February 2020: From the Minister’s Growing Lists
I fear that plans have been made for me, a list of things to do. Was it John Selwyn Gummer who declared ‘ I have a little list’. Well my list includes making the garage a tidy place. Casting every bit of unwanted paper, books and detritus from the study. It also involves sorting out years of photography and taking more pictures of Devon. Plus a little lot of biking.
The other list I fear is longer, much longer and may involve moving the house two feet to the left for all I know and of course I am not the author of it. Mercifully our cooker failed just before Christmas, because cleaning the ovens was high on someone else's list of things to do (things for me to do). Just to be clear it died of Christmas cake production not by my hand or spanner.
Sabbatical is a very great privilege and I am keenly aware that all three of my sabbatical, have fallen here in this appointment. I was actually reminded by the District that I had one due. It is a real gift from the Church which allows a time for refreshment, reflection and renewal. It has made a real difference to the wellbeing of clergy and their families.
The word sabbatical is not found in the bible but there are those who draw aside for a time to reflect, take strength and even sulk. Jonah had a three day sabbatical in a giant fish (we get three months). It happened after not going to give the people of Nineveh what for about their wicked ways. When he did go and they repented but Jonah didn’t think it would last so he went and waited for the fireworks. He sulks for days. Eventually he and God have a chat and Jonah is invited to see the bigger picture. ( Jonah chapter 1 to 4).
Jesus had a number of times when he withdrew. Mark tell us in Mark 1:9-13 Jesus came and was baptized by John, then Jesus went for forty days in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan. He was then attended by angels. At other times he cries for Jerusalem and also withdraws to pray.
We live in such a busy world and even in retirement people often do not have time to relax, reflect and renew their view of what is important and precious. I am looking forward to stopping for a brief period but I am looking forward to returning and perhaps keeping relationships with people at the heart of what I do rather than the endless round of paperwork and meetings which Church now seems to float on in the modern age.
It’s not easy but we all need a stillness and moments for seeing the positive things about the world and it’s people. If Jesus needed time apart then it’s clear we all need those moments of stillness. I used to think all the talk about ‘being’ sounded rather lame. Then one day I heard a friend describe an absolutely packed sabbatical, I heard myself say what quiet time did you have. ‘Oh I don’t need that stuff’. Weeks later this person ran out of steam and they sadly left the ministry.
Be still for the presence of the Lord is here