The Lord is my shepherd... This is a Psalm about trust in God in the many seasons of our lives. It is evident that the psalmist finds that his shepherd God leaves him to want for nothing; the pastures are plush with green, fresh grass for grazing. The waters are quiet and still so there is no need to fear them. The psalmist can rest in a peaceful, beautiful countryside, knowing that the Lord will lead him down the right paths. It is quiet enough that the psalmist can focus on the Lord and what the Lord wants for him. A vision of contentment and restoration.
“He restores my soul” is the next line. Those words in particular speak to me today. We all have times when we need a little soul restoration. The church encourages such a time for pastors and other church leaders. It is called Sabbatical. You may recall several years ago Pastor Tim took a Sabbatical. A Sabbatical simply means time off for rest and study. It is available to pastors after seven years of service. This keeps with God’s Sabbath keeping after creating the earth, and the sabbath keeping described in the third commandment. In Sabbath keeping God builds a rhythm for us in life, from having a day of rest during the week, to having months of rest after seven years in congregational ministry.
We hear about sabbaticals in higher education and in churches, and slowly other fields of employment are finding that it is good for their businesses and their employees to be refreshed through sabbatical of a few days, weeks, or months.
I began my call at Holy Trinity in October 2012. Last spring in 2020, I was prepared to take a three-month sabbatical which the Council graciously approved in 2019. However, unforeseen to any of us was the Covid pandemic which would shortly invade our lives and way of living. It became clear to me that I would be of more benefit to the church by holding off on Sabbatical and helping the church staff maneuver through the twists and turns of adapting our ministry programs, worship and caring for our congregation. In addition, having a relaxing sabbatical did not sound very likely to be experienced as our lives changed so drastically. I asked the Council to approve a postponement for the Sabbatical to which they were very understanding and approved. Now, the appropriate time is drawing near. I will be taking Sabbatical after Easter starting on Tuesday, April 6th and will return to the church on Tuesday, July 6th.
My time will involve study on preaching. I will attend the Festival of Homiletics which is a week-long conference that will include hearing some of the church's leading preachers deliver sermons on texts for the coming weeks of the church year. There will also be workshops on building preaching skills. The festival will be held virtually.
I have an interest in learning more about the mystics and their inner life of contemplation. My plan is to engage in more in-depth reading on a variety of the mystics and sharing with all of you in an adult learning offering in the 2021-2022 adult learning year.
The “rest” part, although each part sounds restful in its own way, will involve spending time with family and friends in Iowa, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Detroit. Rest also comes through contemplative time alone in scripture and prayer. Quiet time each morning on the deck will be treasured time of being led to “still water” to hear God’s word Rest also involves times of listening and reflection on what God is up to in my life and the world. The entire three months will provide soul restoration.
Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of a congregation that supports sabbatical rest for the soul. During my time away, I will miss seeing you virtually. Hopefully by the time I return, we will be worshipping in person. That will refresh us all!