November 3, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today comes from Mark 6:30-34.
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Such a contrast. A desire for Jesus and his small band for quiet time together to eat and rest while vast numbers of people pressed upon Jesus with an insatiable appetite to be fed spiritually. There is always this tension for an introvert like me between my need to go inside myself for restoration and my sense of responsibility to give myself to others.
Jesus reminds me, though, that I have been created to be in relationship with others, to be a part of community, to serve others, to actively do my part to bring about the kingdom of God. I have not been sent to keep my gifts to myself, to simply satisfy my own needs, to be alone except in prayer. Ronald Rolheiser in The Holy Longing states, “My task is not to walk to God as an individual but to be within a community that is worshipping God.”
Jesus is God’s word made flesh, He is Immanuel, God among us. He is the incarnation of God’s love for me, His compassion and forgiveness. So, here is Jesus being just that. Though he was eager to spend time alone with his apostles, he was moved with compassion when he saw the sea of humanity waiting expectantly for God’s word as sheep dependent upon their shepherd for care.
It’s a reminder, too, that I am restored and recharged not only when I am alone, but also when I am serving others. I frequently hear people say that they got much more out of serving others than what they gave. It’s true. God’s spirit is constantly expanding; the more I give the more I receive — energy, enthusiasm, satisfaction, deepening relationship with God and others. I need both withdrawal and immersion. Barclay puts it this way, “The rhythm of the Christian life is the alternate meeting with God in the secret place and serving men in the marketplace.” I like that notion of rhythm, of in and out, like breathing. Either way, I am dependent on God. Jesus shows me how to live in that way, which is so counter to culture now and then. That’s the whole point — to be countercultural, to create God’s kingdom with Him.