I was preparing for the sermon for today (Sunday, July 19) and found that there were more thoughts to be expressed than could be in any one sermon. I am always amazed at how Scripture is that way. God has packed so much into His Word that no matter how many times you have read it, studied it and unpacked it, you will always find more when you come back to it. You will never get to the final thing that God would have you learn from His Word. It isn't until you are in heaven that you will be able to no longer read or study the Word. Then you won't need it. You will have the Word Himself (Jesus Christ, John 1:1) to talk with and what more would you need?
So I was studying mark 6:30-44, the Feeding of the 5000, which is quite an amazing event in itself. It started with the return of the apostles (notice they are not called disciples here for they were "sent out" by Christ, meaning that they were truly "apostles" at that point, not disciples). They came back with the report of all that took place. There must have been a designated time for their return, a certain number of days or the like. They were all a twitter about what took place (and they would have 'tweeted' about what was happened if they would have had the technology). They wanted to tell Jesus all about it.
Reminds me of the youth coming home from a National Lutheran Youth Gathering or the women from a LWML convention such as just took place in Portland, OR this last June. There is so much to tell. This happened. This took place. We met this person and talked with that person. We helped out at this food bank and painted this school building. So many things to tell about.
The disciples had been on a spiritual "high." They were running on pure adrenalin. It was a big time for them. Jesus knew exactly what they needed. They needed time to get away, to deprogram, to let down from the mission events and to let all that took place soak into their hearts and minds. We are told in vs. 31 "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" (Mark 6:31 NIV)
"Come away with Me," Jesus says. I think that is good advice. We need to encourage our pastors and other church workers to attend retreats where they can be in relation with Jesus, reading His word, communing with Him, listening to His voice and refreshing their hearts and lives. Church workers spend so much time and energy helping and guiding other people, that we forget that they need that themselves. They need their spiritual lives refreshed and it is impossible to do that in the hustle and bustle of the every day events of church life.
I know that through the week, there are few times to spend in personal reflection and growth. i have to get up early (when the rest of the world is still sleeping) to find that quiet time to commune with God and to listen to His voice. I must "come away with Jesus" to be refreshed through the week. But that often isn't enough.
Caring for the spiritual lives of others wears on a person. Satan uses that to tire a person out, to frustrate a person or to cause a person to doubt the work he/she does. There is the person in Bible class that hears what you say but refuses to listen and won't come back because he doesn't like what he is hearing. Let it go! But you can't. You care for his soul and wonder if you could have said it differently, if there is any way to reach him or to help him to continue to hold to Jesus. There is the constant pressure to produce a sermon that will capture the people, keep their attention, feed their soul and do it in 15 minutes or less because they have places to go, people to see, things to do. And God forbid that you go much longer than the allotted time. There is the family tearing apart, the young person in jail, the drinking, the drugs, the sex outside of marriage (before and after marriage takes place), the illicit relationships, the temptation of sin, lusts of the flesh, thoughts of the mind and needs of the soul - all before noon each day! OK, maybe not that bad, but some weeks, you would be surprised.
How do you survive? By listening to the Good Shepherd who wants to lead you to the green pastures and who invited you to sit beside the still waters. By letting Him guide you away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life to a spiritual retreat. We need out church workers fresh. When we have needs, we want them on top their game (so to speak) not dragging in the ditch filled with stale, dirty, mucky water. That can only happen as they are fed daily by the Word, weekly by the Sacrament and each moment by the Lord. AND they need to "come away" with Jesus to get the rest they need, so that the next time you come to them, they are ready to help you. Not only are they ready, their "cup overflows" with the love of Christ, the Word of the Lord and the power of the Spirit.
Next time your church worker asks to attend a spiritual retreat, think of what Jesus says to His disciples, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Let them go - and maybe you should even help pay for it.