Six days of work are spent
To make a Sunday quiet
That Sabbath may return.
It comes in unconcern;
We cannot earn or buy it.
Suppose rest is not sent
Or comes and goes unknown,
The light, unseen, unshown.
– Wendell Berry, This Day, Collected and New Sabbath Poems
I’m counting down the days until June 1 when I will begin my sabbatical, returning September 10. I love my calling in ministry and I love you. But rarely is the week that I take even one full day off. Not only is that not physically sustainable but it’s also spiritually deafening! One cannot listen for and discern the mystery of God while always running to the next meeting or task or worship service. The last several years, particularly the pandemic, were draining in ways that no clergy could have conceived of, and I am tired.
The scriptures promise that rest IS sent! The concept of sabbatical comes from the Bible’s command to rest on the 7th day, to practice Sabbath. The scripture gives two reasons for humans to rest. One was because God did it. God created the world in 6 days but on the 7th, God sat back in concern and savored its beauty and goodness. And the second reason was to remember. God asked them to remember that they were previously slaves, living at the whims of the taskmasters of Egypt. But God set them free so on the Sabbath or Sabbatical we are invited to remember that God liberates us. Demands nothing from us. Loves us as we are, something we cannot earn or buy.
This summer I will spend two weeks of quiet at a monastery in France. I will worship and pray with the monks and nuns, eat simple communal meals in solitude, and read and write uninterrupted. I will also spend two weeks in Tanzania, in East Africa, volunteering at an orphanage, a church agency and with congregational leaders. In addition, I will take an independent study preaching class with a professor at Columbia Seminary in Atlanta. Along the way, there will be unstructured hours to play, hike, read novels, and reconnect with family and friends.
I am deeply grateful to the highly talented, passionately dedicated clergy/staff team who will lead the church over the summer. Construction has begun in earnest and the staff is pivoting so much that they are sometimes dancing a pirouette! I hate to leave them during this time. I know they are tired too. Really tired. But I also know that Wendell Berry speaks truth in that poem. If we do not rest, the light is not seen or shown.
Thank you in advance for your prayers, your love, your faithfulness to the body of Christ at 61st and Ward Parkway.
I will see you every Sunday in May. And again in September!
Grace and Peace,