Thought for the month by David Dunning

Dear Friends,

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.
Mark 6.31

The Benefice Quiet Day 23rd September at Fifehead Manor House

Of the four gospels, Mark is the one which testifies most boldly to the awareness of Jesus for the need to withdraw from the humdrum and stress of social life.  It is the more noticeable since this is the Gospel which most emphasises the dramatic action and hurriedness of the narrative: `immediately` there is a man or woman needing help or healing, a demoniac oppressed, a frantic parent  searching; `immediately` a conflict with the Pharisees or Doctors of the Law – not `suddenly` as if unexpected but `at once` as if Jesus` time is so short before he must set his face towards Jerusalem and face the whole purpose of his mission, and 5 of the 16 chapters concern his last week from his entry there in a blaze of welcome to the crucifixion.

Yet he is the master of the need for quiet: from the beginning of his ministry, the evangelist notes how Jesus `withdrew to the lakeside` (3.7) or took refuge` in a small boat` from the crowds flocking to hear him (3.9).  We recall that even before this having spectacularly announced his arrival at the Jordan, baptised and recognised for whom he is, he `immediately` withdraws into the silence of the desert for reflection and testing (Mark says both wild beasts and angels are his companions [1.12-14] as well as the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the connivance of Satan).  And it is characteristic of his preparation that  `Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.` (1.35).  Later before choosing his companions he `withdraws to a mountain` and his care of their work and ministry leads to the great Eucharistic  Feeding of the Five Thousand when,` because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” `

As busy human beings we have to find time to reflect on who we are and what we are about, otherwise the immediacy of the next call on our time, our sense of worth, our beliefs, our burden of daily expectation will overwhelm us.  It is not for nothing that people give up and steal away from their homes, families, jobs, even very identity swamped by disappointments, stresses and  the weariness of trying to sustain modern existence.  An increasing number prefer the anonymity of homeless life on the streets to the competition of constant being in social whirl and financial demand.

But to set time aside and explore something in quiet appreciation is a human prescription for sanity, to say nothing of the opportunity for waiting on God for a drink at his spiritual well, looking around, meanwhile, at oneself with new understanding and insight.  It follows that the period when we re-enter our duties will be one of renewal or taking stock: `immediately` the continuance of the business of our responsibilities will be upon us, but in those precious moments of peace, silence, withdrawal and focus where briefly nothing is expected of us, we will have found strength.  It can also be a challenge, wild beasts surrounding us rather than angels, so a good Pastor is necessary and the surrounding fellowship of others seeking quiet.  The ministry team hopes that this Quiet Time at Fifehead will be the first of many opportunities in the future to stand aside and thereby continue following Jesus.



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