Sermon for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost

FINDING PEACE, GIVING LOVE (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56)

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

Are you tired? Have you had enough? Do you feel beaten up by life? “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.”

Have you been doing the work of the Lord? Have you been spreading God’s peace – which is what the disciples have been doing, entering a house and letting their Peace rest on it if they are accepted, and then shaking the dust off their feet if it is not. Has your peace been accepted? Have your good deeds helped others? Have you been “through word and action sharing Christ’s message with each other and the larger community,” and are you tired out?

Come away . . . and rest. That’s an order, a direct command. There is no option. Not – come away, if you can finish up first, save one more person first, do one more good deed first. No. “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” Now.

The only qualification for coming to church – and church is where we’re invited – is to be tired. And the primary gift God gives here is rest.

One thing that means, by the way, is that if you have some job that the vestry or wardens or a committee member needs to do, send them an email or call them during the week, so that on Sunday they can rest like you, and your conversation can center on building one another up as Christians, finding out why each of you might be so tired from the week, finding out what work of the Lord you have been doing, what Peace of God you have been spreading, and why you rejoice and rest, the way the disciples rejoiced and rested. For church is a place of rejoicing and resting.

And while we are here it is Jesus who loves and serves and heals us here – not the priest, but Jesus to whom he or she points.

And while we are here it is Jesus who heals the sick and not us, though it is us the rest of the time.

So being here is a reminder of the way things are, or are meant to be – of the sovereignty of Jesus over all, the love of Jesus for all, the help and healing of Jesus for all, the universal care of Jesus for all.

We are just his willing servants, enlisted by Jesus and joyfully choosing to be enlisted as servants to all who accept our peace.

But we cannot do it alone. And we cannot work without interruption. So Jesus calls us away to a lonely place together to rest awhile. And he takes up the slack while we do that.

We do not all have the same job. The laity have one job. The priest has another, and neither can or should do the other’s job, or things get messy and confused and the work of the Lord does not continue as smoothly as it should.

The priest’s job is best summarized in The Examination at the Ordination of a Priest on page 531 of the Book of Common Prayer.

“My brother (or sister) the Church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world (that’s what we’re all called to do by virtue of our baptism, to share in his work). Now you are called to work as a pastor, priest and teacher, together with your bishop and fellow presbyters, and to take your share in the Councils of the Church (so those diocesan meetings are important.)

As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you.

In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.”

That’s my job, the priest’s job. In some ways it stops at the building, the borders of the church of God. It is to pastor and love and teach and lead, sometimes leading into the world. It is to point outward to the world and say: “Go in Peace, to love and serve the Lord.” It is to point inward to the church and say: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves, and rest awhile.” It is to say “Go in Peace” on Sunday after the service, and to say “Come away” before church on Sunday. And in between “Come and see” and “Go in Peace,” Christ’s ministry to us in this holy place happens, and his continuing ministries to all those in the world who need him, Christian or not, also continues.

Then after “Go in Peace,” the ministry of the laity takes over as the ministry of the church, as you go out to love and serve the Lord.

The Baptismal Covenant says, after the Nicene Creed affirmation, on page 304,

“Will you continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers,” meaning will you keep going to church?
I will with God’s help.
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor (whoever they are) as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.”

I will with God’s help. So you’re not saving the world alone. You’re doing it with God’s help. Or he’s not doing it alone. He’s doing it with yours.

This is our covenant. It begins with belief and trust in God in the Nicene Creed. It continues with the vow to come to church, to “Come away . . . to a deserted place . . . and rest awhile.” It continues with us promising to resist evil, to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, all persons, and to love your neighbor as yourself; and finally to strive for justice and peace among all people.

That is a tall order, and that is why God needs all of us to do it – one to love and nurture and teach and send you; that would be the priest – and many to love and nurture and teach many others; that would be all of you, a big job indeed.

So church is not simply a respite from our own work in the world, a refuge. It is a respite from the work of God in the world that ideally permeates our other work with how we treat and love and care for other people, coming back here to rest while Christ carries on his work of healing and loving; for he, after all, is divine and all loving and omnipotent, while we are mortal and tire easily.

So welcome to the filling station, where we gas up and are washed down and get some treats before heading out on the road again. It is good to be your filling station attendant at this stage in your journey, as you drive up each week tired and empty for Christ and his body and blood, and word and sacrament; and drive off each week, ready to work for him again.