Nurturing Soul 7-19-15 Finding a Secluded Place

Today, we are beginning a new sermon series on nurturing soul. I want to talk about how we can allow the Spirit’s love to flow through us as the body of Christ, how our community can become a vehicle for nurturing the soul. Jesus modeled for us an openness to the Spirit that assisted many people in healing their broken hearts and broken souls. A couple weeks ago, we studied the passage about the woman who is healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. Notice that at the end of today’s passage, everyone in the crowd is begging to touch the fringe of his cloak to be healed. I have an idea of how to think about that fringe that I’d like to share with you today. Also in our passage today, Jesus is trying to get away from the crowds to a quiet place, but finds himself engaged all the more in his ministry of healing.

Mark 6:30-34; 55-56 The apostles came back to Jesus and reported all that they had done and taught. Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to someplace more remote, and rest awhile.” For there were many people coming and going, and the apostles hadn’t had time to eat. So they went away in a boat to a deserted area. The people saw them leaving and many recognized them, so they ran together on foot from all the cities and got there ahead of the apostles. When Jesus went ashore, there was a large crowd waiting for him , and he felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began to teach them many things. The crowds started hurrying, about the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers wherever Jesus went. Wherever he appeared—in villages, in towns and in the countryside—they laid down the sick in the open places, begging him to let them touch just the fringe of his cloak, and all who touched Jesus got well.

July 19, 2015

Nurturing Soul: Finding a Secluded Place

A teacher of teachers of mine years ago taught me life skills and listening skills, insisting that anyone could be as insightful and thoughtful as he was if they opened themselves up to each other, listening, empathizing, caring for each other. His name was Harvey Jackins and he was a very smart and charismatic person. It seemed sometimes that he could look at someone and intuit how their heart was breaking and what they needed to hear to start stitching that heart back together.

I remember once he talked about how it was sometimes difficult to take a vacation, because when you pay good attention people, they naturally gravitate toward you and want to connect with you. He said sometimes he had to figuratively put a bag over his head to get some time apart, a little rest.

I think of his advice often in relation to children, because children enthusiastically gravitate toward anyone who is willing to play or engage them where they are. If you open yourself up to most any 3 or 4 year old, you can end up playing hide and seek in the sanctuary for hours every Sunday. Children know that a safe place is a place where they can play peek-a-boo and monster to work on their fears, the little heartbreaks that later get bigger when there’s no one available to help with the healing.

They know that most adults are not available to help them with those hard places, so when they find somebody who provides an opening, they tend to go for it, if no one yells at them and tells them they have to be quiet. You may have noticed that I am more willing than most to tolerate a bit of chaos, especially with the young people in our church. This is why. I think children have plenty enough places in their lives where they have to be quiet and sit still. I would love to have church be a place of healing and love and acceptance for all of our children.

But sometimes, I’m tired or focused on other things. Sometimes the church needs to be focused on a different kind of worship and connection with each other. Personally, I think even adults could use a little more hide-and-seek and peekaboo, but most of us have fears and broken hearts that need a different kind of healing that hide-and-seek provides.

I’m not as connected and charismatic as my old teacher Harvey, but I have learned sometimes to put that figurative bag on my head and make myself unavailable – sometimes to go on vacation, sometimes just to focus on worship for older folks, sometimes because I get lazy. We all learn to do that in one way or another.

 

Several times, the Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as trying to go on vacation, trying to get to a secluded place for retreat or rest or to teach or to pray. Every time he tries to get away, as in our assigned reading for today, Mark says that people anticipated where he was going and crowded around all the more, begging for healing, stretching to touch the fringe of his cloak.

Again and again, Mark portrays Jesus as being filled with compassion and going back to the work of healing and ministering to people. Compassion is what Jesus is about. Compassion is what Jesus shows us God is about. Compassion for all the broken-hearted children, Jesus senses their fears and intuits how their hearts are broken.

I sometimes get the feeling that if Jesus’ ministry would have lasted longer than three years, he would have had to learn to put a bag over his head so he would, at least every now and then, be able to really take a break from all the people and the demands of ministry. I also like to think that he received energy and sustenance from the healing and the ministry, as well. It can be incredibly energizing to live in the flow of the Spirit’s love for all people. But it’s also ok to take a break now and then, when you need it.

 

There’s just no guarantee that while you are taking a break, while you are on vacation, you will totally avoid people for whom you feel compassion and an open heart. In fact, you may find yourself more open to other people when you are on a break, than when you are engage in the usual chaos of your life. That may be a time you can pay more attention to your family or your spouse or the children in your life, when you have more relaxed attention and availability to them.

Another teacher of mine, Ricky Sherover-Marcuse, who was also a student of Harvey Jackins, told me that at some point she decided she would do most of her work at parties. She found that people were more relaxed and available when they were at a social gathering than at other times. So she purposely thought of parties and gatherings as places where she could reach people and talk to people and pay attention to people’s needs.

As we have our annual church picnic this afternoon, I invite you to use the time as an opportunity to be available to each other in a different way than may happen in our daily lives as a congregation. Be bold, bold enough to ask someone to tell you their spiritual life story, bold enough to invite someone else in Gladwyne Park to join us for a game of Frisbee golf or a piece of watermelon, bold enough to play hide and seek with a four year old.

When we take that bag off our head and allow the Spirit’s love to flow through us we become the fringe of Jesus’ cloak, our community becomes a vehicle for nurturing the soul. Time off is sometimes one of the best times to engage people, to be a healing and loving presence of the Spirit. Sometimes the best time to reach for that connection is a time apart, a time of rest, a time of connection and love.

Enjoy the picnic. Enjoy each other’s loving Spirits. This is God’s good news.

Responsive hymn  2202 Come Away with Me