God spoke to me today.
I love when that happens. I hate when that happens.
I love when that happens because hearing the voice of God is the simple reward for living a (reasonably) spiritual life. When you move through the world looking for something holy at every turn (translation: looking for sermon material), then eventually, you will see something holy. If you wait for a clear next step each day (ok, maybe every other day. If i’m not too busy) then yes, eventually, a next step gets carved out in front of you. When you see the step, or hear the voice, or see the Holy, it is soul confirmation that all the little details add up to something sacred.
I also hate it. Because usually, encountering the holy and/or hearing the voice of God means one thing: WORK.
And work is exactly what you DON’T want, 4 weeks away from sabbatical.
In fact, I’ve been padding my calendar to look a little less like finals week and a little more like Spring Break, senior year. After a 2-year marathon of growth and change, I am trying to breathe for a moment. I am trying to remember that the church doesn’t live or die by a single meeting, program, or event. I’m facing down these last few weeks and saying my mantra–I will not become a casualty of the details.
I was trying to minimize the threat of said details by repeating to myself all the ‘big’ things that have, in fact, grown/happened/evolved in the last 6 months. New website launched: check. Second service launched: check. Open and Affirming-ness: Check. Money in the bank: Check, and thank you Jesus. Leaders equipped, songs sung, Easter had, new members welcomed, sanctuary rennovated, old people visited, the occasional sermon: a hundred little mental ‘Checks’ and i was tired just thinking about it. And THIS (in case you were getting bored) THIS is when I got that whole Joan of Arc/hearing voices thing going on…
They need to rest, too.
In the midst of lining up 8 weeks worth of events, meetings, mailings, and life in general, I get the memo: That all of this exciting, inspiring, exhausting new life booming around here comes, not from me, but from a cloud of witnesses who work their collective ^** off on a regular basis… and they are tired too. So, what if the church took a sabbatical? What if, for 8 blessed weeks of the year, the congregation did nothing but worship, pray, and love our neighbors? And by loving our neighbors, i don’t mean with a door-to-door outreach campaign, or a print mailing, or a bridge event or a food drive (there go the program gears, turning again). I mean loving our neighbors simply by being present and receiving, welcoming them to worship, greeting them at the store, going about our lives?
What if we told people that for 8 weeks, there would be no meetings, no business items, no planning or agenda…what about the coffee? yells the planning center of my brain. Communion bread! Band practice! Mortgage payments!
Ok, fair enough. Some of this stuff still has to get done. Still, with some careful planning in May, we could really be still for two whole months. Much like Jewish women who spend Fridays shopping and cooking…
What could the Spirit do on our small corner if a whole united Body of people chose, for 8 desert weeks, to move through the world in this sabbath frame? Watching for the next step to be carved out; listening for the next word of call; watching for a Holy thing to emerge in our midst…
When i hear the voice of God, of course, it is not a booming, literal thing, nor is it a burning bush. It is more that something is being written in me with some silent, sacred pen. This is how my sermons come (on a good day. On a bad day, it is all me, and that’s a problem…). On our best days, this is how the Spirit moves and shapes us in community. If we listen.
Lately, this gathering of believers has been busy ‘doing.’ Transformation, after all, is hard work. Ever try to nurse a dying thing back from the grave’s edge? It makes you tired and hungry. Just ask Jesus.
Moving from a death cycle to a life cycle creates a sense of urgency and excitement. It can be healthy, but hard to sustain.
Sometimes, a church’s health and energy reflects that of its pastor. This is why clergy need sabbaticals. However, if the Church is truly a living thing, then it has its own rhythms of life and growth, its own needs for renewed strength and vision. So in a season where everything around us whithers up and dies, we will stop and wait for a moment. We will listen for a word in the wilderness, even if it is only the faintest breath on a hot breeze. We will give thanks for new life, and trust that more is coming to us. Even if we stop for rest. Because really, for all that we’re celebrating in this springtime moment, we didn’t DO a bit of it. The Spirit blew this way, and we knew enough to stop and listen. I reckon, if we stop and listen, She will come again. Even if, come July, her breath feels like Dante’s hair dryer…