Sabbatical – Lying Fallow, Wading in Baptismal Waters

The following is the first entry from Pastor Kent’s Sabbatical blog.  You can check out his blog on the Blogroll or by clicking here.

An old familiar proverb says the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Another version of the same proverb says the journey must begin where you stand.  With the wisdom of Confucius, my father used to tell me no matter where you go there you are.

On May 27 after Sunday’s worship, I begin a several-month, several-thousand-mile sabbatical journey that will take me from worship at our sibling congregation of San Pablo Lutheran Church in Bogotá, Colombia all the way to the Christian worshipping community in Taizé, France.  God-willing, the journey will take me from a concert performance by world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell at the Oregon Bach Festival all the way to a music and worship conference led by well known hymn writer John Bell on the Isle of Iona, Scotland.

I’ll admit, it’s kind of funny to take a sabbatical journey.  After all, the Hebrew word for rested is where we get Sabbath.  But Sabbath is so much more than just taking a nap.

The idea of “sabbatical” and “Sabbath” can be found as early as the second chapter of Genesis.  After God’s Spirit “brooded like a bird above the watery abyss” (translated from Eugene Peterson’s The Message) and after God spoke, named and pronounced the cosmos “good,” chapter two says that God rested, blessed and thus hallowed or ‘made holy’ all creation.  Sabbath is about more than God taking a nap in the shade of a tree because God was tired.  Sabbath has to do with a little bit of distance – a little bit of stepping back from work so what is, can be and in this (according to our holy scriptures) things are made holy and blessed.

Everything needs a break, needs to be “stepped back from” now and then, says God.  After a commandment not to take advantage of a “stranger” (after all, says God, you’ve been a “stranger” yourselves) and before a commandment to observe three festivals per year (the festival of unleavened bread called Passover, the festival of summer harvest called Pentecost and the festival of fall ingathering called Sukkoth), God says in Exodus 23:10-11 to let the land rest and lie fallow and to do the same with yourselves and your possessions.

Sabbath is about letting the work-worn parts of all creation lie fallow.  After all, even God… even God took a rest, stepped back and lied fallow.

It’s funny the way things sometimes fall.  The day that my sabbatical begins just happens to fall on Pentecost Sunday.  Remember Pentecost, it was one of those three festivals back in Exodus that God said to observe.  One of three times throughout the year to intentionally stop and remember and experience the abundance of God’s saving and nourishing grace.

The day that my sabbatical begins also just happens to fall on the thirty-third anniversary of my baptism Image(I’m the one being held just next to the cross in the attached photo taken on May 27, 1979).  How funny, since we as Lutherans say the Christian journey begins and ends with baptism.  No matter where you go, the promise spoken over baptismal waters is there.

I give thanks for your prayers as I begin this journey, which will take me around the world and back to Custer Lutheran Fellowship.  Even as I pray that the next few months might provide you opportunities for Sabbath rest, that you might take a step or two back from work-worn parts of your lives and let them lie fallow.  It’s amazing, after all, how God’s abundant grace often springs up in the fallow places of our lives… with a well-placed promise and some water of course.