Summary: (Preached after a 2 month Sabbatical.) Leisure time is of value because it leaves us Loosened up, Wised up, and Prayed up.
SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 6:30-32
Well, I’m back. In case any of you didn’t notice I was gone … I want to thank the Congregation for giving me a 2-month Sabbatical this summer. I really appreciate all the Staff and the Elders and others who pitched in and covered things I might have been doing during that time.
Once I told people I was having a Sabbatical, I started hearing about other Preachers who were on Sabbatical. Unfortunately, I found out “Sabbatical” is often a “CODE WORD.” Too often what Sabbatical REALLY means is:
• This guy’s in BIG trouble (There’s some sort of scandal going on …)
• This guys on his way OUT (We’re firing him … the slow way …)
• This guy’s already had a nervous break down (Which means it’s way too late for a Sabbatical to do any good.)
So, thanks for giving me a REAL, legitimate Sabbatical! (At least I hope that’s what it was!) At any rate, here I am back … the new and improved “Sabbatical Ed.”) That’s what my family started calling me this summer. I got so relaxed that if something went wrong they’d say, Oh, that won’t bother him, he’s “Sabbatical Ed.”)
For any of you who are interested (…and those of you who are just stuck here, interested or not…) Here are some of the things I accomplished during the 2 months. (Bill Crouch joked that I should put a sub-title on this sermon: What I did on my summer vacation.)
(I listed activities...)
Ten I spent 4 days at the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs as a time of spiritual renewal.
During the Sabbatical, I read some books, saw some movies, took some naps, … and golfed … only twice! I’m glad to say that I gained no weight. But I did become somewhat mellower … which I guess is why I got the name “Sabbatical Ed.”
So, what you get for your Investment is the new and improved, Post-Sabbatical Ed. I’ll describe it this way: I am now Loosened Up, Wised Up, and Prayed Up.
1. Loosened up
What I mean by Loosened Up can be explained by a word-picture in the book of Job. Job used the picture of a bow and arrow in Job 29:20: My glory will remain fresh in me, the bow ever new in my hand.
In this verse, Job was referring to the way he saw himself before Catastrophe struck him. Later, in Job 30:11, he uses the same word picture when he says: Now God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me …
Job was experiencing what we could call a FORCED Sabbatical. We know from reading the first 2 chapters of Job that the affliction he suffered was actually from Satan --- but it was allowed by God. The end result was that Job was given some time off that he had not asked for.
When I think about Job this morning, I can’t help but think of the thousands of people along the Gulf Coast. What they have just experienced is as close to the experience of Job as anyone is likely to get. In a period of hours, people have suffered the catastrophic loss of every possession, their livelihood, their businesses, and --- tragically --- some have lost their loved ones.
I’ve heard some of them give testimonies of their faith in God when they are interviewed. They show the faith of Job who said, The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. We can pray that God will renew their strength just like He renewed the strength of Job.
The events that put Job “on the bench” so to speak were something like an extreme mid-life crisis. He was suddenly freed from all his possessions, his career, and all his loved-ones except his wife. (… and, by the way, his wife ended up advising him to curse God and die. So much for encouragement from the “little woman.”)
At the point when Job was terribly weakened and afflicted, he said God had unstrung his bow. I see the loosened bowstring as an appropriate image for a time of Sabbatical … but with a warning attached. We can either loosen our own bowstring, or it is possible that God may have to do the job for us. Sometimes it seems that “time off” works that way. We lose a job or we get sick or disabled … and our bow seems to lie useless in our hands.
I’m not a bow-and-arrow kind of guy, but it makes sense to me that it is not smart to keep a bow tightly strung all the time. Keeping the bowstring at maximum tension can wear out the bow or stretch out the string. If that’s the case, it seems equally true that it’s a problem for a human to be tightly strung all the time. All of us need some time to “loosen up.”