Gospel of Mark, Lent

Take a break (Mark 6:30-56)

Everybody who went to seminary knows about the Messianic Secret: all through Mark’s gospel, Jesus tells others to shush up about who he is, first the evil spirits who recognize him immediately, then his followers who sort of get who he is, but not really.

The other theme that always pops for me in reading Mark is the need for rest and how hard it is to get some. We remember in chapter 1, Jesus went away to pray, and everyone was hunting for him. We read that he fell asleep in the back of the boat in chapter 4 but couldn’t get  a nap before the disciples were begging him to save them from a storm. When he goes into a house for a meal, people crowd around. Now he tries to get his disciples to take a break after their evangelism tour, and they end up surrounded by a multitude of people who not only want Jesus; they want dinner.

“Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.”

This is not how it turned out, of course. People ran ahead on foot to get to where they were going by boat! I’ll confess that as a pastor married to a pastor, I feel this. It’s hard to take a break, because there is always something, or someone who wants something, and I’m not saying it’s worse now than it was in the golden era of the 1950s, but people do have more ways to get in touch with us and less hesitation to do so at all hours of the day and night. 24 hour news doesn’t help. Social media – or rather, its availability – never goes to sleep. The needs of the world are ever with us.

At our house, we all struggle with the need for rest and seclusion, and our extroverted desires to be busy and in touch and in relationship, and the ever-shining lure of the electronic devices that play some part in fulfilling those desires. The internet *is* my work place, so I’m never away from it for long. What to do?

Our 13-year-old made the suggestion that we all set some limits during Lent. The night this list was written on the chalkboard in our kitchen, we went cold turkey, plugging our phones in to a charging station in the kitchen instead of using the reason, um, excuse that we needed them as our alarm clocks. (The four-legged alarm clocks have yet to fail us.)

This was a covenant he made with kathrynzj, and they did not demand that I comply, but I agreed to go along with the practice. (They gave me a pass for the late afternoon slot since I sometimes work from my phone, but I am trying to be clear about using the laptop for work at that time of day instead.)

I’m not going to lie. It’s hard. I’m used to picking up the phone in the middle of the night and letting the world back in if I cannot sleep. Some nights, I forget (“forget”) to move my iPad out of reach, and it’s the same temptation. On the nights I leave both out of reach, I have a better night, a better rest, a better break.

So this is my confession and my commitment. For the rest of Lent, I’m going to relinquish the iPad at night, too. I’m going to try harder to take a break.

Holy One, help me to see the difference between the times and places to which I am essential and the ones I am not. Amen. 

I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent. Want to read along? I’m using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I am also referring to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible.

You can find the full schedule here, including links to earlier posts.