I can’t wait for this to be over. How about you? At this point, does it even matter what the “this” is? Election. Pandemic. Holiday weight gain. Running out of milk. Even when things go well, isn’t it difficult to fully enjoy it? At least sometimes? I worry about enjoying things so much that I try to make that thing my version of heaven on earth. Whenever I do, it always ends in disappointment for me and crushing expectations for others. I can’t wait for this to be over.
Limited By Design
Perhaps that longing is one of the painful realities of being a human being created in the image of God. One theme that permeates the Bible is “rest.” In the beginning, God creates everything and then “rests” from His work. Clearly, an infinite, omnipotent God does not need rest. So there’s something else going on here. Rich Robinson points out that keeping the Sabbath was an integral part of life for the Jewish people. The purpose of the Sabbath existed before the Law. That’s important.
Then we get to the New Testament book of Hebrews and we see how Jesus fully accomplished everything necessary for us to enter the complete rest our souls long for. He paid for our sin. Restored us to God. Dethroned the false gods we have exasperated ourselves trying to please. Secured our eternal position in His Kingdom. Provided a way for us to be restored to a right relationship with others and even creation. In Jesus, we can rest.
Behind The Scenes…Er…Pulpit
This is the basis for the sabbatical that Imago Dei Church is graciously giving my family.
We moved to Milwaukee in the fall of 2013 to follow God’s call to plant this church. Our family has given so much to see this baby church be born and learn to walk. It’s been rare for me to work less than 50 hours a week and not uncommon to be around 60. I have yet to use all my vacation. Or holiday time.
In the six years that we have hosted public worship gatherings, I have preached for six months straight without a Sunday off at four times. Can you remember the last time you made it to church 26 weeks in a row? Without leaving town or taking a vacation?
My wife has served on the worship team, led small groups, leads the design team, and more. We’ve let people live with us, helped countless people move – both to Milwaukee and away from us. I’ve had the privilege of welcoming new babies into the world and grieved with parents who have buried their children in the earth. I’ve officiated weddings, counseled people on the verge of divorce, baptized many people into the faith, and pleaded with many more not to leave. I’ve visited people in the hospital who have attempted suicide, held the hand of a man as he took his last machine-assisted breath, prayed with people during riots, met with government officials, and more.
Words can’t describe the joy this all has given or the toll it has taken. I wish I could say that I have done all of this to honor God alone. But that’s not true. My motives have been mixed at best. I have put pressure on myself to sacrifice in ways no one asked for but I thought would prove my worth in the world.
I have neglected my family – and my own soul – to care for others. That’s a confession, not a brag.
I have tried to be God and wanted people to worship me as God. I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It’s been a very long time since I have sought God for God’s sake alone.
In the Old Covenant, God established regular patterns of rest for His people. Once a week on the Sabbath, multiple times a year for spiritual celebrations, even taking entire an entire year off from work. This was not for vacation. Vacations are typically used as an escape. God’s pattern of rest, though, is not to escape. It’s to engage. It’s for the purpose of encountering and enjoying God. To reflect on His work. To enter His rest.
Starting December 31st, my family will be going on a sabbatical. We’ll be resting until April 1st. This time is not a vacation. It’s an intentional time for rest and renewal – in God. It’s a time for us to seek God for God’s sake. It’s a time for the church to remember that Jesus is King, that Imago Dei Church is His, that the church is the people – all of us – not just the paid professionals.
This sabbatical is a time for us all to live out the image of God, in Milwaukee for the good of all people.