7 March 2016
Friends, some of us are familiar with the concept of a sabbatical. The word comes from the Sabbath, derived from the Hebrew language, which literally means the Seventh.
Many of you may know that in the Old Testament, God decreed the seventh day of the week should be a day of rest for everyone. Such a day was holy to the Lord (Ex. 31:15) and you were to rest “to the Lord” (Ex. 35:2). Part of what you’d do was meet with your fellow believers, since it was a “day of sacred assembly” (Lev. 23:3). And of course, the Sabbath was so important it made it into God’s list of the top Ten Commands (Ex. 20:8-11).
Israel was a farming society and there was also supposed to be a sabbath year of rest every seven (Lev. 25:1-7). The paddocks were left fallow and you lived off whatever the land produced naturally, and presumably off what you stored up in previous years. I presume this meant a year of greater rest for the farm workers. Perhaps they caught up on maintenance. But hopefully they were also refreshed.
This is a long way of saying I’m having a sabbatical. Except these days only academics on universities seem to call it that. Instead I’m going on Long Service Leave, from 5 April –13 June and so you should not expect to see me at St Michael’s during that time. (One exception will be the church conference, where I will simply attend as a church member.)
For official purposes, Reg Piper will be Acting Rector, but for practical purposes, Liam Shannon will be Minister in Charge in my absence. To assist with their extra workload, during May, I have arranged Harry Goodhew and Richard Chin to bring a sermon series in the morning and evening congregations respectively.
I thought I’d let you into my plans. For the first month, I’ve planned a trip to the USA. God willing, I’ll attend the Together for the Gospel conference and visit several churches (Red Brick Church, Stillman Valley Il., where I will preach April 10 for my dear internet friend, Chris Brauns; Old North Church, Canfield Oh.; and University Reformed Church, East Lansing Mi., with Kevin DeYoung). As Matthias Media board chair, I will also visit their USA headquarters, Youngstown Oh., which like us also has a steel mill! And lastly, I intend to spend time catching up with former St Michael’s members: the Yasugis in Michigan, the Rileys in Oregon, and the McCarthys in California. I may see a few of the sites, but it’s the people I’m looking forward to seeing and meeting! I have already been overwhelmed by the kindness of Christians with their hospitality, both those I already know, and those I will be meeting for the first time. There is nothing like the church of God!
The other six weeks, I expect to be at home, painting the house in the morning and reading in the afternoon. Or something like that! And away on some weekends.
I’ve been weary (and sometimes a bit cranky) after a demanding last year, but by the grace of God I am very optimistic about the future at St Michael’s with the new staff on team, Sunday services humming, and the prospect of a good sabbatical refreshment after Easter. Jesus is continuing to change lives, so pray he’ll keep empowering me!
Warmly in Christ,