“No Getting Away”
July 22, 2018 – 9th Sunday after Pentecost – Year B
There is an old saying: The average congregation is like a basketball game where there are 10 players badly in need of rest and 100 spectators badly in need of exercise.
Jesus was physically weary, and so were his disciples. The 12 had just completed an extensive teaching and healing mission, and they desperately needed rest. But the people heard of where they were headed by boat, and they “hurried there on foot.” We see a picture of people feeling a void in their lives, desperate for truth, yearning for something that satisfies the soul.
The people were yearning for more than a theological pronouncement, though. They were shepherds, carpenters, housewives, merchants, cobblers, all wishing to find someone who could show them the way. They needed someone who would be their Leader, a shepherd, who would meet their deepest needs. They were seeking someone who cared and understood. They needed a Redeemer who would lead them to a fulfilling future, someone who could even assure them of eternal life.
The crowd of people were seeking compassion and knew that the Compassionate One was who they needed to turn to. The precondition for compassion is unconditional solidarity with the ones for whom you feel it. Who else but Jesus could offer the consolation and compassion to all us needy sojourners?
I have long admired the Grandmothers for Africa movement. Their commitment and compassion for the grannies in Africa is astounding. Supporting the grannies who are raising their HIV/AIDS infected grandchildren is amazing. The grandmothers for Africa extend care and compassion to the needy in Africa through their many fund-raising and awareness-raising endeavours.
We see large crowds of people so needy that they will not leave Jesus or his disciples alone even when they need a break. We see Jesus responding with compassion to their need, putting aside his own need for rest and refreshment. We see how intertwined Jesus’ teaching and healing were; he seems never to have done one without the other. Both arose out of his compassion for the crowd. Both were signs of the good news that God was changing people’s lives. Both were integral to the ministry he undertook and passed on to his disciples.
I am committed to attending yoga classes at least 3 times a week. I do this because it is good for flexibility and strength, but most importantly it is an important spiritual discipline for me. Many of my fellow yogis talk about how blissful and meditative yoga is for them. They have found a spiritual practice that works.
If it is true that today people around us do not recognize the church as a place of healing, then we need to look closely at our mission and the message we have been communicating to the broader community. The Healing Touch program needs to be promoted in every way possible as a Christian healing practice. We are a congregation that are blessed to have a number of healing touch practitioners in our midst. Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings are times when scheduled sessions are arranged. Other times can be arranged by contacting the church office. Prayer must be affirmed as a healing tool. Spiritual Direction must be interpreted and then promoted as a tool of awareness and growth. The church must be a place of Good News, not petty squabbles and gossip.
This gospel passage gives some profound and direct insights on how the church should be in this busy world we live in. We are reminded that a cloistered building set apart from the hustle and bustle of daily living is not the Jesus way. However, being in a central location and expecting people to make their way to a church on their own is not the way of faithfulness. Healing takes place when the faith community and those with whom they minister reach out to one another in mutual need. Just as persons come to the church in need of God’s grace, the faith community engages in ministry because it needs to live as Christ has commanded, as the body of Christ sent into the world to help God repair the worlds brokenness caused by spiritual brokenness. By embracing its role as the fringe of Christ’s cloak, the church can expect to have a healing effect on all who reach out to Christian communities with the desire to be made whole.
As we reflect on this Gospel passage we find ourselves thinking about the suffering of the world and the need for healing. The people where rushing and begging for an opportunity to be made whole – they sought an encounter with God. But I don’t see Penticton United Church, nor in fact most, if not every other church experiencing the neediness of the world in which we are part of. Oh, how I wish we would encounter people who are rushing and begging for an opportunity to be made whole through an encounter with God. This is not how a contemporary congregation typically experiences the neediness of the world. When you and I are in search of healing we are more likely to seek out therapists, physicians, self-help books, and prescription drugs, than we are to talk to me or any other minister, nor are we likely to search out a Spiritual Director, of which I am one. Perhaps this is because persons outside the church do not recognize Christ’s healing presence within communities of faith. Jesus and the disciples encounter people in need as part of their movement from place to place, not by waiting for people to make their way to them. Healing takes place when the faith community and those with whom they minister reach out to one another in mutual need.
In this glorious summer time, may we come away and rest. Let that rest be sure and comforting in the compassionate arms of our God. Amen.