First Congregational Church UCC
220 West Lyon Avenue
Lake City, Minnesota 55041
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 SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2022
 
Good Morning!  

Summertime means getting away.  
  
Getting away is necessary.

Jesus encouraged it.

A famous man did it.

It was 177 years ago this month.

Let's consider getting away.


-Pastor David
 

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First Congregational Church UCC
114 North Oak Street
Lake City, MN  55041
Here Is Today's Message

"We Live Thick And Lose Some Respect"
A message from
Rev. David S. Badgley

 July 31, 2022

     As we end this month of July 2022 I would like to tell you a story that started at the beginning of July 1845.  
     That is when a well-known man retreated from public life.
     The man was 27 years old and had been preparing his escape for months, building a small hut in the woods.  
     He moved into it on July 4, Independence Day, to embark on a two-year experiment to gain perspective that can only come from withdrawal, retreat and solitude.  
     These images show a replica of the hut and the interior.
     The man deliberately chose to live in a wooded area on land owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson around the shores of Walden Pond in Massachusetts.  
     You and I know this man from our high school or college lit classes.  His name is Henry David Thoreau.  
     Thoreau spent two years, two months, and two days at Walden, writing down his thoughts and reflections, which were eventually published into his book called, “Walden Pond; or Life In The Woods.”  
     The book compresses his two years into a single calendar year, using the passage of four seasons to symbolize human development.  It is regarded as a classic American work that explores natural simplicity, harmony and beauty as models for fair social and cultural conditions.
     Thoreau moved to Walden Pond to think through his life, and also the life of the nation.  Laura Dassow Walls has spent her career studying Thoreau and she says, “He thinks something is going deeply wrong with America – and he’s trying to figure out what is the foundational problem that gives rise to such destructive habits and patterns of life that we could imagine it’s OK to enslave people.” 
     The book is part memoir and part spiritual quest and at first it didn’t have many admirers.  Yet, American poet Robert Frost praised it saying, “In one book…he surpasses everything we have had in America.”  
     Thoreau begins the book saying, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear…”  (Walden, Where I Lived, And What I Lived For, 16)
     This sign is nearby the replica of Thoreau's hut.
     Each chapter of the book concerns a different topic with chapter titles such as Economy, Where I Lived and What I Lived For, Reading, Sounds, Solitude, Brute Neighbors, and Higher Laws.  
     Thoreau lived about a mile away from his nearest neighbor and about two miles from town, and although he had visitors drop by, he spent much time in solitude. He writes, 
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone… Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other…We live thick and are in each other's way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. 
(Walden, Solitude, 13-14)
    I agree with Thoreau.  We live thick and lose some respect for one another.  Apparently, Jesus knew that same reality in the 1st Century.  He told his disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”  Jesus and his disciples were living thick.  
     In the beginning of his ministry Jesus singlehandedly taught and healed masses of people.  His disciples watched and learned from Jesus until there came a time when Jesus entrusted them with the task.  
     Jesus sent them out to the villages to teach and to heal.  And when they came back together with Jesus, the Gospel of Mark tells us what happened, 
The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 6:30-31 (NRSV)
     That invitation from Jesus may have been surprising and liberating for his disciples.  Get away?  Really?  We thought this work for God was supposed to be “all out” and sacrificial and tireless. What a relief to hear differently. And relief was exactly the point.     
      But relief is not easy to find.  Some nosey eavesdropper heard where Jesus and the disciples were headed and passed on the news.  The scriptures tell us, 
And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.  
Mark 6:32-33 (NRSV)
     Can you believe it?  When Jesus and his disciples get to the shore, they find the place crowded with lawn chairs and blankets and people and people and people.
     There must have been five thousand of them. And the disciples couldn’t believe it. This was supposed to be their Walden Pond moment of solitude.
     “Really?  You had to run ahead and get here before us?”  
     And true to form Jesus is a model of compassion and empathy.  The scriptures say, 
As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:34 (NRSV)
     Jesus accepted the interruption, but his disciples were impatient.  When dinnertime came the disciples saw an opportunity to salvage a bit of solitude.  They tell Jesus, “Hey, the crowds are hungry.  Send them away.”  
     True to form, Jesus used the moment as a teaching opportunity.  “You feed them,” he answered.  And what follows is the event we call “The Fishes And The Loaves” or “The Feeding Of The Five Thousand Intruders”.  
     That’s what they were, intruders.  The people intruded upon the solitude sought by Jesus and his disciples.  And because of that, this story seems to suggest that if you follow Jesus you can forget about rest, because you’re always going to have people to feed.  You’re always going to have life interrupted.  
     But wait a minute.  Jesus is the one who said, “Let’s get away.”  Jesus is the one who saw the need for his disciples to get away from people. 
     So, how do we reconcile this need to get away with the responsibility of caring for others?  Are we always expected to feed everyone, or does Jesus know we have limits?  
     First of all, if the disciples had any doubt that they needed to get away, the crowd of five thousand intruders is proof.  The disciples get cranky and impatient and want the crowd to go away. 
     The story isn’t saying, “forget solitude.”  It is the confirmation why you need solitude.  There will always be people clamoring for attention.   There will always be people to serve, people to nourish, and people that Jesus wants you to feed.  That is why you need to get away.   
     And right after this intrusion, Jesus makes another attempt to get his disciples away from people.  The scripture says, “Immediately, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the crowds.”(Mark 6:45)  
     Did you see that?  Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go across the lake immediately, while he stayed behind to get rid of everyone.  God bless you, Jesus!    
     The disciples go ahead, Jesus dismisses the crowds, and then Jesus finds a little solitude for himself by heading up a mountain to pray.  
     Then Jesus catches up to his disciples by taking an unconventional shortcut across the lake by walking on water, which scares the bejesus out of the disciples who are still in the boat out on the sea and think they see a ghost.  (Mark 6:48-50)  
     Jesus calms them down and gets into the boat with them and they all head to the shore for their second attempt at solitude away from the crowds.  
     And guess what happens!  
     More lawn chairs and blankets!  They are intruded upon again!
     The Bible says, “When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick.”(Mark 6:54-55)
     Thoreau said it beautifully: “We live thick and are in each other's way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another.”
     Life gets intruded.  Life gets interrupted.  People rush about.  People are demanding.  The work of Jesus is demanding and we need to get away from it all.  
     We may be tempted to see the teaching of Jesus and the reflections of Thoreau in the context of less demanding eras.  
     Certainly, the pace of life in the time of Jesus nearly 2000 years ago, and the pace of life in the time of Thoreau 177 years ago could not have been as consuming as it is in 2022, could it?  
     Well, the scriptures do say that Jesus and his disciples were under such demands that they didn’t have time to eat.  
     And Thoreau wrote, “Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save nine tomorrow.” (Walden, Where I Lived and What I Lived For, 18) 
     So, there seems to be good evidence that our busy pace of life is a human condition no matter what century we live in.
      Both Jesus and Thoreau say it is within our power to step away from life’s demands and seek solitude.  Both Jesus and Thoreau say it is necessary for us to step away from life’s demands and seek solitude.   
       In the concluding chapter of Walden Pond, Thoreau confesses how easily we human beings get into a rut.  He says, 
     It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond–side; and though it is five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear, that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! 
(Walden, Conclusion, 4)
     As we end this month of July 2022, we honor a story that began in the month of July 1845.
     The message is still clear 177 years later.
     And the message echoes our faith in Jesus.
     Get out of the rut.  

     Get out of the conformity.
     Gain some perspective of life and what is really important.  
     Get away by yourself and rest a while.

- Pastor David 
 
Click here for previous Sunday Morning Reflections
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