A message inspired by John 4:5-6; 31-38
I felt very on top of things last Saturday when I sent Connor an email including both my scripture passage and my theme for today.
Early planning allowed for a creative solution to avoid preaching on the upcoming lectionary passage which just happened to be the same passage I had preached on for twenty-three weeks straight during The Land’s preaching tour. Nauseous from even the thought of preaching on this passage again, I ripped out the guts of the lectionary and glued together the ends.
A whole new story took form that marveled me on Monday and relieved me on Friday.
“…Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.”
On Monday, I loved that Jesus was tired out before noon because it was relate-able. On Friday, I loved that Jesus was tired out before noon because I was living it.
On Monday, schools were still open and toilet paper was still stocked. On Monday, I giggled about being tired out before noon with Jesus as an old friend would, looking back on a collective past. On Friday, I was tired out before noon. This scripture was no found memory but a sincere experience where I sat next to Jesus, waiting with him to drink that water from the well of hope and love.
The trouble was, of course, that spiritual loitering is culturally illegal.
“Move along, you two!”
“Grab those bootstraps and mosey along, now.”
“Nothing’s going to get better by sitting there and pouting.”
Keep going. You can’t let these things change the way you live. Push on through. The show must go on!
The Beloved Community sees Jesus worn out and resting and offers a unison prayer of pragmatism,
Fix this, right now. Get up and get better.
A Sassy-Pants Jesus stays seated and responds, “I AM eating! My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”
This is a frustrating exegetical task in our context because his defiance toward the Disciple’s legitimate concern can be easily misleading us down the path of destructive determinism.
I am approximately 60% confident that this is the direction in which Jesus had been leading. I am approximately 90% confident this is a pathway paved by consumerist culture, not by the wisdom of Christ. And, this, in my opinion, is the biggest threat to our current reality; our corporate refusal to rest.
The principle of ‘the show must go on!’ is a powerful one and I am, perhaps, the biggest follower of its fan club. I will work when I am sick, I will run until I pass out, I will push on until I crash. If nothing stops me, why would I stop?
Last weekend, I heard myself say out loud these words, “You can’t let stuff prevent you from doing things. You have to live your life.” I heard myself say these words out loud and I thought to myself, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
I was in my sophomore year of college on the day the towers fell on 9/11. I spent the entire day enraged that my classes were not cancelled. That life in Colorado was going along as if nothing important enough to stop for had just happened. I complained to people on the sidewalk, to my professors over email and to my parents on the phone, “What was wrong with people!? How could they just keep doing things like everything was normal when nothing would ever be the same!”
I have awoken to the unfortunate fact that I outgrew my collegiate sensitivities. So many bad things kept happening into my adulthood a subtle numbing took hold of my spirit and settled me into the liturgy of a life where the show must go on. Cultural blinders to reality unfolding for the promise of a world that will never stop turning and a heart that will surely keep beating. The critique I once offered I slowly became. A manifestation of a culture set sail on a ship built on denial that anything might ever need to stop, let alone stop without our say-so.
Rest is truly a rejected commodity of the privileged. There are legitimate reasons rest is an absent resource to many; all of them leading back to our dependence on money for daily survival. Survival, it then appears, is most threatened when the world stops. When we are forced to collectively rest. And, still, the conversation that falls shorts or is silenced altogether is what our lives would welcome with these obstacles to rest removed.
Thursday evening, I happened upon a story about the Post Malone concert at the Pepsi Center. The news coverage featured younger women who had purchased tickets to the show but who had made different choices about attending the show. Two young teenagers, giggling outside the arena attend because they were excited. One slightly older young woman video calls in from home because she was anxious. I notice that both ‘sides’ irritate me, and I rest into the reality of our struggle to discern, from an emotional response, right action in a high stakes situation.
We need so badly an audience to distract us from a self that has been too often abandoned by the business of essential things. The world stops, and we rally to push the globe with dissension, and Jesus rests on our Merry-Go-Round, all the while saving us a seat around a well for the worn-out.
In different ways, the world shouts to us now to, “Do Something!” and, Jesus shows us the harvest reaped from the work of rest completed long before our work began. His claim to eat food unseen is not simply a snarky comeback but a sincere message to an exhausting pace. Rest as invisible labor with internal outcomes. A space created beyond our opinions and emotional reaction. A practice destructive to the myth of a world run by the consumer and wrecked by the contemplative.
“Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.”
Like the journey of Jesus, our “Do Something!” in the days to come welcomes an opportunity to rest as we discern how to respond without the distractions of shaming or blaming, labeling or judging. A restful response observes nothing as anything less than the vulnerability of our humanness, soaked into a scene where everything belongs. A restful response pulls the pain of self and others close and whispers softly, “we are friends.”
The poet Mark Nepo writes,
“My soul tells me, we were all broken from the same nameless heart, and every living thing wakes with a piece of that original heart aching its way into blossom. This is why we know each other below our strangeness, why when we fall, we lift each other, or when in pain, we hold each other, why when sudden with joy, we dance together. Life is the many pieces of that great heart loving itself back together.”
Life is the many pieces of that great heart, loving itself back together.
May we rest in these words, so we may return to the world, awake to the truth of this reality.