Proper 11b 2015: Two by two

2 Samuel 7:1-14a Psalm 89:20-37 Ephesians 2:11-22 Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.” With those words we close the “Markan sandwich” that began with the disciples being sent out, two by two, into the area of Galilee. This sandwich was filled with a particularly terrible cost of discipleship in the form of the beheading of John the baptizer. Few of us want to be that kind of disciple, but Mark provides a stark telling of just what might happen when we proclaim Truth. It is a sobering message. In any case, for a moment, we hear that the apostles are home with Jesus. They are telling Jesus about all that they did. Imagine their stories! Who welcomed them? How many did they heal or teach? Excited or not, Jesus knows that human ministry takes its toll; he tells the disciples to come away “to a deserted place” and rest.

The apostles do not find their time of rest. The crowds that have gathered find out where the apostles are going and get there ahead of them. This rhythm of going out and coming home is supposed to be punctuated with times of rest, but as the crowds gather, rest is put aside. We jump past the feeding of the “more than five thousand” and Jesus walking on water, and the frenzy is heightened. People crowd around Jesus, the “rock star” healer of his day. There is no rest. Jesus is fueled by compassion, that word that means “gut.” Feeling so deeply is carried out as he and the disciples respond to the needs of the people swarming toward them. They are, we read, “like sheep without a shepherd.” People were reaching to touch even the fringe of Jesus’ cloak, and in that touch they were healed.

Fast forward almost 2000 years:
The hospital chaplain was very busy. The trauma helicopter seemed never to stop, and the chaplain was on call for many hours over many days and weeks. The chaplain’s hospital room, yes, there was one, had a bed with clean sheets, a small sink, a window. What the room did not contain was rest. You see, when the helicopters took off and landed, they passed by that very window. The sound of whirring blades meant “get up,” someone needs a chaplain. Someone needs a dose of God. She had to be there, and she was. Broken limbs. There. Run over by a car. There. Rape. There. Attempted suicide. There. Rest. Not there.

The chaplain needed what the ancient people did: she needed Jesus, if only needing the remembrance of the healing power found by reaching for him, by grabbing “just a little” Jesus. It was the chaplain’s responsibility, the apostles’ responsibility to go out and through the power of Jesus heal. It was not their responsibility to bear the burden of the sick, of the dying, of the broken. (Do you hear the difference?) It is Jesus who had compassion, that word of the gut that also means “with suffering,” that allowed others to do his work. At the heart of the cure, of healing, is Jesus. He is the shepherd who will feed the sheep, show them the way, heal their hearts and bodies.

We know the shepherd; we no longer have to wander in chaos, unfed and broken. We, too, can reach for Jesus and be healed. For those who are sick at heart about the tragedies of the day – and there are many – I implore you to pray. For those who are sick in body or in spirit – we are many – gather up your burdens and lift them to the only arms that can hold them – and it is not our arms. It is the arms of Jesus who can hold our sorrow about 5 military men who have died, about our anger over how such things happen. Again. And again. We can name many other tragedies almost every day. We wail with the psalmist and cry, “how long, Lord, how long?”

Then, friends, we can and need to give the sorrow, the anger, our own hatred and prejudice and sickness to the one who can bear it. Give it tangibly, in a way that is meaningful to you, to God. It is there you will find some rest. In the arms of our creator, in the one who gave us breath, we will find rest and refreshment.

The chaplain took the names of all of the patients she had seen, read their names, prayed their names, and set the paper down, physically giving them up, turning their burdens over to care of God. Such tangible actions are not necessary for God, but for us. We go out, we come home and tell God, tell Jesus, all that we have done. Our rest comes in turning everything over to the care of God. Think about what your pattern might be. (Your priest would be happy to help you with this.)

Especially today, in a resurrected Christ world and time, we need to remember that Jesus is at the center of everything that we the church, we Christians, do. We don’t need a rock star god. We don’t need to mob around the latest thing. We need to quiet our hearts, soothe our souls, and reach out to one another and to God in the name of Jesus. That’s what Jesus had his apostles do. Go and heal. Come home and tell.

Rest quickly. Go and tell, healing and teaching in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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