From the Rector
Proper 11: Finding Peace
This weekend in our worship we’ll hear two bits from Scripture which have a lot to do with each other, and a whole lot to do with us. The first is the gospel story, in which Jesus invites his harried and haggard disciples to “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” But when great crowds keep following them, desperate in their need and yearning and hope, Mark says, “he had compassion for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things (Mark 6:30-34).”
In another piece of Scripture, we’ll hear a stunningly beautiful bit from the letter to the Ephesians about what our good shepherd makes possible by his life and his teaching: “In his flesh he…has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us…thus making peace, and…thus putting to death that hostility through it. So, he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:11-22).”
Like I said, these two passages have a lot to do with each other, because I simply don’t know how to make sense of that radical vision of reconciliation from Ephesians without taking seriously the gospel story before it, about Jesus’ compassion and instruction. In my life, when I am feeling harried and haggard, it is nearly impossible to tap into the grace of God to give and receive forgiveness. When I’m worn out and exhausted – mentally, physically, or emotionally – I can’t lean into the hard work of seeing someone else with new eyes, or engaging with them in a new way. We all have to take a break from the things that wear us out and grind us down – and in our modern age, I would say that not only includes our jobs and to-do lists, but also our news feeds and social media outrage chambers – in order to rest and restore our souls sufficient to continue with the hard and beautiful work of following Jesus.
And if we are going to follow, we have to constantly listen for his voice and reorient ourselves around his teaching. “He began to teach them many things,” the story says, and I wonder how many of those “many things” you think you’ve learned so far? Too often we believe that adage that we learned “everything we need to know in kindergarten,” which is a sweet but misguided notion. Faithfulness is a lifelong process of growing and maturing, and it involves openness to learning new lessons from our wise and gentle shepherd. As I said in a sermon back in Eastertide, we all need to listen for our shepherd, because he is out front, compassionately guiding us toward the places we are meant to go, and helping us become the people who can set down hostility and grudges and conflict.
I hope you’re resting, my friends. I hope you’re getting away to that “deserted place by yourself” on a regular basis, whether it’s in your living room or somewhere farther afield. And I hope you’re listening for our good shepherd, because I promise he has something to teach you, whatever stage of life you’re in. He desperately wants to help you experience that beautiful vision of holiness described in Ephesians: setting down hostility, proclaiming peace, growing in bonds of love on the foundation of the saints.
See you this weekend.