3rd December 2019

Retreats

“He said to [the apostles]: ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’”
Mark 6:31 (NRSV)

Why did Jesus want to get away from the crowds with His disciples and ‘rest a while’? What had been going on? Several things, all emotionally taxing for Jesus as well as for His disciples. Jesus had just heard of the beheading of His cousin and one of His closest friends, John the Baptist. Jesus was grieving, and in Hebrews we read that He is “in every respect as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). It would be natural for Jesus to be emotionally touched by John’s death. But that’s not all—the disciples had just returned from their first missionary journey. We cannot tell exactly how they felt but they too would probably have been emotionally charged. What sort of reception had they been given by those they went to? Were they feeling dejected or exhilarated? It was probably a mixture of both of these. And they would have wanted to tell Jesus all about it and how they got on. They couldn’t do that in a place that was packed with crowds of people wanting to see Jesus. Jesus knew that they needed a break and that was what He intended to give them.

Don’t we sometimes need to ‘get away from it all’? The loss of a loved one, the pressure of work or making ends meet can cause great stress and weariness. A song by the Arctic Monkeys begins with the line, “Stop the World I wanna get off.” How many of us would like to have a break from its pressures and demands? We can do. There are organisations that provide the necessary facilities for rest and recuperation. Many, but not all of them, are run by Christian denominations, churches or individuals. These retreats vary but in most cases we would find a pleasant environment that we can relax in. There may be a Christian counsellor with whom we can share our fears, distresses and anxieties, as well as the pressures that weigh us down. He or she will listen sympathetically and no doubt help us to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ Some have services at various times through the day, ending with Compline which is a very restful service before bedtime. It places the end of the day into God’s hands. Frequently Compline begins with the words, ‘Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world we pray, that with thy wonted favour Thou, will be our guard and keeper now.’

We don’t need to go to a retreat organisation to get away from the pressures of life. Just reading something daily like Day by Day can help. But there is a danger. We can feel so pressured that we skip it. We know such discipline is important but may say ‘I’ll do it later’ and it never gets done. Of course meditation on God’s word is the most beneficial form of rest and recuperation from life’s pressures. I emphasise the word meditation because this is different from Bible study. Study is a form of work – in itself necessary but as such is not just soaking up our Lord’s words in the way that the disciples would have been doing. Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to what He was saying in Luke 10:19 is another example of someone benefiting from this sort of meditation. Let us accept that we all need to get away from this worlds pressures from time to time. Let us consider how we might benefit from Godly meditation and retreats.

Prayer
Lord, there are times when I feel encumbered by the cares of this world. Help me, like the apostles, to come away and rest a while with You.
Amen

Study by Christopher Reeve
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About the Author:
Christopher Reeve is assistant pastor of the Invicta (Blean) Congregation near Canterbury, which is part of Grace Communion International/Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Invicta Fellowship
Blean Village Hall
School Lane
Blean
CANTERBURY
CT2 9JA

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11.30 a.m.

Local Congregational Contact:
Mrs Annette Woods
Phone: 07473 188326
Email: annettewoods2@nhs.net

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