Sometimes Scripture comforts the afflicted and sometimes it inflicts the comfortable.
Sometimes the word of God challenges us and we know we have to work at being and doing this differently which is actually scary as our old ways have become really in-ground its our normal way of being us, our personality becomes interwoven with our behaviours, we become known by our habits and almost become defined by them.
My biggest weakness is also possibly one of my greatest strengths, I think I am pretty hard working and I can relentlessly keep pushing towards the goal of a different, and better tomorrow for the Kingdom of God to break into Kingswood/Hanham.
It’s not a bad thing to be living for.
Yet at New Wine I realised I was a slaver to ministry, the unending demands of emails, phone calls, expectations, events, favours, this, that and the other had caused me to become a slave to ministry.
I realised that I had driven myself beyond the call of God.
The problem is we think it doesn’t matter because we are doing good things, and embracing inconvience and sacrifice is part of the call of ministry, it’s why it is a vocation not a job, yet it is this pervasive thinking that actually keeps us enslaved.
Any idol that threatens to take -or even appear to take- the place of Jesus needs to bow the knee to Christ himself.
I used to have this theory, -I have a lot of theories-, that in my relationship with God part of my showing him I loved him, part of my worship, my ‘love language’ if you like was “Acts of Service”…
Yet at New Wine we heard talks about freedom which were amazing, and one talk was on Slavery and the Sabbath. Slaves don’t get Sabbath because they are enforced labour, they don’t choose to work, they either work or are beaten.
Sabbath isn’t saying that there isn’t work to do, there is always work to do, it never stops, and there is rarely actually a good time to turn the computer off and go to bed, it is a choice to believe that who are, is more important that what we do.
in a driven, crazy world of insane targets and with workloads piling up as resources are stretched ever thinner -echoes of bricks without straw- to take time out, not not be ruled by your phone, tablet, ipad is not only counter cultural it is revolutionary.
As the Israelite’s were freed from the slavery of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, they may have lost the physical chains and the restrictions of the ghettos they lived in, but were they free in their hearts and in their minds? -Why was Sabbath so important to them, because here God was saying here is rest, blessing and to realise that your worth stems from who they were in God rather than down to their productivity.
As clergy, i realise what a dreadful example we set. Often we are insanely driven as a breed of workers, we seem to think the Sabbath command can be negotiated in a way that we would disapprove of most heartily if applied to other commandments such as murder, theft or adultery!
So, I am asking God to help me to try and live a new way, embracing all those leadership cliches “say no because you have a bigger yes” and all that jazz… It’s going to be hard. It scares me rigid, it will mean change, I’m sure I’ll fall off the tight-rope sometimes, I’m sure it will stress me out, yet all obedience (in any area) is at times painful, but I think we sometimes have to embrace the pain in order to change and to grow.
More over, as we embrace the Sabbath Principal we are choosing to trust God, Scripture reminds us that God himself says “I will honour those who honour me” it is a step of faith like any other.
If it was a step of faith with finance or with mission I would be trying to lead the charge of saying “let’s step out” -I can see no reason why with the whole issue of time it is any different.
More over when we embrace Sabbath we also realise that we approach situations with renewed energy, fresh vitality, refocused vision and we realise that grinding ourselves and our health, and mental health and well being, further and further into the dirt was never the plan of God over our lives… We work better rested and are more effected and fruitful, and yet this truth is one I repeatedly fail to grasp in actual reality of daily life.
As we experience Sabbath we also experience this with those whom we love who are nearest and dearest to us. I realise that God has called me to be a Vicar, but he has also called me to be a husband, he has also caused me to be Father, a friend, a son, a grandson and sometimes the all consumingness of busyness erodes this other callings, vital callings, the Church will get another Vicar, but my wife will only have one husband and my daughter only one Father.
The heart of busyness and the motivation is fear, will I get it all done, will I do what needs to be done, will I let people down, will it ever be enough and the answer is “no” and yet the answer also is “the one who called you is faithful”.
It is good to be conscientious, but too often our self worth creeps into what we do, I was reminded this morning that God’s love for me, and for all of you reading this blog, is not a love that is earned.
I have often used the illustration of loving my daughter when she was first placed in my arms seconds after her birth, she hadn’t done anything for me at that stage, but I loved her simply because of who she was.
In a world where we have to work so hard for peoples approval, God’s love is liberating as it was there before our efforts started and it will be there when our efforts have ceased.
So, to be free, comes from a recognition of we are, who God is and how he thinks about us, it is a risk to do life his way, the challenge to stop… and to know that he says that’s okay.
So, let us learn to be free from slavery and embrace this wonderful gift of Sabbath which God breathed into the Universe at the completion of creation.