The Greatest Gift
(Posted August 22, 2019)
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. -- John Lubbock, British Stateman, 19th Century
When I’ve been talking to people this past week I already sense that we’ve begun the “back to school and work” state of “got-tos.”
We’ve got to go finish the back to school list and get the clothes/notepads/books we need. We’ve got to go close up the beach house before things get crazier. We’ve got to assemble all the stuff the kids need for after-school sports. We’ve got to clean up all the debris and stuff from summer, and pull out the fall stuff. We’ve GOT TO.
A Need for Rest
The problem with “got-to” thinking (not that the stuff doesn’t have to get done) is that it obliterates the sweetness of the present moment, in these golden last days of August. Even Jesus in this Sunday’s selected gospel, recorded at an early point in his ministry, realizes that his apostles are burned out, and need to rest away from the usual crowds. “And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a quiet place and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Mark 6:31
But of course, the people who were so hungry for the words Jesus would tell them followed them to that quiet place. So Jesus and his apostles (the only place in the Bible where he calls them this) look out across a vast sea of 5,000 men, all waiting, and also all hungry in the physical sense. They are like a sheep without a shepherd, and so he bids them to lie down in the sweet grass, an early picnic, and then tells the apostles that they need to feed them. With What?? Surely the disciples don’t have the money. He’s already told them not to travel with a purse or anything else. So the food is going to have to grow miraculously, from what people have brought with them. The loaves and fishes that someone furnishes in the blessed hands of Jesus, become far more than enough to feed the empty stomach and empty soul. The important lesson in this impromptu picnic is that everyone who followed Jesus to that quiet place NEEDED to rest, to lie down on the grass and share the bounty that can come about when people come together in a community. The greatest gift is to be together.
And THAT is precisely what our summer’s end picnic and Vespers Service is all about, held poolside through the generosity of Janet and Gary Falkenthal’s home. There is no service in Church on the morning of Sunday August 25 – just our gathering at 4 p.m., our picnic and then our brief poolside Vespers service. We need to rest. We need to see one another in a context outside the church building, fed and rested. Most of all, we need some time to simply watch the clouds go by, and to listen to the water’s splash. We need to light a candle, too, for those who need our prayers, or even for ourselves, as the twilight follows the day.
Bring your contribution to the “loaves and fishes,” and your swimsuit. We’ll be waiting for you.