Sunday, August 3, 2014

Eighth after Pentecost: Vacation Interrupted --

Proper 13A   Matthew 14: 13-21

Jesus is trying to get away by himself for an interval of rest and relaxation and refreshment, perhaps a summer day or two of vacation from all the hustle and bustle of his active life and ministry.  A time for reflection, prayer, discernment. 

What would happen of course in 2014 is that just as he would have sailed his little boat into a quiet and deserted harbor, tied up to a mooring, begun a walk along the beach, his cell phone would have begun to vibrate incessantly.  Reluctantly he would pull it out of the pocket of his flowing robe to see an accumulating line of urgent text messages and Facebook alerts.  Seems like each of the 12 disciples has a matter that can’t be addressed without his input.  A long line of e-mails that have gathered over the morning, each one beginning, “I hate to bother you on your vacation, but I was hoping you could review the attached document and let me know what you think.” 

You get the picture, anyway.   I could tell some stories from this summer.  The technology has evolved, but the basic pattern continues.  And perhaps you’ve had similar experiences.   “Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.  But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.”  Sometimes it’s just not possible to get away . . . .

From the moment back in Matthew 10 when Jesus commissioned his disciples he has been putting into motion himself the same plan of action.  Identifying and casting out Evil Spirits, healing the sick, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.  That all would know and see with their own eyes that  God was present in their midst to forgive and renew their spirits and their lives.  That the time was past now for being a spectator on the sidelines.  That the time is now to join in the new community of faith and of commitment to God’s future that was gathering around him.  Even if that might be costly or painful.  That this is now the day of decision.

As Phil Wainwright explored over the past couple of weeks and especially last Sunday in his sermon on the passage of Romans 8, how this is about our “destiny.”  About who we are meant to be from the beginning of time.

And as we’ve heard along through these weeks, there have been remarkable miracles, remarkable healings, remarkable transformation in the lives of those who have met Jesus.  But also opposition, and the seeds of the reaction that will lead to persecution and eventually to the Cross.

But it just can’t happen at this moment.  A summer vacation. 

No I-Phones in First Century Palestine, but “the crowds,” when they hear where he is, “follow him on foot,” and actually arrive at the place he had planned for his mini-retreat before he does.  And in that moment what Jesus sees is not that they have ruined his plans, spoiled his day off, his little vacation and sabbatical retreat.  Instead, he is moved with compassion.  He feels their yearning to know the power and the presence of God and understands what has led them to come to this remote place.  This is after all what he has come for.  His reason for being.

One of the stories about Jesus that all the gospels tell.  We in this congregation of course are especially familiar with St. John, who tells us that the five loaves and two fish that the disciples offer to Jesus have come from a boy, who brought them first to Andrew—and that it was Andrew who brought the boy and his lunch to Jesus.   This moment of catalyst for this great miracle and sign, the Feeding of the Multitudes.   A kind of foreshadowing of the Last Supper, and of the Holy Communion.  Jesus taking what little we have, and making so much more from it. Giving back to us more and better than we could ever have imagined.   “All ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.”

Whenever Jesus is involved—there is more given.  Gift upon gift.  Grace upon grace.  A sign and reminder of the abundant goodness of God.  Of grace and mercy, peace, promise,  that comes to us before we seek it.  Of the Spirit of God who comes into our hearts to teach us to pray for the gift of God’s presence.  All blessing.

I heard someone recently say that people need to stop thinking about what Jesus gives for them and start thinking about what they can give to him.  Which is of course just absolutely and wildly backwards.  A formula for unending anxiety, guilt, confusion, suffering.

The old Good Friday hymn.  “For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation, thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation; thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion, for my salvation.  Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee, think on thy pity, and thy love unswerving.  Not my deserving.”

In a wasteland and wilderness, the meal that is set before us in generosity and abundance.  The work of his life and his cross:  grace and mercy, forgiveness of every sin, hope, new life, peace, promise.  The one whom we call to mind as we receive the bread and drink from the cup.  All of this is his gift for us. 

1 comment:

Nadia Lawrance said...

i love your faith in god almighty

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