23 Jun Rest. Renew. Rekindle.
A last (theological) word about the sabbatical
Over the past two weeks, I have shared many of the logistical details of the Sabbatical Plan. I hope you are beginning to feel comfortable that a lot of prayerful preparation and collaborative effort have gone into ensuring Calvary’s success while I am away. Of course, it is not possible to anticipate every challenge or foresee every problem that may arise. What we have done is put into place the resources on which our staff, elders, and members may draw as those unforeseen eventualities appear. Have faith, friends. You are in good hands—in God’s hands, for starters, and in your dedicated leaders’ hands, and in one another’s hands. Knowing that, I am fully confident that all is well. And all shall be well.
With the practical details covered, today our focus is a more theological reflection about what the sabbatical means for Calvary. What I want you to hear loud and clear is this: this time when I temporarily step away from daily ministry responsibilities is a unique opportunity for us as a congregation. It promises to deliver truly remarkable gifts: for people to bond together over common goals and tasks, for lay leaders to share their talents, for members to take care of one another, and for the church to experience worship in new ways through the voices of our guest preachers.
All of this is important because the sabbatical is not an end unto itself. It is a time of renewal for both pastor and congregation, so that we can come together again and listen with fresh ears to what God is saying to us and how God is leading us. The truth is that we are different, as we emerge from of the long shadow of Covid. We have already spent sixteen months adapting to ever-changing circumstances, but there are still many changes taking place and our adaptation is not over. There is no “going back.” We can only move forward in faith and hope, trusting that God has a wonderful future in store for us. But it is our job to discern the shape of that future, to embrace whatever new ways of impacting our neighbors await us, and to live into God’s highest vision for who and what we can be.
So, both collectively and individually, let us welcome, with joy and anticipation, this chance to rest, renew, and rekindle. The discernment work that lies ahead of us will take the very best of ourselves that we can bring to it—rested bodies, renewed spirits, rekindled hearts. Thus, the sabbatical is not something we “endure” until the pastor returns so we can get back to “normal.” This is a special time when we are invited to listen to God in new ways and to draw together more closely as a community.
One final word: Ultimately, no matter how good “The Plan” is, the key to experiencing a smooth-running sabbatical is communication, communication, communication. Talk to each other!! Let people know what is going on, if something is or isn’t working well, or what additional support is needed. And please be aware that the person needing support might be one of our Elders, or a staff member who is shouldering extra responsibility. So, reach out. Touch someone. And talk to lots of someones. Please don’t suffer in silence. Let the Body of Christ be the Body and minister to one another.
On July 11, we will celebrate a baptism and receive a new member—I wanted to start my sabbatical with a “Bang!” We will conclude our worship with a sabbatical litany, before I go home to change clothes, grab my suitcase, and head to the airport. I look forward to sharing this momentous day with you.
Yours for the Kingdom,