Find the Spaces

Posted: July 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

Pentecost 9B, 2018
Mark 6:30-34

Find the Spaces

In 1st Corinthians we read; “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong-doing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In another writing we read; “Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music”.

I am sure you have heard Kahlil Gibran’s meditation called ‘Speak to us of marriage’, from his popular book, The Prophet, as it is much loved by folk wishing to be married, and who are looking for a reflection or reading that is not biblical. In fact, it may be that this particular meditation is as well known, if not more so, than some biblical passages.

Further on in this meditation Gibran writes: “Sing and dance together and be joyous,
but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music”.

Then towards the end: “And stand together yet not too near together:
for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not
in each other’s shadow.

All of this seems to speak very clearly to what we experience in a sound marriage. Each one valued greatly as an individual within a covenantal relationship that enables individuals to contribute complimentary to, with and for the relationship. But one of the things we might miss is the call to stand apart to renew oneself. This is not an opting out of the togetherness but an insertion of spaces as Gibran says, to “let the winds of the heavens dance between you”. All of us need ‘spaces’ – physically, emotionally, spirituality – in our busy lives. And getting married is not a bad time to be reminded of this.

It is also salutary for us to recognize that, according to storyteller Mark, Jesus was encouraging of the disciples/others to desist, to care for themselves, to reflect, and not to feel they must respond to every ‘squeaky door’ or appeal for assistance.

They were not God. They were not the saviour of the world. They were limited human beings who needed space. Like we heard from Giraud last week, “We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can only dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness”. Like the disciples we need time to be able to sort out what is important.

New Zealander Ian Cairns’ comment is another good reminder of this need: He says “This brief passage… gives us a fleeting but appealing insight into the natural rhythm of the lifestyle of Jesus and the circle around him: times of intense effort are succeeded by moments of unwinding, and of quiet relaxation.  The fact that the intention on this occasion was frustrated, detracts nothing from the attractiveness of the ideal” (Cairns 2004:87).

Ian Cairns asked; Do you have a ‘space’ – a place of peace and rest in the “natural rhythm” of your life, where you retreat for silence and re-creation? So, asks Bruce Epperly, co-author of The Call of the Spirit. Our so-called ‘space’ or ‘quiet place’ can be anywhere. Doesn’t this sound familiar and hasn’t it been said hundreds of times? It has and I wonder of that is because we find it so hard to do. To insert spaces into our lives? And then I wonder why it is so hard when it seems so easy?

We often hear people say of retirement that they have rediscovered the joy and peace of walking along the beach, on the sand, at water’s edge. Feeling the texture of both against the soles of my feet. Even on a cool and cloudy, winter’s day this time out, this space insertion seems to have some value so why is that we don’t take it often enough? Maybe we need to revisit what we mean by space or time out?

Epperly says ‘space’ places could include: a favourite chair or study, a meditation room in your home, a park, or the bush, and yes, the seashore. “The divine center is everywhere. That deals with the idea of space and place but we know that wherever our adventure of ideas or geography take is, God is our adventurous companion” and in his web site article Epperly says: “Your quiet place can also be a rejuvenating activity – gardening, walking, stargazing, journaling, meditating, praying, writing poetry, or driving in your car by yourself.  He says that health of body, mind, spirit, and relationships requires stillness as well as action, space as well as intimacy.  Even the most intimate friends and couples require time alone” (Epperly P&F web site, 2006).

Many advisors call this ability to create ‘spaces’ in our lives, ‘boundary setting’.
Indeed Epperly suggests today’s gospel story is just about that. “Jesus took time apart with his followers.  His ‘no’ to work, even the good work of healing and teaching, said ‘yes’ to spiritual growth and self-care.  His ‘yes’ to compassion was grounded in inter-connectedness with God and his followers” (Epperly P&F web site, 2006).

All this suggests there is an art and a discipline to finding ‘spaces’. It also takes practice. So Epperly offers some suggestions how we can create these ‘spaces’.

  • Sabbath time. Take a few hours a week, a day, a month, for silence, for retreat, for prayer. This might be a conversation with the mystery or the more.
  • Breathing prayers.  Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Remembering God’s present-ness, and centering in God’s companionship. Getting in touch with the wonderful mechanics of life.
  • Keeping meals sacred.  Install and use an answer phone. Feeding the body is an act of valuing community. Family and togetherness.
  • Cultivate intimate relationships.  Relationships take time and require leisure. The primary act of intimacy is to listen.
  • Distinguish the important from the trivial. Ask the question to discern the valuable.
  • Learn to say ‘no’. The no is not a negative when it makes a space for what’s valuable.

The storyteller Mark was clearly impressed with what he was told about the beginnings of the Jesus movement. Part of his story this morning describes in summary what he saw was the impact of Jesus’ ministry. For Mark, it seems the nature of the Jesus’ ministry was to offer leadership in teaching, and in acts of compassion that brings healing and sets people free from what oppresses them. The storyteller depicts Jesus as having spent a surprising amount of time healing people. Although, like the author of Job before him, he specifically rejected the theory that sickness was God’s way of getting even with sinners (John 9:1-3), he nonetheless seems to have suggested a connection between sickness and sin, almost to have seen sin as a kind of sickness. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;” he said. “I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17).

This is entirely compatible, of course, with the Hebrew view of the human being as a psychosomatic unity, an indivisible amalgam of body and soul in which if either goes wrong, the other is affected. It is significant also that the Greek verb sо̄zо̄ was used in Jesus’ day to mean both “to save” and “to heal” and sо̄tēr could signify either “saviour” or “physician.” Jesus’ ministry was, it seems one of being there for others and the need for spaces is a recognition that such an orientation is intense, self-draining and energy sapping. It is demanding work. People who give of themselves get tired. They need time out. They are not God. They are not the only saviour of the world. They are ordinary human beings who need ‘space’ to continue on.

There needs to be spaces in our togetherness, our living, our busyness. Even our ‘good and helpful’ busyness. My own reflection on this is that the type of spaces required are often linked to one’s own personality and impacted by one’s chosen path or journey. The type of spaces for some are within one’s business and don’t always require physical extraction from tasks while for others only a physical separation works. So, this morning Mark’s story is not about the so-called ‘biggies’… such as feeding the 5,000, or walking on water, or grain that produces at the rate of 100 times, for example. It’s not about the sensational miracle but rather the everyday life integrated one. What we get from this story is an ‘OK’ for the very human need for ‘space’ in our lives. And the task is to learn how to create ‘spaces that work’ and to learn to use them well.

Kahlil Gibran when talking about self-knowledge says that our hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights, but our ears thirst for the sound of our heart’s knowledge. I think he is saying that we need to take time to find the spaces where our conscious activity is silent enough for our heart to speak and then as he says; our words will reflect what we know deep down and we will be able to touch with our fingers the naked body of our dreams.


In terms of Rene Giraud and our acceptance of the incompleteness of our humanity and our hope-filled engagement in this journey toward being fully human is a journey we are called to engage in with enthusiasm, with hope and a confidence that comes with taking spaces to reflect, re-engage with nature, with our spirit and as Gibran says: It is well you should. The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea; And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes. But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure; And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line. For self is a sea boundless and measureless. Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.” Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.” For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.


Mark wrote that Jesus said to them “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Gibran wrote “…for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow” (Gibran 1969). I think, healing takes place when we find the spaces. Amen.

Cairns, I. J. 2004.  Mark of a Non-realist. A Contemporary Reading of the Second Gospel. NZ: Masterton. Fraser Books.
Gibran, K. 1926/1969.  The Prophet. GtB: London. Heinemann.
Cobb, Jr, J. B.; B. G. Epperly, P. S. Nancarrow. 2005. The Call of the Spirit. Process Spirituality in a Relational World. CA: Claremont. P&F Press.[Back To Top]

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