Rev. Andrew Cunnington
18th July 2021
Rushing or Resting… The Movement of Our Lives Towards Christ

It seems like only yesterday that we went to Disneyland Paris, but in actual fact it was a quarter of a century ago.

The visit did not begin well as we discovered that our room in the Wild West Ranch had been double booked, but this resulted in an upgrade to the very posh Disneyland Hotel, right on the site of the park.

But more than this, we discovered that Mickey Mouse himself had his room just down the corridor from us. We would see him ambling along, presumably after a shift in the park, but for our girls at most impressionable ages, this was an excuse to tear after him at top speed shouting “Mickey Mouse, wait!” at the tops of their voices, and brandishing autograph books under his face, and a request for a photograph. And one day we saw Donald Duck sneaking into a room just opposite So our girls just wanted to be out in that corridor rushing about to get glimpses of their heroes.

This is a feature of our Gospel reading. The verses chosen for us to focus on, miss out the verses relating to two of the greatest miracles namely, the feeding of the five thousand and the stilling of the storm, in favour of looking at the reaction of the crowd to have Jesus nearby.

His presence created a rush about sort of frenzy. When they recognised Him they ran about the whole neighbourhood and brought sick people to him, wherever He was. They ran to him on foot from all the towns and villages and they were coming and going to such an extent that they had no time to even eat.

Jesus was in their midst and they wanted him for themselves, then and there, so that he might do for them whatever they wanted.

So might we sometimes – want Jesus – but we tend to want him to fit in to where we are and what we are doing. Leaving us rushing in the rest of our lives and scarcely ever truly resting with him.

A few years after Disneyland, I found myself on the island of Iona, attending a retreat given by the great writer and composer – John Bell. Eighty of us from all over the world to sit at his feet for a week. But were unsettled, right from the start, because he refused to give us a timetable of events. What time was breakfast? What time was Holy Communion? What time was his talk going to begin? When would we have free time?

Some people were really angry about this – but John Bell just smiled and said – can’t you just let go and stop rushing and being dominated by the clock, can’t respond to the way we are blessed, and take it from there.

In the two stories that our Gospel reading misses out – the people discover that it is only when they stop worrying about what will happen next, and come to rest in Jesus’s presence, that miracles happen.

Before the feeding of the five thousand with just a few loaves and fishes, he gets them to sit down in the wilderness place. To rest in the place where they have nothing and allow themselves to be nourished at his hand.

In the stilling of the storm. Whilst the disciples are rushing about shouting about the waves and the wind, Jesus walks on that water and wait to be invited into the boat where they are. To rest in the place where peace seems at its most improbable and allow that peace to take shape at his word.

What shall we eat in this desert? How shall we survive in this storm? What can we do about all our suffering ones?

These are today’s questions as much as they were then.

Jesus brings nourishment. Jesus brings peace and Jesus brings healing.

But this only takes shape when the people stop their rushing and learn to take their rest.

In these days we stand on the edge of a relaxation of restrictions around co vid – and although we may not be rushing around physically, in our hearts we are. What will this mean for me and the people I care about and the places I go. And inside our minds we are rushing around about it all and not able to find solutions.

A glimpse of Jesus is not going to help, but that’s all we think we have time for.

We need to take our rest in him , but not in protected and sheltered places but right there in our wilderness, in our stormy seas, in our suffering.

Have I ever mentioned that I enjoy a game of football? So I was gutted by the result last Sunday. So near and yet so far, but consider this.

If we had won we would be rushing about in jubilant victory. Footballs coming home from every tannoy in the town. Cars festooned in flags honking their horns. Open top bus parades. Souvenir items on sale, and the promise of an extra bank holiday.

But in not winning, we have had to be more reflective about it all and some of that has not been comfortable. The racist tweets. The stampeding mobs. The shouts of anger. Had we not moved on ? But alongside that – the dignity of the manager and his players, the groundswell of support for equality and the opening up of ourselves to looking again at attitudes we thought had changed.

There is more potential victory in this recognition of where we are, rather than in a hyped up dreamland of where we might have wanted to be.

We are not after fleeting glimpses of Jesus and then he’s gone again.

We are after welcoming him in to stay for ever and work upon our hearts until they are free from hardness and flow with mercy.

As our first reading reminds us – we are called not to be strangers and aliens from one another and thereby distanced from God to. We are to find our home in him and in each other until we are built into a single dwelling place where he is the unshakeable foundation.

The world calls us to rush. The saviour of the world calls us to rest.

In this is a call to prayer for the people of God. That worship here together no longer sits in contrast to life beyond here, but it increasingly at one with it. That we find space in our week to rest in him. Even as we walk. Even as we talk. Even as we work. Even as we find our worries taking over again. To consciously put ourselves in His presence not just for glimpses – but every closer companionship.

The church is just a Mickey Mouse sort of organisation as far as I can see – someone once said to me, and there could be truth in that sort of accusation.

But what if we can learn to sit in the places where our saviour sat. Wilderness places. Stormy places and suffering places, and build our church there.

Prayerfully. Caringly. Gently. Firmly.

For it seems to me that not only is this the way Jesus worked – it is the way, through this turmoil, to which people are beginning to turn.

MARK 6: 30-34 AND 53-END