A Vacation from …
EPHESIANS 2: 11-2
MARK 6: 30-3
Summer time … in our culture and in our tradition we are in the season of vacations. Those of us who are in church regularly whether it is here in West Deptford or I am pretty sure anywhere in the United States of America the numbers go down … it’s almost expected because after all its VACATION TIME! No school … less church … and if possible some time away from home.
I have often wondered whether the people of other nations, other cultures, and other experiences are as focused on getting away from the regular life as we are.
So, I did a little research and it was a pastor who truly moved Americans forward into the concept of taking a vacation. Our Civil War had ended … the nation was still mourning its losses but the Industrial Age was here; people were working hard; people were consumed by their daily lives and then William H. H. Murray known for his preaching in Boston wrote a book … back in those days people did read books by the way … that was not only a best seller but a culture changer.
His book described an oasis from the world with 9,000 square miles of lakes, forests, and rivers that was not a place of hardship, which civilized Americans living in its cities and towns had long thought them to be. Murray proclaimed that an excursion into raw nature could actually be pleasurable … his suggested activities of canoeing, hiking and fishing he wrote were the “ultimate health tonic” for those whose lives were worn down by civilized life. He wrote that the Adirondacks in Upstate New York had forests and lakes that were shining like “gems amid the folds of emerald colored velvet.” “No axe,” he wrote, “has sounded along its mountainsides, or echoed across its peaceful waters. The spruce, hemlock, balsam, and pine yield upon the air …. Especially at night, all their curative powers.” I can see it now … peace, quiet and being healed friends.
His argument was that our cities were filled with disease and pressures that he wrote caused people to have “an intense unnatural and often fatal tension.” He was writing about mid-19th century America but that hasn’t changed … go out there … go out there into the world and yes, there is wave after wave of unnatural and even in our day even fatal tensions. The world … our daily lives … are filled with stresses and pressures no one should endure.
Now Murray’s timing was just right because a new train line had been built that could bring those stressed out workers with enough money in their hands to reach the beautiful mountains with their peaceful meadows in a day and half.
So, the very year that the book was published … 1869 … the Adirondacks were literally swamped with new vacationers all with his book and many with the waterproof edition that included maps and train schedules. The press called it “Murray’s Rush” but if you can imagine there had been no new hotels built and these city folks knew nothing of camping techniques … why should they know what to do; it was all being given to them in this amazing setting. One historian wrote that it was a “human stampede like hungry trout on a mayfly feeding frenzy.” One overwhelmed hotel charged people by the hour to sleep on its pool table. Locals with no experience as guides were hired out and led groups astray into swamps. A late winter meant a summer filled with biting black flies and those first time vacationers needed their water proof editions of Murray’s book because it was one of the wettest summers ever in the area with rain and temperatures 20 degrees colder than normal.
After that first summer, Murray had to publicly defend himself and he first noted the weather wasn’t his fault especially the rain, which he wrote was “ten fold thicker than was ever known before.” He noted that many first time campers didn’t pay attention to his tips and had arrived “dressed for a promenade along Broadway or a day’s picnic.” He then correctly predicted that “hotels will multiply, cottages will be built along the shores of the lakes, white tents will gleam amidst the pines which cover its islands and hundreds of weary and overworked men will find its solitude health and repose.”
And, he was right. Over the next three years Murray spoke about vacations in the Adirondacks to more than a half million people. American get away vacations had been born.
So, what in the world does this have to do with faith … with us? Well, I would argue more today in the year 2018 than perhaps at any time in my life time that we are worn down, tired and desperately in need of solitude health and repose as Murray would write.
Now, some of you are able to escape for a week or more to some place that modern day Murrays have taught us through television, books, magazines, movies and other media are perfect places to crowd in with thousands of other people to find peace and comfort. This past Friday I saw the bumper-to-bumper line of cars heading down the Atlantic City Expressway with 60 miles to go before reaching the shores of our great state to a place where the boardwalks are crowded, the restaurants have long waits and the beaches have just enough space to squeeze in a few more towels. We were at Disney’s money producing resort in June packed with people and thank you Lord for the FAST PASS because we didn’t have to wait 2 hours with others just to get on a 3 minute ride.
Ah peace … ah quiet.
Now, even Jesus talked about getting away. He told His disciples “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while” after He had heard about their experiences teaching people about God’s message and working to care for others. Now they got into the boat … little knowing that their vacation trip was going to end when they got off the boat because the people had figured out where they were going … you can read about Jesus reaction to the disciples wanting to chase the people away in verses 35 through 44 of this chapter in Mark. Let’s just say their period of rest turned into a banquet for 5000.
But, life’s tension and stresses need more than a week away and Paul was highlighting an answer that we all know about but perhaps we personally take too much vacation time away from … “Christ is our peace.” Rather simple but before writing that to the people of Ephesus, Gentiles who were not part of the Jewish culture, he had written, “in this world you had not hope and no God.”
Frankly on the days when we most claim to need a vacation … when many people exclaim “I just need to get away” it’s hope that we aren’t finding and peace that we are desperate for. But, that’s one of the ongoing every day gifts God is prepared to offer. There truly is something about being totally connect with the Creator of the Universe and in knowing we have God protection both while alive and a home with God when our days here end.
And, unlike Murray’s tourists or today’s vacationers … this gift of peace and hope is something already prepaid for and not from our bank accounts. A prepaid everyday vacation of peace and hope … thanks to “Christ Jesus, those of us who were once so far away from having peace and hope … have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Even Paul writes the phrase “brought near” about those who were not connected to God because just like the old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is the absolute truth, having a relationship with God doesn’t just happen if the human being ignores what God has provided. God has provided the guidebook for the relationship … God’s Love is so clear. Just step outside … God’s there … look around this beautiful church … God’s here … go to the shore or go to the inner city where Donna and I were yesterday … God’s there too but unless we take in the Holy Spirit. Unless we end our vacation from God, faith, and being connected the benefits are lost just like those eager tourists in 1869 missed out because they really didn’t pay attention to what was needed for the trip into peace-filled mountains.
Jesus cancelled the complicated law as … He reconciled all people as one body to God by the cross. People who were once aliens and strangers to God’s promise are all welcome in to God’s loving grace.
So, how many of us here today take too much vacation time from God? How many of us step outside the “household of God” even though we are fellow citizens with God’s people with a foundation build on the prophets and apostles with Jesus as our foundation?
When we give ourselves to God … when we allow God’s love to permeate our souls and become our everyday reality … then and it takes that acceptance friends … then we will be in that good place; that soul rescuing vacation from the world; where Christ works continuously to build you and me into a place where God lives thanks to God’s Holy Spirit.
We will then sense our refuge in God … our peace amidst the daily storms … and our hope that exceeds anything the world can provide. We don’t need a vacation from God … from Jesus … from the Holy Spirit because those kind of vacations only lead to soul-impacting disasters.
Now, Murray in his book told people to pay no more than $2.50 a day for a guide, they should budget $2 a week for their food and they should pack one pair of pliable buckskin gloves, with gauntlets tied or buttoned at the elbows and as an insect repellent “a bottle of sweet oil and a vial of tar.”
My advice to you this morning for your journey is to stand alone on the Word of God; let God’s Love resonate in you; hear Jesus directions on living each day and follow them even when the world and your neighbors suggest that you do something else; let the Holy Spirit in; read God’s Word, pray; and join together with your fellow God’s citizens to worship and praise the Creator who loves us so much!
God gives us the path to a daily vacation from the world … so who or what are you taking a vacation from?
Watch a video of today’s worship