Mark 6.30-34,53-56 July 18th 2021.
Not so long ago the TUC began a discussion with employers around the particular pressures brought about through increased numbers of people working from home. The pandemic has brought about a shift away from people working in the office: some workplaces will never be the same again as workers have found benefits for their work/life balance through homeworking. But a downside is that some people never feel that they can ‘switch off’. When home = work and work is done over the internet, employees feel as if they are always ‘on the clock’, always available, never free from the boss’s emails. One suggestion has been that businesses sign up to restricting email contact with staff to working hours: opening a challenging email just before switching off the light is a recipe for sleeplessness and anxiety.
We all need a break…clear time for leisure. Some of us will get a holiday this summer. Others may struggle. In our bible reading today we see Jesus spectacularly failing (did I ever think I’d say that) – ‘spectacularly failing’ to make space for either to eat or for leisure – a phrase that suggests that leisure time is important. Jesus, in response, arranged for his team to join him on a boat trip to a different place only for them all to be overwhelmed by the crowds seeking to hear Him preach. They didn’t get their break. They didn’t get their longed for ‘day off’. It was ‘busy, busy, busy’ – how could Jesus ignore such great need? He couldn’t and yet experience suggests that aid workers, clinicians, social workers, teachers…all of us are playing with fire if we quite simply ‘never stop’. And lest you think this applies just to those who are employed it concerns me that the diaries of our retired folk have so little space in them
I know that many of my colleagues are absolutely exhausted, but this isn’t special pleading. Gareth Southgate and our footballers are physically and mentally drained. Our health care workers see no end to the enormous challenges ahead of them as they juggle with Covid and ever-growing waiting lists. In hospitality, staff are run off their feet as businesses re-open and seek to recoup at least some of the losses of the last period. The demands on our teachers continue to pile up – we want our children to catch up with their education but fail to fund the catch up properly. Across the board some are saying ‘enough is enough’: no more. Many are at breaking point.
Jesus and his friends needed a break. They failed but at least they tried to get it: can you? …or have you given up trying? If work or the expectations laid on you are crushing you then what steps might you take towards finding some leisure time in each day…in each week – writing it into the diary if need be, guarding it and your wellbeing in the process.
And then don’t forget the sabbath day: the Jewish experience of salvation was, in large part, freedom from work (the slavery of Egypt). Jesus didn’t get the space he wanted for a break but (as a Jew) he kept the sabbath and the sabbath kept Him: that one space each week carved out as a reminder of the generosity and goodness of God may well have kept him from burning out. And so…we worship and are renewed by doing so on this our weekly ‘holiday’.