Hallelujah! It’s a good thing to sing praise to our God; praise is beautiful, praise is fitting….God heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds…. Our Lord is great, with limitless strength …Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn. (Psalm 147: 1, 3, 5 The Message)
I am back. Filled with gratitude for the gift of a sabbatical, I can sing praise to God with renewed energy and hope. Here are some excerpts from my first sermon back on Sept. 9. (From Fall Series – Stop, Look Listen: Life Lessons from Sabbatical Adventures)
You may have noticed that I was away for three months. I have missed you – individually as friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. And I have missed you as the congregation whom I love and feel honored to serve.
I certainly experienced a different rhythm during this extended Sabbath time. It felt strange not to be preparing for worship or sermons or classes. I did not look at my calendar or wear a watch. Sleep, eat, read, write, wonder, walk—these were some of my priorities. I focused on being and not doing. I did not need to be productive or efficient. I was more aware of God’s presence and peace and hope.
Stop, look, listen—this is what we tell kids when they cross the street. It also describes my sabbatical. I will share some of what I saw and heard and learned today and over the next few months.
I have thought about ways God healed my broken heart after such a difficult year.My mom died in April. Jackson was so sick for months. Joshua broke his leg at the end of April. And I was not sure if we were going to be able to take the trip we had planned. And I have been thinking about home—what it means to be home.
Retreat at Kirkridge Retreat Center with Scottish worship leader John Bell It was healing to sing with people for four days. What if worship was a movement in our relationship with God from Wow! Sorry..Oh…Why? Please …Thanks..Yes.
Being at home—I spent time writing, reading, wondering, and preparing for my mom’s memorial service. Being at home gave me time to see things differently, declutter, have a garage sale, and sense a new openness in my home and heart.
Trip to California—It was a trip back home in many ways – home town, home church, the “village” who raised me. I led the service for the mom in the church where I was baptized as an infant, grew as a follower of Jesus, and was ordained as a pastor. I learned again to share grief. God was healing my broken heart.
Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia—Jeffrey and I attended worship in renovated church where people of all incomes, races, education, and backgrounds come together to worship. Artists help the congregation participate in creative worship.
Trip to Scotland– Three weeks of exploring a land I have longed to visit , home of my Cochran and Stewart ancestors, home of my Presbyterian/Reformation roots. The cities of Edinburgh, Oban, Stirling, Pitlochry, St. Andrews, and Aberdeen were rich with history and beauty. The island of Iona has been a destination of Christian pilgrimages since 600 AD. Worshipping and hiking there filled me up.
So today I am back home with you. And we have gathered around the Lord’s table. During my sabbatical I celebrated communion in Philadelphia, in Edinburgh at St. Giles Cathedral and in the ancient Iona Abbey. Jesus, the Bread of Life, broken, offered, shared. The Body of Christ around the world. Today we gather around the table. We are fed. We are home. Amen.