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Run Faster

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TITLE:  RUN FASTER?                  SCRIPTURE:  Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

I used to work with a man who owned a Mercedes TurboDiesel -- a big, expensive car.  I wondered how he managed to afford such an expensive car on his salary.  He was proud of that car though.  He liked to talk about its superior engineering. 

One morning he came late for work and said, "The engine in my car stopped while I was sitting at a stoplight.  I couldn't get it to start again.  I had to have it towed into the Mercedes dealer.  Do you think it's anything serious?"  I didn't have any idea whether it was serious, but I was concerned.  It costs lots of money to repair a Mercedes.

A day or two later, I asked about his car.  Was everything OK?  Did they get it fixed?

With a sad look on her face, she said, "They tell me that it didn't have any oil in it -- but I fill the tank every time it is low.  The gauge never registered empty.  How could it not have any oil in it?"

With a sad look on my face, I explained that his car required two things -- diesel fuel to power it and oil to lubricate it.  You put fuel into the filler tube at the back of the car and oil into the filler tube under the hood. I told him that he needed to change the oil regularly-- check the manual to see what it recommends.  That was news to him.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that he would probably need a new engine. 

That was, in fact, what happened.  He had to replace the engine.  I never knew what that cost him, but a mechanic I know says that you could replace a Mercedes TurboDiesel with a rebuilt engine today for about $7000.  Or you could change the oil for about 20 bucks. 

Change the oil or change the engine.  Take your choice.

Which leads me into our scripture text today.  It's a story of Jesus and his disciples.  Jesus had been working the disciples pretty hard.  They had been crisscrossing the Sea of Galilee with Jesus as he healed a demoniac on one side of the sea (5:1-20) and then restored a little girl to life on the other side of the sea (5:21-43).  Jesus had sent the apostles on a mission trip, where they healed many people and called people to repentance (6:6-13).  Wherever they went, crowds gathered.   The disciples hardly had time to catch their breath.

When they returned from their mission trip, they reported to Jesus all that they had done.  Jesus saw that they were excited about the results of their work, but he also saw that they were weary -- so he said:

     "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while" (v. 31).

That's the verse that made me think of the man with the TurboDiesel.  There was a big difference between that man and Jesus.  He didn't understand his car.  He didn't understand that it needed oil.  Not understanding his car's needs, he ran it until it died.  It was a personal tragedy for a man of modest means.

Jesus wasn't like that in his relationship to his disciples.  He not only knew their names, but he also knew their needs.  The Gospel of John talks about Jesus as having been present at the creation.  It says:

     "All things came into being through him,and without him not one thing came into being" (John 1:3).

So the relationship between Jesus and people wasn't one of driver, but of creator.  A creator knows how the created things were made.  The creator knows what the created things can do and cannot do.  The creator knows what they can take and what they can't.  Would Henry Ford have run the engine of a Model T without oil?  I doubt it seriously, because Henry Ford created the Model T.  He knew that it needed oil -- and he knew the cost of ignoring that need.

So it was with Jesus and his disciples.  He knew how the disciples were made -- and he knew how much they could take -- and he knew what they needed.  They had been working hard, and they needed a rest.  So Jesus said:

     "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while" (v. 31).

Speaking of the creation, let's go back and review that story briefly.  Genesis tells us that God created the world and all that's in it in six days.  Then what did God do on the seventh day?  God rested on the seventh day.

Later, God told his people to rest on the seventh day.  He told them not to work on the seventh day.  God didn't do that to clip their wings -- to curtail their fun.  God did that because he knew that they needed to rest now and then.  He didn't want them to find themselves stranded at a stoplight -- their bodies seized up with too much work and worry -- candidates for a major overhaul.  He wanted to keep them healthy, wealthy, and wise.  And so he called them to rest.

I should mention that the prohibition against work on the Sabbath was a Jewish law.  The New Testament makes it clear that Christians aren't obligated to follow the Jewish law.  But the principle remains -- people need some time to rest -- some time for renewal.  That has never changed.

At the risk of cheapening the Bible, let me liken it to the owner's manual in a car.  Have you ever taken the owner's manual out of your car's glove box and read it.  Not many of us have.  Most of us have forgotten that it is there -- but it can come in handy.  My friend had a flat tire, and neither of us could figure out where to position the jack on the frame of the car to raise the car safely.  Then we remembered the owner's manual.  Fortunately, it was still in the glove box where it had been all along.  We checked the manual, and it told us exactly where to position the jack. That was helpful information -- potentially life-saving help. 

Knowing what's in your Bible can be potentially life-saving too.  So many people live their lives so damagingly.  So much of that could be so easily avoided. 

There's nothing new about that.  Four hundred years ago, Blaise Pascal put it this way:

     "One-half of the ills of life come because people are unwilling to sit down quietly for thirty minutes to think through all the possible consequences of their acts."

That quotation reminded me of the woman who was so rushed at Christmas that she bought a box of fifty Christmas cards without bothering to read the verse.  She quickly addressed all but one and put them in the mail.  Sometime later, she saw the one remaining Christmas card, picked it up, and read the verse.  It said:

     "This card is just to say a little gift is on the way.

Oh, my!

We spend so much time running hard, never stopping to ask where we are going.  We spend so much time climbing the ladder, never stopping to determine whether we have it propped against the right wall.  Our busyness is, in part, an addiction.  We are so hooked on busyness that it makes us uncomfortable to have a free hour or, God forbid, a free day.  When we have a little free time, it seldom takes us long to cram it full of something.

We not only do it to ourselves, but we also do it to our families.  Mike Yaconelli talked about attending his daughter's track meet.  One of the races was the boy's one-mile run.  A couple of boys led the pack.  Most of the boys were bunched together.  One short, stout boy was running dead last -- his face red and twisted in pain.  Then a woman, obviously the boy's mother, ran down to the railing that separated the bleachers from the track, and yelled at the top of her lungs, "Johnny, RUN FASTER!"  Yaconelli said:

 

     "I will never forget that moment and the look of hopelessness on Johnny's face. He had to be thinking, 'Run faster?  Run faster? ...What do you think the problem is here -- I just forgot to run faster? I'm running as fast as I can!"

Jesus saw that his disciples had been running as fast as they could.  He didn't say, "RUN FASTER!"  He said:

     "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."

It wasn't long before they were back at it, because it wasn't long before the crowds found them -- but, for a little bit, Jesus gave his disciples the blessing of rest -- the blessing of quietness -- the blessing of solitude.

We need to hear that story, because we need to give ourselves permission to rest -- to take a little time for renewal -- some time to renew our strength, both physically and spiritually.  Our culture says, "GO, GO, GO!" -- but someone needs to remind us that God created us to need some time to rest.  That's what I am trying to do today. 

Let me encourage you to find a little time each day when you can be by yourself with nothing to do but think -- or to read a devotional book -- or to pray.  Sit by yourself for a few minutes and pray:

 

     "Dear God, quiet my frenzied spirit.

     Help me to know what is important today,

     and help me to know what is not important.

     Show me how you would have me to live this day.

     Show me how to make this a blessed day,

     for my family and for myself.

     Give me the grace to do what I can, Lord,

     and give me the grace to trust you for the rest.

     Give me peace, Lord.

     Grant me your peace.  Amen.

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

     "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."

Jesus says to you:

     "Come away to a deserted place all by yourself and rest a while."

The Church's One Foundation   UMH #545

He Touched Me  UMH #367

Take Time to be Holy  UMH #395

HYMN STORY:  Take Time to Be Holy

This hymn is a good example of the Lord making more of our work than we could have expected.

The man who wrote the words to "Take Time to Be Holy" was neither a pastor nor a songwriter.  William Longstaff was an English businessman -- a Christian layman who took his faith seriously.

Hearing a sermon on the text, "Be ye holy, for I am holy," Longstaff was inspired to write a poem, "Take Time to Be Holy."  Being a good businessman, Longstaff had a practical mind.  That is reflected in this hymn, which offers many practical suggestions for becoming holy. 

- He says, "Take time to be holy," which reflects his understanding that holiness, like every virtue, requires time and attention to develop it. 

- He says, "Speak oft with the Lord," reflecting his personal experience that prayer deepens faith. 

- He says, "Take time to be holy, Be calm in your soul; Each thought and each motive, Beneath His control," telling us that we can face adversity calmly if we look to Christ for guidance.

Longstaff managed to get his poem published in a Christian newspaper, but that was the end of it -- or so it seemed.  But as it turned out, George Stebbins, a Christian musician, had seen the poem and had clipped and filed it.  Years later, needing a hymn on the subject of holy living, he remembered the poem and set it to music.  It has been a favorite now for more than a century.

I don't know whether Longstaff ever knew that Stebbins had set his poem to music.  I don't know that he ever heard it sung. I know only that he felt called to write the poem -- and that God took care of the rest.  When we do something good --something for God -- we might never know the full measure of good that we have accomplished.  We can only know that God will take what we offer, great or small, and make of it a treasure.

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