hand, “if you force yourself, and this will be extremely difficult, to focus on God—your depression will be broken. You will experience God, slowly but gently, widening again the scope of your heart and mind….when a wounded child climbs into its mother’s lap, it draws so much strength from the mother’s presence that its own wound becomes insignificant. So too with us when we climb into the lap of our great Mother God. Our crisis soon comes into a peaceful perspective, not because it goes away, but because the presence of God so overshadows us…so we must be simply be content to sit and be held by the mother” (page 131).

The twenty-third psalm is the perfect description of what Rolheiser describes as being held by the mother. It’s about resting in God, about being content simply to be with God, to be held, fed and led by God, and ultimately to know nothing but God’s goodness and mercy.

God held Jesus, fed him, and led him through all of the changes and chances of his life here on earth. Because of his focus on God, Jesus was the living, breathing, compassionate mercy of God, even as he walked through the valley of the shadow of death and died forsaken on the cross. And the power of God’s goodness and mercy brought Jesus through resurrection into everlasting life.

Just as it did for Jesus, the 23rd Psalm holds our promises from God as well.

Those promises are revival, fearlessness, comfort, abundance, goodness, mercy, and resurrection energy–not just when we take our last breath, but right here and right now.

God is waiting, and will always be waiting, for us to come away all by ourselves, and to rest awhile with God.

Amen.

Resources:

The Book of Common Prayer

Rolheiser, Ronald. Forgotten Among the Lilies: Learning to Love Beyond our Fears. New York: Galillee/Doubleday, 2005.

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