And There He Prayed - When Our Well Run Dry

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

5th Sunday After Epiphany

Mark 1:29-39

February 4, 2018 – Year B

And There He Prayed – When Our Well Run Dry

         “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”  This week I had the privilege to spend time with a dear, sweet soul.  I enjoyed hearing all the great, good things she was doing in her life.  Her weeks are filled with a variety of activities, responsibilities, and ways she can enrich her life and help those around her. What she does day in and day out is actually quite remarkable. 

         My friend isn’t the only who lives a life like that.  Many of us find our days and weeks filled with responsibilities – at home, at school and at work.  We rise in the morning, greeted by a new day, and for many people, of all ages, we drop into bed at night thankful for the comfort of our mattresses, because we are dog-tired.  The tiredness doesn’t mean it was a bad day.  It doesn’t mean we don’t love our lives.  The tiredness comes from day after day being filled with so many responsibilities, activities, and things we hope to accomplish. 

         As I listened to my friend, I wondered where she gets her well filled.  I don’t know if you’re familiar with that saying, but I remember hearing in my life.  I was asked, “When your well runs dry, where do you get it filled?” At the time, I didn’t appreciate the question.  What my tired, stressed out brain heard was, “You’re not taking care of yourself,” and my immediate thought was, “How do I add one more thing into my day?” 

         The start of a new year is always filled with commercials galore on ways we can improve ourselves.  Our holiday commercials have been replaced by the latest diet that will change your life and make you look incredible, or 15 ways to organize your closet (because that will make your life work), or how you should be drinking apple cider vinegar multiple times a day because it has healing properties, or what the latest craze, fad, or trend is.  What they don’t say, but we tend to hear is – you need to improve your life, you’re not doing enough, or you need to change somehow.  All of that on top of cold temperatures and some dark, dreary days, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to take my carb-starved, apple cider vinegar drinking, tired body to some sunny island far from all these demands. 

         In our Gospel today, we meet up with Jesus as he’s living out his ministry.  The word has clearly gotten out that Jesus is someone special, who can heal the sick and cast out demons.  The crowd grows as he works and works to heal and tend to those who desperately need him.  His day must have been so full.  I wonder what it was like for him.  Did he experience the beauty and joy of healing people?  Did he rejoice in their newly found freedom from illness and pain?  At the end of the day, was he dog-tired? 

         Exhaustion doesn’t have to come from a bad day.  Exhaustion can come from a lot of good days all tied together with no break.  We tend to think one must be exhausted, because the day was stressful or problems arose.  That may be true, AND yet exhaustion can also come at the end of a good day.  Whether aspects of life are draining our energy in negative ways or we simply haven’t taken a break in a while, exhaustion feels the same.

         “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place and there he prayed.”  Throughout the Gospels, we hear how from time to time, Jesus went off by himself to pray.  He was doing incredible work, yet he took time to quiet himself  - to pull back from world around him – and to pray.  Scripture can be a great source of guidance for us.  Maybe the authors of the Gospels wanted us to know how important that practice is….the practice of stopping – pulling back for little bit – resting – and grounding ourselves in God.

                 I would be a hypocrite to stand up here and preach this sermon and not own my tendency to live a life full of things to do, responsibilities to meet, phone calls to make, and little time given to self care.  It has been a struggle for me too.  When my friend listed off all the things she was doing, I totally understood.  I understood wanting to do it all, yet not understanding why I felt so stressed out sometimes. 

         As disciples of Christ, we have an example before us.  Though it’s thousands of years later, Jesus still reaches out to us and shows us a better way.  By his actions, Jesus demonstrations for us the importance of resting – the importance of taking time to fill our wells before they run dry.  God does not ask us to live a life of exhaustion, weariness, and frustration.  God is a God of love, and exhaustion, weariness and stress have nothing to do with love.  God does ask us to reach out to one another and to care for those who need help in this life.  We all know this next piece, but I’ll remind us anyway…we are unable to truly give from ourselves if we have nothing left inside us. 

         Life is so much richer when we take the time to fill our well.  Think back through your life.  What activities have you done in the past that made your heart sing?  Can you think of something you love to do?  When was the last time you did that on a regular basis?  That is one way we fill our well. 

         What about little things – smells, music, taking time to be outside, curling up with a good book or magazine for 15 minutes, or putting on your calendars a date night with a spouse, partner or friend and KEEPING IT.  For me I need to get out of my head and into my body sometimes.  I need to go for a walk and feel my muscles work or do yoga and feel them stretch.  I also love to work with my hands and let my creative side have time to breathe.  What is it for you?  What might fill your well?

         With Jesus as our guide, we are reminded of the life-giving power of time spent in prayer and connecting with God.  I’m guessing Jesus’ day was slammed with things to do and people who needed his attention, now.  Yet, he made the time to take a break from this world – get quiet and to pray.  Prayer can seem intimidating to people or they have no idea to start.  That’s okay.  We as a community can help.  One way is this Lent, we will have a simple meditation book that provides a daily piece of scripture and meditation.  Maybe that’s a place to start.  Getting into the practice is the hard part.  Once we have that rhythm in our lives though, we crave it more and more and feel it giving us room to breathe.

         Making time to care for ourselves can be hard, but the practice of doing so adds richness to our lives and helps us deal with life’s ups and downs.  We don’t have to be perfect.  We can start small with something once or twice a week.  God is with us.  God is cheering us on.  Jesus shows us how to care for ourselves and how to connect with God.  As we live these lives God gave us and as we do the work Jesus calls us to do, we must take time to care for ourselves and to connect with our creator.  “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”




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