The worship video for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost is ready to go live at 10am, August 2nd. The bulletin can be found here. If you want the full worship experience, please have a bowl of water, something small to eat and drink, and a lit candle nearby just to set the mood. The bowl of water and food are referenced and used in the service, but the candle is more just for the ambiance. But I believe God is praised either way, so whichever way you prefer.
Peace be with you!
Generous and providing God, by your Spirit may we be fed by your Word. Fill us with your bread of life and empower us with your compassion and love, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Can you believe that it’s been 21 weeks since we started having worship online? Meaning it’s been 22 weeks since we had a worship service together in person in this space. Which means it’s been at least 23 weeks since many of you have even stepped foot in the building…
Time flies, huh? And I know many of you are tired of this. Many of you are tired of restricted activities, restricted contact with others, restricted menu selection at your favourite restaurants. Many of you are tired of having to wear masks, washing masks, and frowning on those not wearing masks. Many of you are just tired and want things to go back to the way they were.
And I’m with you. I feel that too. But truth be told I also long for the days of old, the days when we’d gather here in this place, sing some hymns, pray some prayers, liturg some liturgy, and then have some coffee, tea, and delicious goodies that all you never failed to bring. I miss seeing you in person, laughing, hearing your stories, and just being in the same space. I miss the way things were, and quite honestly this new way is tiring. Draining, even. Learning how to be a church in these times is exhausting. Finding the time write, record, and edit these services has been the source of so much of my fatigue that when it finally came time for my holidays a few weeks ago, I was on the verge of collapse. I had enough of this pandemic and the end of it could not come soon enough.
So I get the fatigue. I get the exhaustion. I get how this whole thing can be so draining to the point that we feel like there is nothing left. No more energy, no more emotion, no more anything to give to just make it through this with any kind of semblance of who we were before it began.
And many would say, we aren’t the only ones. We aren’t the only ones who have felt at the end of our ropes and burnt out. We aren’t the only ones who have been so emotionally drained that just getting out of bed in the morning seemed like a monumental task in itself. We aren’t the only ones who feel like we have nothing left to give and just want to be left alone. In fact, while a pandemic like this is the first in this generation, it isn’t the first ever in history. Generation after generation inside and outside of the church have faced countless catastrophic events and emotional apocalypses (apocalypsi? apocalypisis?) other catastrophic events that could make this pandemic look like a walk in the park.
And above all, we know Jesus went through this as well. We know this because we read about it in today’s gospel lesson. Today’s story starts off with Jesus catching wind that his cousin, his friend, and some say his mentor, was executed for speaking truth. He was arrested out of spite, murdered out of malice, and humiliated just to prove a point. So Jesus broke down. The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, lost it. He might have felt deflated, emotionally discharged, and just done so he went to take some time to recharge and regroup… alone.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, just as Jesus finally got some alone time, he was approached by a bunch of strangers who wanted to learn, wanted to be healed, wanted to have hope. And Jesus could have just said “nope” and rowed to another spot or walked further up the mountain, or maybe hide in a bush until everyone passed by. Rather, Jesus saw them and their ailments, their brokenness, their neediness, and had compassion for them. And so out of his deep love for all people Jesus said “yup”.
Even after his disciples protest, he said yup. Even after they tried to shoo the people away to go home, he said yup. Even after they had the very valid excuse that there is no way they could feed all these people, Jesus said yup.
He said yup, follow me. Yup, learn from me. Yup, find nourishment for your souls and your bodies for this gospel that I preach is about a God who is gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
And we might think, ok, that’s nice. I can’t do that. When I’m tired, I’m tired. When I’m exhausted, I have nothing left to give. When I’m burnt out, I’m done. So when it’s time for me to tap out and let someone else take over, you better believe that I’ll be tapping out. No amount of compassion or strangers asking for help is going to change that.
And I know, that might have been our initial reaction. That might be what we think the take away is for this text. Some have said that the miracle of the feeding wasn’t a miracle in multiplying the food, but a miracle in multiplying the compassion Jesus felt by everyone sharing what they had until all were fed. Some have said that Jesus, even in a state of emotional exhaustion, was able to dig deep and find more to give because the people depend on it. Some have said that we can do the same, that we can be like Jesus and have our compassion multiplied and used to strengthen us in our ministry, our community, and throughout our lives.
You know what? I don’t know if I buy that. I don’t think that Jesus expects us to never take breaks regardless of how tired we are. No, I don’t think that it is an act of faithlessness to be burnt out and just want to quit. But I do think that the common denominator here is Jesus. I do think that the source of all compassion and strength is Jesus. I do think that the point here is Jesus, not as the one who demands more of us, but the one who gives us more than ourselves.
See, we are like the crowds following Jesus in this story. Wanting to learn, wanting to eat, perhaps wanting to rest. Jesus doesn’t tell them to go away and dig deep and find a way to get theirs, but rather, Jesus gives. Jesus feeds. Jesus loves with a compassion so strong that even the smallest bit of food turns into a feast. A feast of love, a feast of community, a feast of God’s abundant blessing and grace reminding us that in God, life is worth it. We are worth it. You are worth it.
So in this time of pandemic when we are feel tired and run down, take a break. Not take a break from the pandemic, I mean you still gotta be careful out there, but take a break from your daily life and find something that gives you joy. See how God is providing for you rest and support. Be fed by God’s Word and have your souls nourished by God’s generosity and gracious compassion, filling us with hope for a better world, joy in salvation, and a steadfast love that that blesses us beyond comprehension.
This doesn’t mean that we’ll never feel tired again, no we will and some of us still do right now as we speak. But it does mean that in our fatigue, in our emotionally drained state, in our inability to give any more than what we’ve already given, that Jesus is there with us, acting as our strength, acting as our support, and reminding us of a life that is full of hope and peace.
So maybe this pandemic will end soon, which will be great. If it does, know that you are loved and that Jesus is with you. Or maybe this pandemic won’t end soon, which would be less than ideal. If that happens, know that you are loved and that Jesus is with you. Pandemic or not, we have been given a community with whom we can worship, pray, and be reminded of our position in Christ’s compassion, our worthiness in the fellowship of the Spirit, and the nourishment and strength we receive from God’s steadfast and abounding love.
In this season after Pentecost, may we find rest in Christ, that as we still have to face this pandemic that is taking its toll on us, we might be able to still feel the love, joy, and peace of God, giving us the hope that strengthens us to carry on. Thanks be to God. Amen.