The Grace of Sabbath and Sabbatical
April 16, 2021
From May 17th through Labor Day, Pastor Brian will be engaging in his first Sabbatical after 22 years of serving as a pastor. Sabbatical activities for Pastor Brian, the Derrer family and the congregation are funded through the “Clergy Renewal Grant” that Christ the Savior Lutheran Church received from the Lilly Foundation.
In the bible’s creation story, God rests on the seventh day, establishing a pattern taught to people of faith throughout the generations. God included the Sabbath pattern in the 10 Commandments – and while anything commanded can feel like a burden, keeping Sabbath is an experience of grace.
Sabbath is a gift of time for the sake of renewal. We worship on the Sabbath, renewing our relationship with God and one another. Sabbath rest invites us to dwell deeply in God’s grip of grace, paying attention to the needs of our own bodies, minds and spirits, as well as the needs of the world around us. Sabbath renews us for living faithfully.
While each of us recognizes the God-spoken need for rest and renewal, the demands of life are never ceasing. The very fruitfulness of our lives is often, but mistakenly, measured by how busy we report ourselves being. We fall into the trap of measuring the very worth of our lives by our productivity. Sabbath is intended to regularly break that cycle by calling us back to who we truly are…beloved children of a gracious God.
The word “Sabbatical” comes from the word Sabbath. I am so very grateful for the grace extended to me to engage in my upcoming summer sabbatical. My intention is to approach this summer as a season of dwelling deeply in God’s grace.
One cannot earn grace – but only receive it. Pastors work hard, it’s true – but so do lots of other people! The particular demands of pastoral ministry draw on one’s physical, emotional and spiritual resources. This season of grace will allow me to receive the renewal that comes with stepping away from the daily demands of pastoral work to pray, study, learn and grow.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the late German pastor, author and theologian famously opposed “cheap grace” – when the gift we receive from God is taken for granted without transforming the recipient. Costly grace, on the other hand, stirs renewal in the recipient, drawing us to deep gratitude that transforms us and helps us grow into God’s calling.
The grace afforded me by the congregation’s gift of time and the Lilly Endowment’s gift of financial resources is being received as costly grace! I anticipate, and you may expect of me, that this season of renewal will be one that prepares me to continue the journey of pastoral ministry with renewed vigor, faith, joy and passion for the work we share as Christ the Savior Lutheran church.
A Sabbath day in our week renews us for the work we carry out on other days. A Sabbatical season will renew us for the work we carry out in the coming seasons of ministry together! While my family and I will certainly benefit from this sabbatical…so will the congregation and the ministry we share. When we’ve reunited after this season, we can all fully expect that the Holy Spirit will utilize this season of renewal to empower faithful ministry moving forward!