Toorak Uniting Church

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Teaching, by word and example

Mark 6: 30 – 34
Rev. Ian Brown
23 July 2000

"There was once a miser who hid his gold at the foot of a tree in his garden. Every week he would dig it up to look at it for hours.

One day a thief dug it up and stole it.

When the miser came to look, all he saw was an empty hole.

He began to howl with grief and his neighbors came to see what the matter was.

When they found out, one of them asked, "did you ever use any of the gold?" No, he said I only dug it up once a week to look at it.

"Well then," said the neighbor, "for all the good it did you, you may as well come every week and gaze at the hole."

Sometimes it may be a little like that for us with our Christian faith. Do we only dig it out once a week to look at?

What purpose and practice do we actually put our faith to?

In Mark's gospel, the story we heard concerned the disciples who had just been out on their first mission putting their faith into practice. They come back to Jesus full of stories.

Jesus response to their return is a pastoral one.

"He said to them, come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." They went away in the boat to a deserted place, Mark tells us.

You see, Jesus himself knew what it was like to be active in the work of the kingdom - to teach and to meet peoples needs. The gospels often tell us that he went to a quiet place or up a mountain to pray - to be by himself, to have some time out.

Jesus concern for his disciples then and today is for their well being, a well being that includes human needs. He knew and saw the need for balance, for rest and for food, for reflection and for having the spiritual batteries recharged.

Now, in part this story is a good reminder to us that we need to observe the cycles and rhythms of life, where there are seasons of fallow as well as active producing.

The pressure in our culture has been to do more and more, to "soldier on" with pills when we get sick, to keep on pushing, driving and hurrying, go, go, go all the time.

When we get like this Jesus calls us gently and says "draw aside with me, come and rest, come and tell me your stories, reflect and spend some time."

It's interesting that even this drawing aside is something the disciples were expected to do together, not an individual private thing, but something to do as part of the community of faith, it's a retreat rather than a hermitage and perhaps there's a hint for us here that the development of our faith, our formation as disciples and even our spirituality and life of prayer are developed as we share with other Christians in community in the same task.

It's worth remembering that Jesus and his disciples had their intentions to rest and reflect thwarted on the occasion quoted.

They lived in the real world of interruptions and human need and pressures, just like we do - and sometimes our needs may get put off, but part of the balance of putting our faith into action has to be in the drawing aside with Jesus. Only there is our direction, our rest, our fellowship and our purpose. Amen

© Rev. Ian Brown, 2000

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