During the week as I was bombarded by both traditional media and social media with increasingly violent and horrific articles and images of the death and destruction in the conflicts in Gaza, Syria and Iraq, it was difficult not to feel completely overwhelmed by grief and sadness in the face of such hatred and cruelty. All of this grief compounded on Friday afternoon when I celebrated a funeral in our chapel for Gabriel – a tiny stillborn child. Being with the family who had lost so much and feeling so completely inadequate to the task of speaking hope and grace into their lives, the palpable grief in the chapel overwhelmed me and I also began to weep and barely managed to complete the service. Perhaps it was something like this that confronted Jesus after he heard the news of the death of his cousin and friend, John (the Baptist). As he left the crowds behind to go to a lonely place to sit in the silence of his grief with his disciples, the lonely place becomes another place of encounter as it is filled with an even greater crowd, hungry for the teaching that only Jesus was able to offer. Although I suspect I would have been likely to turn the boat around and head for a lonelier place, Jesus has compassion on the crowds and begins to heal their sick. Late in the afternoon, the disciples remind him that it is a lonely place and that he should show compassion to the crowds (and to the disciples) by sending them away to the villages around the lake where they could find something to eat. But Jesus has other plans.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (8’14”)
Sunday 18, Year A.