When No One Else Cares
#When No One Else Cares is the podcast for July 22, 2018. When people follow the apostles when they seek peace and quiet, it is Jesus who reminds us the truth when no one else cares. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark #Mark6 #God #Compassion #Parenthood #DadRetreat #Mercy #Patience #Isaiah55 #NotLikeUs
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/22/2018 The 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 6:30-34.
The other day, it hit me that with all of the kids out of the house, I no longer needed to go to the bathroom to get away from everyone. I do not believe that needs any explanation, but I will talk a little about it. Once inside, it felt like the bathroom door was impenetrable. Even our dog would sniff at the bottom of the door to check to see if I was there and then he would walk away. Kids would knock and I just would not answer. After being a short order cook, a taxi, an entertainer, a tutor, a sage, and a certified nurses assistant to my children, good grief! I just had to get away! Like I said, no explanation needed. I call these times, “daddy retreats.”
In preparation for this homily I was reading how performers would put “riders” on to their performance contracts that would demand that their dressing rooms have certain things for their comfort. Some insisted that rooms be kept at a certain temperature, others that they have certain foods, some that there be a 12 foot boa constrictor in their room (don’t ask me why), others that a rhesus monkey be in the room, others that the room be draped in certain colors of cloth and that plants six feet tall be in the dressing room. That last request was from the Rock icon Paul McCartney. The rock band ‘The Foo Fighters’ insisted that bacon be in their dressing room because it was ‘food for the gods’. Although there is only one God, I have to say that I am with them in the sentiment about bacon.
My point is that the natural tendency of someone who is put up on a stage, screamed for, worshiped like they are everything, is to think that they can have what they want when they want it. Or, that stardom is about getting what we want when we want it. So, rather than thinking of what things are like for those who have travelled great distances to hear them sing, or how the seating is for the people around them, or that their tickets are affordable, most ‘stars’ are more concerned on what is going to make them comfortable.
This idea of a ‘star’ who is worshiped and then is self-focused too often creeps into our understanding of God. It is easy to think that God is just there to tell us not to do what we want to do. Or, to think that God only gives us what we need or want grudgingly. The scandal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we proclaim just the opposite: our claim is that when God wanted to save us, he gave up his own life. So, Jesus, in the passage from today’s Gospel gives the disciples who are now, for the first time in the Gospel of Mark, called the ‘apostles’ are being taught what it means to be those who represent Christ to the people.
Just prior to this passage is the beheading of John the Baptist which is told as a story about the dangers of being a Christian and even more so, of being an apostle. ‘Apostle,’ by the way, means ‘one who is sent.’ ‘Disciple’ on the other hand is ‘one who learns’. So, the story of the beheading of the Baptist is the story of what can happen when you preach the truth. Yet, that story is inserted in the middle of the action. The action, for our purposes, is that the 12 have just returned from a journey preaching, anointing, healing, and casting out demons in the name of Jesus. It is similar to parenting.
After their long journey, Jesus wants to take them away to a deserted place for renewal. It is similar to a retreat or to a “daddy retreat”. After we have been working so hard, we just need to get away to our dressing room with our bacon.
Jesus was a rock star of his era. The elite wanted nothing to do with him, but the people, the masses, loved him. Now that he sent the 12 out, they then drew even larger crowds. So, as the story is told by Mark, the people sought them out like paparazzi looking for a picture.
I know from my daddy retreats that when the kids would come after me that I could get exasperated. “What now!” I thought often and sometimes said. “I just need a moment of peace!” I would think often and sometimes say. This is not the response of Jesus Christ.
We always need to remember that the actions of Jesus, of God, are not the actions of human beings writ large. The Bible does not have a rider that demands that certain things be in God’s dressing room to make him comfortable. God is not sitting in the restroom thinking, “What now!” “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,” says the Lord in Isaiah 55:8-9. So, when we seek him out, he doesn’t think of the situation from his own selfish point of view. The dressing room does not have to be 77.9 degrees exactly, like Jennifer Lopez wants. Nor is there a need for a “chewed gum attendant” like Mariah Carey wants.
In fact, Jesus has compassion for them. If I can take a moment to put words in our Lord’s head, he must be thinking something like this, “They have traveled so far to this deserted place! My goodness!” He is moved, even flattered it seems that they would come out to this place to seek healing, teaching, goodness, and love. So, rather than say, “Come back at five, we will have a show then,” he begins to teach them.
Look, the passage says that the apostles were so consumed with ministry that they themselves didn’t even have time to eat. They were whooped. Ministry can wear you out. Meeting the needs of the poor, the sick, the outcast can be overwhelming. It can be exhausting. Casting out demons can take a toll on you. It can be easy, in a moment of weakness, to start to resent the people who need you most. That is why it is important to get away, even if it is just to the sanctity of the restroom.
Instead, Jesus steps in to relieve the work of the apostles. He steps in to relieve the needs of the people who have come out to a deserted place, where there are no accommodations for their comfort, to have their desire to learn about the Lord met; their hunger for healing to be met. It is for these he has compassion. As he will show us as he goes to the Cross, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the God-man, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, did not come to have a certain kind of flower placed in his dressing room. He came to be compassionate, understand the needs we have, and then meet them out of his love for us.
The God of the universe is not one to stamp his foot and demand as much as extend his hand and invite. He has principles and standards, but one of those is compassion and love. That is important when we are the ones who have travelled far in our lives and find ourselves in a deserted place where we think no one cares. The Father cares. Jesus, the God-man, cares. He not only cares, but he extends his compassion to us all.
We can see it right here in his response which is not like the response that we would give to those who are crowding in on us, taking up our ‘me’ time. So, we can know that when we think no one else cares, we can see that God does. He cares. He believes in us, knows us, and relates to us. It makes me wonder if we really understand what happens when we worship God. It makes me wonder if worship is really for God’s good or for our own. Worship reminds us that we are not the center of the universe and the rules of the universe are not the dog eat dog rules of the world. Worship reminds us that at the center of it all is caring, compassion, understanding, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and service.
May the Lord remind us every moment of this centering truth: When it seems like everyone else is into themselves, too busy for us, and can’t think of what we have been through, Jesus sees, knows, and has compassion. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian