A Letter on Sabbatical
A LETTER ON SABBATICAL ⬪ JUNE 1 – AUGUST 31, 2022
Pastor Michael’s sabbatical theme, Rooted, comes from Jeremiah 17:7-8. This passage compares those who trust in the Lord to trees planted by water. These trees, we are told, do not get anxious in the year of drought for their roots drink from the stream. Jesus, likewise, tells us not to be anxious. Instead, he invites us to take up his yoke. He says this will be a rest for our souls. Furthermore, he asks us to trust in the God who cares for the flowers of the field, the God who brings rain. In fact, this trust is a form of rest, a form of resting in God’s merciful provision.
Scientists who study forest ecosystems have discovered that trees cooperate with each other. They pass nutrients and water to each other through a complex interaction between their roots and mycorrhizal fungi that connect them to other trees. Rooted and healthy communities care for one another.
When speaking about the relationship between a congregation and its leaders, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy quote the following lines from Deuteronomy: “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” This injunction is part of a great catalog of ethical practices that delineate how God’s people are to care for the land and their neighbors. Similar laws from this section are: do not beat an olive tree until all the olives have fallen and do not harvest all the way to the end of a field. These laws are part of sabbath practices that exhort the faithful to resist the temptation to exploit the animals, plants, and land under their care. Indeed, they are stitched into a book that consistently reminds God’s people that God is generous. In fact, Deuteronomy says: because God is generous, go and be generous; because God is love, love your neighbor as yourself; because God values rests, go and rest, and allow others to take their rest.
A sabbatical is not a vacation, but the spiritual practice of pulling away to spend time in prayer and in the restoration of the soul. Over and over again in Jesus’ ministry he pulled away from the crowds to pray. And at times, even, he invited his disciples to pray with him.
Michael is taking leave of us this summer to spend time in prayer and sabbath rest. We, the congregation of South Elkhorn, should also take time this summer to pray and rest. To that end, the Sabbatical Advisory Team (Holly Fuqua, Nike Garlin, Jeremy Paden, and Angie Webb) would like to suggest a few intentional sabbath practices that we can take up in solidarity with Michael, Rebecca, and their family:
- Spend time in meditation on rootedness. Read and ponder Jeremiah 17:7-8, Psalm 1, Habakkuk 3:17-19, and other moments in scripture that speak to rootedness and to trust in God. Let them be a prayer you repeat to yourself. Ask these various passages questions about how to live them out.
- Spend time in prayer for Micheal, Rebecca, and the kids. (The sabbatical committee has advised Michael not to keep a blog or send updates. This is time for him to spend with God and family and not time he should spend crafting messages for us. While this rest will be necessary and beneficial, it has the potential to be a very disconcerting time so hold him and the family close.)
- Pray for Jim and Cindy and their family as Jim leads us through this summer sabbath season.
- Pray for the leaders of South Elkhorn who will be taking on extra duties in Michael´s absence.
- Walk the labyrinth at Wellington Park.
- Make intentional time for family and friends. Share meals with members of the congregation.
- Consider going on the church retreat to Aldersgate this August. This will be a time of fellowship and memory making.
- Join in the lunch and the Sabbatical celebration following worship on May 22.