HOMILY & IDEAS

Jer 23, 1-6; Eph 2, 13-18; Mark 6:30-34

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas lay underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

A very preachable and important theme in this Gospel is the need for retreat -- the need for rest -- the need for balance. The importance of this need is what has been swimming around in my my noodle this week, and it is the focus of just about every homiletic and exegetical commentator I have studied.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them -- Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.

The action this week follows a good stretch of work on the part of the apostles -- which most likely adds up to hundreds of miles of walking, hundreds of hours of preaching, the driving out of many unruly demons, countless anointings and numerous cures from a multitude of illnesses; and all this while adjusting to some significant comfort-level changes (The packing list for this venture? A walking stick, tunic and sandals).

What a wonderful thing it would have been to hear what the apostles reported to Jesus. Triumphs, challenges, fears, surprises, some dust-shaking-protests, and I imagine a slew of down-to-earth, practical questions taking the form of -- This is what happened -- This is how I responded -- What would you have done, Lord? Those of you who have undergone CPE can let your imaginations run wild.

People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.

One wonders how unpredictable this onslaught of visitors was; after all, Jesus multiplied his ministerial efforts by twelve -- sending out twelve workers who have touched the lives of hundreds -- probably thousands of people. Now they want more. They want to be touched again, taught again, and not they seek cures for their loved ones.

It is no wonder that they have no opportunity even to eat. Meals were important, highly social, leisurely events. They served as opportunities to strengthen bonds via communication and sentiment. Naturally, this particular setting would have been a perfect vehicle to continue their discussions about their missionary journeys. Nevertheless, the crisscross of conversation is continuously cut by a variety of interruptions. Not only can they not converse, they can not even eat!

So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.

This phrase has a distinct rhythm to it which points to a strong desire for solitariness. It can be phonetically broken into preaching beats as such: they went off / in the boat / by themselves / to a deserted place. The desire and need to retreat from the commotion is none too subtle here. Perhaps the only thing we are missing for further punctuation is a night time departure in camouflage tunics.

People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.

It can not be any clearer that Jesus and his apostles need a getaway weekend.

I do not own the unabridged multi-volume work -- Etiquette and Protocol, by Ms. Manners -- but I do know that it might be slightly insensitive to follow this group of 13 on foot when you hear or assume that they went off / in the boat / by themselves / to a deserted place for the purpose of rest.

Nevertheless, that is the scene we have. Jesus in a boat with his apostles crossing the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a freshwater lake) which is about 13 miles long, and 8 miles wide. You can see across it and drive around the entire lake in a little over an hour.

If the crowds can see the hazy figures of the 13 in the boat, then the 13 can certainly see the movement of the mob making their way around the shore of the lake keeping one eye on the rocks, bushes and drift wood in their way, and one eye on the boat as they debate with one another exactly where they think they are going to dock.

Some of these people were in such desperate need to have an encounter with Jesus and the 12 that perhaps they would have walked around the Sea of Galilee a dozen times if that is what it required.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

To put it bluntly, God did not make sheep in the same creative instant He willed dolphins, orangutans, and seeing-eye dogs into existence. They are dumb animals who are helpless without direction. Without their shepherd, they are lost; and this image stirs the heart of Jesus.

HOMILY: In this season of Summer, thoughts of taking or planning a VACATION has certainly crossed the minds of many of our parishioners -- and US too! Our bodies perhaps have gotten worn down a bit. Our batteries need to be recharged and a change of schedule, of place and of pace is needed. It is a natural need.

For example, here is a description of an Inn on Cape Cod that I downloaded from the Internet that guarantees to help with this needed change: Picture yourself relaxing on the gracious veranda in the warm sun. Cape Cod breezes off the bay bring the fresh perfume of garden flowers. Enjoy the luxury of a soak in your private whirlpool. Sip your favorite beverage on your private balcony overlooking a pretty wooded glade. Rest in a lace canopy bed with romantic fireplace surrounded by delightful antiques. The aroma of early morning coffee beckons you to a sumptuous home-cooked breakfast under the crystal chandelier with light classical tunes in the background. And youÕre off to another day of golf, beach, sightseeing, Cape Cod crafts, whale watching, biking or hiking the nature trails.

I could do without the canopy bed and antiques, but the rest of it sounds pretty wonderful, eh?

This kind of break will certainly enrich our physical and mental states; but this may be a good weekend to remind both our parishioners and ourselves of the frequent need to enrich our spiritual states. It is as necessary and as natural as planning a vacation. How do we know that? Because Jesus, himself, identifies and acts upon this need in the Gospel today.

He said to them -- Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.

The Gospel tells us of the importance of finding a quiet place and a quiet time to be with Christ in prayer. To be spiritually recharged, to refocus, to find our shepherd again, to breath deeply of peace, and to feel the calming and reassuring love of God.

If you are looking for any one of a number of excuses why this just can not happen in your life right now, simply contact the nearest priest or minister. Unfortunately the sea of work in which we find ourselves treading and the appointment book that we find ourselves constantly rearranging in order to squeeze in just one more visit or appointment always provide excuses why we simply can not take this time to spiritually recharge.

We all know that this spells disaster.

Maybe we can not take a week or two in a retreat house right now. Perhaps a lengthy pilgrimage is not possible. But what can we do right now to make a start in the right direction? How about these advertisements?

Picture yourself sitting at the shore of a lake or of the ocean asking the Lord for some direction -- for some peace -- for some blessings.

Picture yourself taking a drive to the church in which you were baptized and spending some quiet time in front of the baptismal font at which you were made a child of God -- thanking God for your life and His goodness.

Picture yourself taking a drive to the church in which you were married and spending some quiet time thinking about the beautiful gift of your husband or wife.

Picture yourself taking a drive to an observation spot which overlooks a beautiful vista and thinking about the beauty that God has placed inside of our world.

Picture yourself laying in a field feeling the warmth of the love of God upon your face and breathing deeply of fresh air.

Picture yourself standing on a bridge overlooking a stream contemplating where God has taken you in this life and reaffirming that you will continue to follow Him where ever he leads you.

These possibilities do not require extensive planning, cost or large chunks of time. They only require a commitment to do it, and the wisdom to see the natural need for spiritual rest.

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