Sermon Text: Did They Mean It?
When I was a kid going to church, they read about Jesus every Sunday...but I don't think they meant it.
It is amazing that I still go to church. When I was a kid, church felt mean-spirited. It was all about sins and guilt and how unworthy I was. They taught me that my body is bad, and my heart or spirit wasn't much better.
There were lists and lists of sins, and penances, and vices. As an adult, I now think they trivialized ethics and values with their lists. The church of my childhood was much more committed to a system than to a person. It was much more interested in the belief system, blind obedience, and respect for authority than in, well, Jesus.
They read about Jesus every Sunday, but I don't think they meant it.
It's amazing that I still go to church. Today's Gospel story raises some questions about church when I was a kid. Why didn't I hear about Jesus' example of rest, getting away, relaxation? It's right there in this story. He set a pattern.
Things were very busy, and he invited his friends to get away, and rest, and be together. In his teaching, Jesus underlined the idea of sabbath from the ancient Jewish tradition. Sabbath means taking time to rest and relax and enjoy life.
I never heard about Jesus saying that when I was a kid. If the topic of sabbath came up, it was to beat me over the head about how sinful it was to miss church services. So I go with Jesus here.
I may be the pastor of a church, but I don't rebuke people for missing church. We live in such a busy world, so I support people in their need to take time for rest with family and friends. The past couple of weeks, I had a great vacation. I feel very relaxed, and very thankful.
But here's another thing: This text says that a great crowd interrupted the little vacation Jesus planned for himself and his friends. When Jesus saw this crowd, the text says, "he had compassion for them." Why didn't I hear more as a kid about the compassion of Jesus? It's a great word. Mark the Evangelist often uses it about Jesus.
But when I was a kid, religion was not compassionate. To be honest, it was pretty harsh. They read about Jesus, but I don't think they meant it.
So I have a dream about any church I'm part of. I'd like the church to follow the Jesus style.
Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, likes to call us "the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement." I think that's great.
And I think that means we'll read about Jesus in the Gospels on Sundays and mean it.
I dream that the church will follow the Jesus style. I dream that our children will grow up with the Jesus style. I want the children of St. Mark's to know that church can be fun, that they belong in this church just as much as grownups, and that God loves them and wants good things for them.
I want us to read about Jesus in church.
And I want us to mean it.