Holiday Mark 6:30-34

a sermon preached at St. John's Episcopal Church, Massena, New York, July 23, 2000

by Robert Brow   (

Jesus' twelve disciples certainly needed a holiday. They had just got back from doing their first preaching tour on their own, and they "told him all that they had done and taught" (Mark 6:30). But when they arrived back, hoping for some peace and quiet, "many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat" (Mark 6:31). The Son of God is not a slave driver, and he cares about us having a holiday to relax from the pressures of our life. So he said "Come away to a desert place all by yourselves and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31). And he went with them.

Actually they were not able to enjoy their holiday for long because people had figured out where they would be, and soon crowds of people arrived on foot from all the surrounding towns. They felt lost and wanted to learn more, so Jesus "began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34).

Now that we are in the middle of this summer's holiday season, I wonder how Jesus would have encouraged them to enjoy and get the most out of this time away? We might try to guess what he would have done with them on a typical day. Climb a mountain, sleep, have a swim, play a game, talk about this or that? But Jesus is not with us in the flesh to do those things with us when we go on holiday. What he told us was that the Holy Spirit would teach us all that we need to know (John 14:26). And in fact he said, "It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate (one called alongside to help) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). In the flesh he could only be with one group of disciples at a time. But the Spirit can be with every person, and every group of persons who want his company when they go on holiday.

When Mollie and I are thinking of going on holiday we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us about the timing, and the travel arrangements, and what we need to take with us. And we have had some wonderfully happy times in various unexpected places. But I would like to think with you about the kind of conversation the Spirit would enjoy having with us during our holiday. The first day one is busy settling in, finding where things are, unpacking, checking the meal arrangements. But one of the joys of a holiday with one's partner or a friend is having the leisure to talk about all the things one never has time to talk about in the usual busy round of our lives.

What do we share with each other? We talk about the past, and the present, and the future. And that is exactly what the Holy Spirit enjoys doing with us, whenever we give him the time, and especially on holiday.

The Past - We all make mistakes, and some of them turn out to be very serious. The Holy Spirit loves to talk over what has gone wrong, and he always has some wisdom to share with us. All of us get hurt by what others have done, or not done. Often we just push the hurt under the rug, but the hurt is still there. It is good to take time to take the hurt out, look at it honestly, and let the Holy Spirit heal us from deep within the recesses of our heart.

A holiday is also a good time to deal with the guilt that we have forgotten, but it still festers at the back of our mind. We could pray "Holy Spirit, is there any real or imagined guilt from way back that is still bothering me?" I once visited a fine Christian woman in hospital when she had just been told she had an inoperable cancer, and she likely had a maximum of six weeks left to live. So I asked her if there was any unfinished business she needed to take care of. She thought for a bit, and then said "Fifteen years ago, when my father was dying, he asked me for a glass of juice. I went into the kitchen, the phone rang, and I forgot. By the time I got back in to see him, he was dead. And I still feel terribly guilty for having failed him." I asked her if she believed God could forgive a murderer, and she said "yes, of course." Obviously she had not murdered her father, but that was what it felt like. So I suggested she prayed "Lord Jesus, I feel as if I failed my father fifteen years ago, and he died without me. Thank you for forgiving me."

I then asked her if there was anything she would love to do before she died. "Well we have a family reunion in six months' time, and I would have loved to be there, but I only have six weeks to live." So I prayed "Thank you that Mary now knows she is forgiven. She just has one desire: she would love to be at that reunion. Holy Spirit, please make it possible for her." Sure enough I got a beautiful card from Cape Cod saying she was enjoying every moment of the reunion. When she came back I was with her when she died peacefully a few weeks later.

My only regret was that it would have been good for Mary to have discussed that unresolved guilt during a previous holiday. I am sure the Holy Spirit would have saved her from those long years of misery.

The Present - There are also many things to talk about right now in the present. My wife, Mollie, is an artist and she loves it when people take an interest in her work. In the second verse of the Bible the creative Spirit is described as the wind of God who brought life in our world. The Holy Spirit delights in helping us enjoy the plants and flowers, and the birds and insects and animal life of our world. He brought them into being. Just take time to talk to him about his creative work, and you will be amazed at how he can enrich your holiday. He also creates beautiful people, and wants us to enjoy them. And he delights in creative ideas. Jesus kept looking to the Spirit who gave him the parables which he told in the Gospels. Why not ask the Spirit to give you some creative ideas to enrich your life?

The Future - Before the end of a holiday I usually find myself thinking about my future. Two years ago we wondered about moving from our home by a lake in the country. The winters were getting too much for us, and we wanted to live downtown. We felt the Spirit guiding step by step us to our present home in Kingston were we can walk everywhere. When you go on holiday, if you can't do it before that, talk over your future with the Spirit. That is specially important when you feel frustrated with your work or seem to be running getting nowhere like a rat in cage. Often there isn't time to do this, but half an hour talking things over with the Holy Spirit on holiday can transform your life.

I once had a neighbor who had a very good, well-paying, secure job with Bell Telephone. But he told me he hated his work. I asked him "What would you really like to do, if you were free to do it?" He said he had always longed to be a teacher. "Well that's easy. Your house is paid for. You could take a mortgage to cover the year or two of studies, and you could start this fall." But he turned to me sadly, "Bob, you don't know how much I have in my pension plan." And he never did make the move which could have given him what he longed to do with his life. If only he had spent time with the Holy Spirit, he would have been shown exactly how to make the move and have the faith to take the risk that might be involved.

I often ask people my five million dollar question (it used to be one million, but it has increased with inflation !). " If you were given the money, and it was invested to yield $400,000 a year for life, what would you do with your life? You don't need more studies, you already have enough without ever needing to earn a living again." People find that question very difficult to answer. But if we just give him the opportunity the Holy Spirit delights in showing us exactly what we really long to be and do. And then he leads us step by step into doing it. It is very exciting when he says "Go for it." And there is no better time than a holiday to hear that.

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