May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.
In the modern day life that we lead, I wonder how much real time we give over to ourselves – to assemble our thoughts, to ponder the day ahead (or just past), or just to collect ourselves, and work out what is worthwhile.
In the lesson from St Mark’s Gospel that we have read this morning, we find Jesus encouraging his disciples to do just that. They have been out preaching and given little time to themselves. So much so that Jesus recognizes how tired they are … they have hardly had time to eat even … and he encourages them to go somewhere quiet, go somewhere to get away from it all … and just be by themselves.
But of course, this reading comes immediately either side of the feeding of the five thousand – so there’s little chance of taking much rest – however deserted a place the disciples thought they had chosen.
What we have read also illustrates the rather frantic need of the people to gather round Jesus – especially those who our Saviour describes as being “sheep without a shepherd”.
Yes, we call ourselves Christians – followers of Jesus – but do we always follow the example we learn through His teachings? Furthermore – do we take time out for ourselves, and our spiritual lives so we can assess our actions and our behaviour in a calm and peaceful setting?
Of course, here we are today, over the course of this sedate hour, gathered in Church in the tranquillity of our surroundings and the common presence of God and each other … (and that is commendable) … and we could wish that more of the population would give even the same amount of time to do likewise.
But how often during the rest of the week do we go to a tranquil place and deliberate over our spirituality and how best we can serve our Lord and our neighbour?
I trust that many of you will hold your hands up and say – “Yes, I do!” But I confess that I am possibly one of the worst and am exorbitantly bad at it. No sooner does my head lift off the pillow in the morning than my day begins in a frantic rush to complete the unfinished tasks of yesterday – long before I begin the jobs of the day – and before I know it my head is back on the pillow at night and I am fast asleep again (possibly with the light still on), eyes tight closed without having taken a second to thank God for the wonders of the day now ended.
In essence what I have done is carried out my life over the last 24 hours, hurrying to and fro to get various jobs complete that have been entered into my daily action book – without taking any time out to consider Life – with a capital “L”. I, too, have become little more than a sheep without a shepherd.
The story today shows us how human Jesus was. He encourages his disciples to take spiritual time out and to re-charge their batteries with food – but, knowing his time constraints and that he is well inside his short period of ministry, he continues apace Himself, spurred on by the huge crowds of those in need of His help and encouragement, those who recognise HIM so that they might be healed.
The image of His cloak, a garment that can be wrapped round many people for comfort and warmth is very strong. It is also a cloak that when touched gives instant succour and healing to all those in need and who can believe in the power of the Christian message if given the will to trust.
As we sit here in Church, let us not forget the Cloak; the Cloak which are the walls that surround us, the worship that encourages us, the prayer that calms us, the hymns and music that inspire us, the spirit that makes us want to reach out – not just for ourselves but for others too.
But in order for us to grow, it is important to take the time out each and every day. The orderliness in our lives can only be conserved – not by running round in our own brains like sheep – but by considering placing a full-stop every few hours to take spiritual stock of what we are up to; to begin the day with a moment of prayer and to end it likewise; and to take breaks during the day to do the same.
It is only in that way we can add the middle, missed out section of the Gospel reading today, and take on board the nourishment of both spiritual carbohydrate and spiritual protein; the loaves and the fishes if you like, that will feed us so that we can calmly progress the day in love and harmony with our neighbours and in appreciation of the great Creation in which we live and the Faith to which we espouse.
It is so important for us – a real necessity if you like – to do as Jesus asks his disciples – among whom we can now number ourselves. A practise which we know – despite His own busy-ness – He will always find time for.
So in our daily lives, let us take time out on frequent occasion to take stock. Through regular prayer and Christian contemplation we can adjust our lives to benefit others through our own example – and even help cast our own spiritual cloaks around the doubters that might easily hearten them to The Cause.
Oh, how seemingly easy it is to “talk the talk” … but for me, I know of the extra effort I need to put into place so that I can also “walk the walk” – and I would invite you all to join me as we journey along the path together.
Trinity 8 (Year B)