Grace Is Our Backstory
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The Scripture today tells us:
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.
They had been on the road for days.
Teaching. Telling the story of Jesus.
Telling how their lives had been changed.
Telling how they had just been out there
in the tedium of their everyday life,
longing for excitement, for connection,
and then this rogue rabbi had come by
and invited them to journey with him.
They had said yes, of course they had said yes.
There is only so many years
you can give to a life that is not your own,
a life that brims with weariness and tasks,
and is empty of the things
that set your heart on fire.
They had followed Jesus,
the way that you follow the pull of the magnet,
the tug of your heart, the thirst for water,
the hunger that rumbles in your belly.
They followed Jesus
because they wanted to live for something more.
Something more than chores and to-do lists.
Obligations and responsibilities,
Repetition and dullness.
Boredom and isolation.
They followed Jesus
because they wanted to chase
beauty and love,
grandeur and grace.
It hadn’t turned out how they expected.
Jesus was always saying things they did not understand,
challenging their expectations
or their measurements of success and self-worth.
Yet, something about Jesus’ persist and tender way
broke open their hearts,
and crumbled walls
that had separated them
We were meant to live for so much more.
Suddenly they got that.
As the walls and fences came a-tumbling down,
suddenly they saw that
they did not always have to go
chasing things that are great.
Grace and beauty, love and tenderheartedness –
these things are already present,
already here for the taking.
Jesus had sent them out to share
this good news with others.
Two by two they went.
They wore sandals
but they took nothing for the road –
not even an extra shirt.
Grace is yours for the taking,
I imagine them shouting.
Some people listened to them
and asked them questions.
Others were so moved
that they changed the lives too.
Still others slammed the shutters,
as they muttered to themselves
about crazy preachers
who proclaim things from the streets.
There were those who received the disciples,
and those who received them not.
Those who said, come on in,
grab a tea and tell me more.
And those who said – stop wasting our time,
we know you come from that
small, backward town of Galilee.
We won’t waste our time with people like you.
Go back to where you came from.
With that words like that,
these people closed their homes,
their towns and their hearts.
Then, the text tells us,
the disciples returned to Jesus and
they told him everything that happened.
They told him of the people they met and
the lives they touched.
They told also,
of the ways that they had been disappointed
by the way people had
flung closed their hearts
and misjudged them.
I imagine that
some of the stories of disappointment,
were about themselves too.
Perhaps they had met someone desperately in need,
full of pain,
and they had tried so hard to help,
but still, at the end,
the person wandered away
distracted and not yet ready.
I wonder if they botched their stories,
or, in the midst of cultural differences,
not said the right thing
or forgot the names of those they met.
Perhaps there was a moment when they thought:
Why did Jesus call me?
Surely there is someone else
who could have done this better.
After their adventures,
they returned to Jesus.
And it says, they told Jesus all of it,
every last big of what they had done
and taught and experienced.
Into their places of disappointment,
Jesus responded, saying,
“Come away with me.
Let us go alone to a quiet place
and rest for a while.”
Jesus knew they needed rest.
Into every place of
failure and frustration,
heartbreak and exhaustion,
Jesus says to us:
come away with me and rest.
Come away for awhile.
I was reminded of that invitation this week
while I was listening to an interview
with Nadia Bolz-Weber,
an author and public theologian.
In the interview,
Nadia was remarking that
the she thinks the
whole “you can have it all” thing
is a lie.
She said, several years ago,
she was trying really hard
not to disappoint her family,
not to disappoint her job,
not to disappoint her friends.
She wanted to prove that
she could have it all,
and it was important to her
that nothing got dropped.
To deal with it all,
she joined cross-fit
– an intense community gym program –
and settled on a 8:30 p.m. bed time.
She said on the outside,
it looked like good self-care
but it reality
it was just a list of habits she adopted
to make sure that she could over-function.
Until one day,
she seriously disappointed someone she loved
and their response was,
that sucks and I forgive you.
These words, Nadia said,
made her cry because,
in that moment,
she realized that
she didn’t need to “have it all”.
Rather, she needed to be set free.
She needed someone to say, Nadia, let the plates drop.
because the fear of dropping them
was torturing her.
and in the end,
was way worse
than having them drop anyway.
She said, in that moment,
it was her faith that told her
that she was already enough,
that she was loved apart from
what she does or does not do,
and that, her worthiness
is not found in her business.
In the moment,
grace is our backstory,
for God calls us not to be busy,
but to be free.
Grace, as the disciples had proclaimed so readily,
is ours for the taking.
I learned that not only from Nadia this week
but also from Anne Lamott,
an author and recovering alcoholic.
This week Anne posted a picture on Instagram
of a small charm for a necklace:
it was a hand,
representing the hand of God.
She had bought it in Bethlehem,
in the Holy Land.
Anne wrote that,
when she first got sober
women who had been sober longer
suggested that she hold
a wadded up ball of Kleenex,
to experience walking hand in hand
with some kind of Higher Power.
She says that she had already been going to a church
a year before she got sober,
and believed in God
and had profound spirituality.
Still, she says, she thought she was a
piece of … (I’m changing her words here)
The people around her taught her,
rather than figuring everything out at once,
which had previously been her inclination,
to just on not drink that day
and carry around the ball of Kleenex.
They said to Anne
that she could go by what she thought of herself,
or by what they thought of her.
Anne notes that, in that moment,
she had run out of “good ideas” to rescue herself,
so she surrendered.
They thought that she was a fabulous,
amazing, screwed up child of God,
healing one day at a time,
so she practiced that.
Now 32 years later,
she no longer thinks she is a piece of … manure
but some days are still too long.
She has learned,
as she writes elsewhere,
that grace bats last.
Sometimes it comes in the form of a wadded-up Kleenex
and friends who believe for us and in us
when we cannot
and the hand of a God,
who walks with us and talks with us
and reminds us
even in the most manure-filled moments
that we are God’s own.
Jesus calls to us:
Come away and rest.
Perhaps there are moments
when we too wonder:
Who are we … to be doing anything?
We keep messing up,
we can’t ever quite keep all
those stupid plates in the air.
Yet we too discover
that we are fabulous,
amazing, screwed up children of God,
healing one day at a time.
And what could be more gorgeous,
more handsome than that?
The Rev. Nadia Bolz –Weber says that
faith allows us to speak
the truth about our lives.
These words remind me that
the Gospel is less about having it all
and more about telling the truth,
like the disciples,
that we might receive with open hands
the gifts of God.
It is striking to me that,
later in the Scripture,
Jesus encounters a crowd and
it says that “he had compassion for them.”
Jesus’ focus was not on
how to impress them or perform for them,
but how to connect with them,
how to impact them,
how to love them.
Jesus shows us that life is not about
showing off our brilliance
but listening together
to a God who speaks our name.
We can let the plates drop
and God still names us as beloved.
For not letting the ball drop is more tiring
than letting people see who we truly are –
we are people who sometimes drop the ball
but can tell the story
of freedom and mercy,
joy and resurrection,
belovedness and boldness,
community and respite,
wonder and bravery and transformation.
Jesus says to us,
come away with me to a place of rest and grace,
where God speaks your name.
Even now, Jesus says :
Come away and rest.