Friday 13 July 2012

Come away to a deserted place

Peter Lockhart

As I considered the different readings set down for today the phrase that jumped off the page and hit me was this. “Come away to a deserted place.”


The answer is twofold:

Firstly, to put it bluntly as I look around these mostly empty pews this place has a deserted feel especially when I compare it to Suncorp Stadium on Friday night where there was around 50 000 people.

Secondly, as deserted as it might be or feel, we come away to this quiet as people who have heard Jesus invitation to come, to come away and be with Jesus, to learn from him and find ourselves again to be his disciples.

So here we are again, listening for Jesus to speak to us, eager to taste his goodness in bread and wine, seeking comfort and hope and inspiration, ready to be sent out to do his work in the world.

What occurs here is the most significant event of our week; it is the most significant event for us every week.

There may not be the 50 000 who were gathered the other night at the football; there may not be the special effects and glamour of going to the movies to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster or maybe going to the theatre; there may not be the fine dining experience of eating out in the city or at Portside or on Racecourse Road.

Yet here in this space the greatest event of our week and of our lives unfolds as the drama of God’s love is played out. The communal stories of God’s faithfulness found in the scriptures are retold to we who collectively suffer amnesia and wander so often like the people described as lost sheep in Mark’s gospel.

We may not be that savvy in our understanding of the Mark’s community and the people he wrote his gospel for. We may have forgotten or even never heard bits and pieces of the drama of King David’s story recounted in the book Samuel. We may not have our fingers on the pulse of the early Christian community in Ephesus and the message about being one body through the cross may seem obscure.

Yet here, little by little, week by week, as we listen to the stories and contemplate their meanings God acts: to remind us of the good news of Jesus Christ; to remind us of whom we are and of whom our neighbours are. And, as we remember these things the Holy Spirit transforms us and inspires us to live as God’s people.

Now you may or may not feel the strength of the power of God in our midst doing these things but that same power that raised Jesus from the tomb flows in and through us in this time and space and every day in our daily lives.

Whilst God can act in miraculous and earth shattering ways more often than not I suspect it is a movement as slow and powerful - as tectonic plates grinding against one another. Or possibly a movement as slow and powerful as an ancient Karri tree, growing over the centuries as it reaches to the sky.

Often trying to detect the power of God in our midst is as difficult as trying to observe these things of the natural world occurring and only rarely is there an earthquake or tsunami of revelation in our midst.

Yet as we listen again and as we open ourselves to that encounter God is at work in us changing us and drawing us closer.

It may be that as we eat the bread and drink the wine we feel no perceptible shift in our existence, yet w neither do we feel the nutrients of our regular meals energising our bodies.

We do not constantly acknowledge the air that we breathe and the marvel of the conversion of that air into the oxygen we need for life. Even as we sit here listening the process of pulmonary respiration is converting the oxygen we need and it is being taken into our bloodstream and helping us to live.

In this space, where we have “come away” we are renewed spiritually: we listen, we eat, we breathe and even though these actions may not appear to have massive impacts they no less give us life than those natural processes to which I have referred.

Here we encounter and are renewed by the wondrous steadfast love of God described in the Psalm. Whatever our concerns, whatever our experience of life and of this moment in worship with one another God is with us; beside us, not absent but present in loving faithfulness. It is this God who in Christ promises to journey with us to the end of our lives and beyond.

Coming away to this place week by week Jesus looks upon us with compassion and he teaches us whose we are and gives us hope so that as we go our into our daily life we go engaged to confess the truth of Jesus and of God’s love in how we live and what we do.

In the letter to the Ephesians we are reminded that God has drawn near to us in Jesus so that we who were once strangers, aliens, without hope are now made one with God. Jesus came and proclaimed peace to we who were far off and peace to those who were near so that all may have access in the one Spirit to the Father.

Come away to a deserted place, listen, learn and be renewed and go and sharing the good news. This is the heart of our existence. Church is not where come on a Sunday but who we are, not an optional extra in the smorgasbord of spiritual experiences of our faith but is where we come to remember God and who we are. It shapes us and sustains as much as does our eating or breathing.

This is where we find our life and our hope so let us embrace this moment, as the one who made us and renews us, embraces us in steadfast love and faithfulness.


  1. A dear elderly lady in my congregation told me that in the King James Version it says "Come apart and rest a while" which is a reminder that if you don't "rest a while" you "will come apart".

  2. This is a really wonderful sermon! Thank you for making me look a little closer at the "virtue" of rest--as opposed to continual striving!