Over the Autumn, I had the privilige of a ‘sabbatical’. A three month period with a different rhythm of life than normal, in my case, from the busy daily pattern of being a vicar in a very active community. At the start of the year, I was not thinking that I especially needed time away, however, it was drawn to my attention (by my church leadership and by my body, with an increasingly bad back!) that maybe it would be a good time to just stop for a while. I am still in the process of thinking through all that I have learned, but I’d like to share with you some of my key thoughts so far:
REST – “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2v27.
As human beings the truth is that we all need to rest regularly in sleep, in living at a slower speed and in doing some resourcing things. The act of taking some time out was not easy at first because I like work (we can often define ourselves by what we do, not who we are) but it reminded me that we are all human beings and need rest.Being off ill and maybe the need for a Sabbatical, can just be a reflection of the backlog of regular rest days e.g., Sundays we have missed! As someone has said ‘we shouldn’t work to rest, but should work out of our rest.’
REFRESH – “Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will refresh you.” Matthew 11v28
As human beings made in God’s image, we also need to find refreshment in body, mind and spirit. As a vicar I do quite a bit of the spirit part, but in my time away it was really refreshing to spend some quality time with my wife, children, father and friends. It was also good to spend time with myself doing some regular exercise, which culminated in cycling the length of the South Downs Way. I can recommend it, but it is a lot of up and down especially done in 2 days!
REFLECT – “Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4v4
In my Sabbatical I spent quite a bit of time reading through the stories about Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and various books on my shelves not yet read! Learning some new things and being reminded of great timeless truths, has helped me reflect on what might be good to have more in the centre of life moving forwards. What are the most important things, not just the urgent or good? It is what God commmunicates in and through the Bible, and should be the reference point for our lives. To live is to know God which is to know Jesus and which is to know his words.
RETURN – “But while he (the prodigal son) was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15v20
In the parable of the prodigal son (the Bible story that struck me most while away) we can discover and come to know the amazng Good News that anyone can return to God, no matter what they have done and who they are. God is a loving Father who, if we recognise our sin and repent, will have us back, not at our cost, but his. Finally, as a church leader, it has been wonderful to return to the church families of St Peter’s and Blessed Mary to see everyone and hear about all that God has been doing.
In summary, I hope these thoughts might this month help you in your own way find time to rest, refresh, reflect and return.
With my prayers for February
Revd James Hunt – Rector St Peter’s and Blessed Mary
12th February 2017