Demands to serve come at awkward times

Kathleen Giffin


Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 19, 2015
Jeremiah 23.1-6 | Psalm 23 | Ephesians 2.13-18 | Mark 6.30-34
July 13, 2015

My life is busy, too busy perhaps. So it was a welcome rest to have the opportunity last month to go on a train trip with my husband to a quiet place for a few days. It was about as leisurely and relaxed as a holiday can be; extra time for prayer, for walks, for rest and reconnection.

On our way home on the train, sitting in our seats reading, a young man approached and asked my husband if he was a pastor, as he saw that Gary was reading a small book that looked like a Bible.

The conversation quickly moved to the young man's sharing that he had had an unusual experience and needed to talk to someone of faith to try to figure out what was happening to him.

My first reaction was to want to be left alone. I still had two more precious days of holiday; I did not want to move into ministry mode.

Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. – Mark 6.31

'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.'

Mark 6.31

My husband, though, is of a more generous bent than I, and he took the time to hear the young man's story and offer words in response. It was the compassionate thing to do; I'd go so far as to say it was the right thing to do.

Perhaps my rigidity about what should be ministry time and what should be break time comes from my tendency to not take enough time for the kind of rest that Jesus was calling the disciples to in this Sunday's Gospel.

He said, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while" for crowds of people had been coming to them for teaching and healing.

I have recognized the importance of balance in my life, that there be both times of doing and serving. and times of being, of attending to the stillness of God. So much of my time is spent on doing.

I see there must be a regular pattern to my life, like breathing – time to rest in the presence of God, time to go out to others; in and out like breath. Jesus gave that example to follow, both in his own life and in his instruction to the disciples.

Scripture says something happened that day as they travelled by boat to their "deserted place" and time for rest. The crowds guessed where they were going and were waiting for them when they arrived.

Jesus did not turn his face away, pretending to not see their need; he didn't excuse himself saying it was his time off. He simply had compassion and began to teach them.

That, too, is the example we are to follow. But I can only be ready to respond to the unexpected moments of need if my time of prayer and rest truly is as regular as breath – breathe in the presence of God, breathe out into the heart of the world, each moment, each day.

(Kathleen Giffin