Let there be Spaces

Posted: July 16, 2021 in Uncategorized

Mark 6:30-34

Let there be Spaces

The storyteller we call 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 him, 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.

This is more significant than it sounds, especially when one reflects on just how complex and energy sapping and big picture driven as an enterprise. Jesus had to be an extraordinary insightful thinker and not only that, have the skill to put his vision and ideas into practical application in his culture and situation.

And we know this can be demanding work. People get tired. They need time out and the prayer time and the wilderness retreats of Jesus tell us this. They are not Gods who can supernaturally avoid being human much as we would like them to be freed from what we know about life in its biological and psychological nature. They are not the saviour’s of the world. They are ordinary human beings who need ‘space’ to continue on.

Kahlil Gibran’s meditation called ‘Speak to us of marriage’, from his popular book, The Prophet, is much loved by folk wishing to be married, and who are looking for a reflection or reading that is not biblical. I am sure you have heard it.

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea
between the shores of your souls” (Gibran 1969).

It may be that this particular meditation is as well known, if not more so, than some biblical passages.  And good on it, because it resonates with what we know of an idealistic love that cannot face the realities of human living and loving.

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.

Some clergy I know add a small rider to the end just in case people miss the message in the poetry. They add or repeat with an adaption:


“…let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you”.

This is in recognition of the fact that all human beings need ‘spaces’ – physically, emotionally, spirituality – in our busy lives. There is so much to do and think of that we need time to stop and discern a response. And perhaps the popularity of the quote says that getting married is not a bad time to be reminded of this.

It is also salutary for all those involved in ministry, to recognise 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 saviours of the world. They were limited human beings who needed space. They needed time out so as to be able to continue on. To sort out what was important.

Our very own New Zealander Ian Cairns of whom I had the privilege of knowing during training and whose daughter is a good friend made a comment as another good reminder of this need:
“This brief passage…he says…  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).

He asks; Do you have a ‘space’ – a place of peace and rest in the “natural rhythm” (Cairns 2004: 87) of your life, where you retreat for silence and re-creation?


So asks Bruce Epperly, co-author of The Call of the Spirit. When he says; “Our so-called ‘space’ or ‘quiet place’ can be anywhere.”

One of the things I am beginning to cherish in retirement is a re-discovering of the joy and peace of the beach, the sand, at water’s edge. And the sounds and smells of nature. It’s like feeling the texture of nature as I did when a young person, playing on the beach and walking the Waitakere’s.
Even on a cool and cloudy, Central NZ winter’s day. There is a timeless connection. And Epperly also says that other ‘space’ places could also 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.  Wherever our adventure of ideas or geography take us, God is our adventurous companion” he says. (Epperly 2005:79).

And in his web site article:

“Your quiet place can also be a rejuvenating activity – gardening, walking, stargazing, journaling, meditating, praying, writing poetry, or driving in your car by yourself.  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. He says 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 interconnectedness with God and his followers” (Epperly P&F web site, 2006).

But it is clear also that there is an art and a discipline to finding ‘spaces. It needs to be intentional and it also takes practice. Epperly offers some suggestions as to how we can create these ‘spaces. He lists some as;


• Sabbath time.  Or Take a few hours a week, a day, a month, for silence, for retreat, for prayer.
• Breathing prayers.  Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Remembering God’s present-ness, and

  centering in God’s companionship.
• Keeping meals sacred.  Install and use an answer phone.
• Cultivate intimate relationships.  Relationships take time and require leisure.
• Distinguish the important from the trivial.
• Learn to say ‘no’.

So maybe Mark’s lesson is – Let there be spaces in your togetherness, your living, your busyness. Even your ‘good and helpful’ busyness. Maybe 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. Rather it is about getting an ‘OK’ for the very human need for ‘space’ in our lives.

Maybe we are encouraged to learn to create ‘spaces. And let us all learn to use them well.


“…for the pillars of the temple stand apart,
and the oak tree and the cypress grow not
in each other’s shadow” (Gibran 1969).

Amen.

Notes:
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.

rexae74@gmail.com

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