Tag Archives: sabbatical

All change

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It’s a strange place to be: at home in the manse surrounded by the normal things of ministry, not sick, not on holiday but not working.

I’m beginning a Sabbatical, not unique among Methodist ministers but still rare enough that people get confused about it and wonder if I’ve been send to the subs’ bench or the naughty step.

Others of course smile broadly and declare: “Three months holiday, eh! It’s all right for some.”

Well, there’s some rest time, of course. There is also some work-related activity and we are encouraged to do something that stretches us spiritually. Sabbaticals are a gift from the Church to refresh and reinvigorate our ministries.

I’ll be working on my hymn-writing and we’ll make a couple of trips including one overseas visit that I’m really excited about, but mostly it’s about being quiet and trying to hear God.

That’s all change from the frenetic pressure of a diary and a helpful one too.

The ‘how much more’ God

We are beginning almost a month in France as I come towards the end of a Sabbatical –  a gift from the Methodist Church.

It’s a chance to do a number of things and here all the cliches could come out: recharge the batteries; rest from the fight; find yourself; do something different. In a way they are all true and all wrong.

A sabbatical can be a glorious waste of time – and that may be just what you should do. I know of at least one friend who decided that he would spend the time reintroducing himself to his family because he spent so long away from them working that he believed, rightly, that he owed them the best gift: time.

For me, two months into the three, I’m beginning to hear something clear from God. Whether it will translate into anything usable for work I don’t know but I do know that I can sense him speaking in the place where we are now.

We’ve begun our time in France at Spring Harvest’s holiday Park Le Pas Opton. It’s our fourth visit and this time we’ve brought our little caravan to the Vendee at the beginning of a trip around six different caravan sites from the West coast to St Tropez, via St Etienne.

This morning, Christophe the site manager, was speaking at the morning worship and talked about logic, or rather the illogicality of God choosing to work with people like us to share his love in the world. He quoted Jesus (always a good idea, I find!) who, in Matthew’s Gospel, encourages people not to worry:

Matthew 7:

7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Christophe went on to talk about the logic of asking and receiving, seeking and finding, knocking and having something open but what struck me was the ‘how much more’ God. In this conversation where we can expect the obvious to happen – so doors open when you knock – comes a Father who surpasses the ordinary and works on the ‘how much more’ level.

I’m excited to explore more of this as the final sabbatical goes on. What does it mean to follow a ‘how much more’ God. How does it change expectations? What does it mean for ministry, for church, for the way church works?