Rest – what a concept – “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while.” Does that sound wonderful, or what? Rest – Jesus’ words ah-rrest my frantic, over-anxious and over-extended self. Ah – rest – sounds so inviting – but you people – you, stay awake for the next few minutes. Sorry.
How do you rest? Is it a vacation, a nap, watching a movie? Some rest, by doing – yard work, I’m told. I once was accused of not liking yard work. I defended myself: “Nothing pleases me more than yard work – me, sitting under a tree, watching someone else work in my yard.” Ah – that’s restful to me.
God’s on this same page, please not. God finishes up and rests on the seventh day, blesses and hallows it. In case you miss it in Genesis, God dictates it again, with some amplification – as the 4th Commandment in Exodus. Rest you, your household you’re your possessions, and all creation. God means it.
Jesus notices his disciples need rest after returning from a successful mission trip. So many pesky people swarm Jesus they get no peace, relief from the maddening crowd, or food to fill their hungers. Compassionate Jesus smiles, “Let’s go rest in a deserted place.” Off they sail for the far shore. Yet when they dock, the same pesky people have run ahead to meet them. More join them – all looking lost, sick, hungry, needy and shepherd-less to Jesus. Does Jesus shoo them away? No, he comes down with a case – of all things – compassion. Can you believe that? Now the tired disciples get pushed aside for – these pushy people. Facing them, he says they’re like lost sheep, so he gathers, teaches and feeds them a miracle meal. Would you do that? Demanding, pesky people wear me out. Who could find rest with Jesus this way?
Who are your pesky people? “Peskies” aren’t just people. Peskies are whatever gnaw at you and wear you down. They’re demanding people who are never satisfied. Peskies can have negative attitudes that suck life out of them and you. Maybe it’s your kids, your boss, stress, obsessive thoughts that awaken you in the night. What makes you dream of getting away? For weeks, a chronically pesky fellow asks me each Sunday right before worship, “Did you find my stool?” I need that time so I can be quiet, unbothered and to focus on what’s next. He was vertically challenged, and put his feet on the little stool he parked under his pew. He left it there each week. Somebody took his stool. Did he think I was going to look for it? Compassion – no, I’m thinking, Can I help this sheep find a new pasture? What would Jesus do – hmm, I apologize – kind of cheesy, but wouldn’t that make a good slogan. How can we act compassionate when we need rest from pesky, draining people and circumstances? I won’t tell you to chill, take more time off – or just relax. I know, because that doesn’t work.
“And he had compassion for them.” Would we find compassion or rest in Jesus’ deserted place? Rest for Jesus is more than getting away. Jesus rests by going toward – God; and invites us to go with him. When his disciples missed him, they’d find him in a deserted place, praying. Crucifixion eve, Jesus is in a deserted place resting his humanity and fears into his Abba’s hands. To come away with Jesus means to return to the Source, to be fed and renewed by God. Actually the church is a pretty good place for that these days. Churches are a lot more deserted now than years ago.
To rest in God makes us aware of God with us, a God, who is often far from our minds. Did you ever link God, rest, and compassion as Mark does? As we abide in Jesus, who abides in the Father, we rest in that loop of divine energy that flows without ceasing. A deserted place is a state of being where we receive our rest – in God – in the Lord who is our shepherd, in whom we lack nothing – especially compassion. We are never pesky to Jesus. He and the Father see us through eyes of compassion, and that should bring relief, of not rest. As the Father is in the Son, and we are in the Son, we enter that infinite compassion of the divine – the Source. From the encounter with God in a quiet, deserted place – not geographical, love and compassion ooze through our lives. Without such compassion – for others and ourselves, we will tire, burn out, grow cranky, get sick, and age faster than our years. I could say, “I have a worship service – all these people to lead for God’s sake – and you think I care about your lost stool?” I may not go looking for his little stool. But I can still have compassion. I remember he is someone for whom Jesus has compassion. For you and for me, remember, we also are sometimes demanding, insistent, annoying, and say things we regret later. Meister Eckhart, 13th Century mystic says: “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God Sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.” “Come away with me to a deserted place and rest a while,” Jesus invites us. Could we sometimes be in deserted places, don’t know it; or even don’t follow him there, and stay in a state of unrest?
Our salvation doesn’t rest on getting it perfect. Our salvation comes in going to a deserted place with Jesus – daily, often, even often during the day. If you want an assignment, commit to trying that for a while. Practice that. It’s hard – but you will find peace.
Rest – what a concept – “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while.” Pay close attention. Having compassion and love for ourselves begins when we accept the compassion and love God gives. When we come into such union with God we have compassion and love for each other, and for all creation. Unrest dissolves and leaves us. When we truly follow him, he takes us into an oasis of rest and compassion – a place of rest– as Mendelssohn wrote the aria from Elijah. Wait patiently. He will give thee thy heart’s desires.