This past Sunday, I reflected on rest, or perhaps more specifically a spirit of restfulness to which God invites us. The challenges before any of us in seeking this are significant. Not only are is everyday full of “time-traps” that draw us into unhealthy busyness, but our hearts and minds are often prone to wander away from what matters most.
God’s invitation to restfulness is connected but distinct from the practice of Sabbath. The first describes a way through which each us can approach life and its flow. However, we should note that Sabbath is a day, built into a 7 day routine, allowing for a pattern work and then rest from it.
I imagine that most of us who have been familiar with church associate the Sabbath with Sunday, connecting it with worship and being present with church family. This is true, but more is at work here, and the Sabbath day doesn’t have to be on a specific day. Personally, I helps me to practice Sabbath outside of Sundays.
Sabbath is not about legalistically reserving time slot in your week to show up to church. Rather, it is about establishing practices of rest as the climax of the week. Instead of Sunday actions being about ritual, what if instead you could shape whatever day you would like to approach as your Sabbath as the best day of your week.
What would you do if you approached Sabbath this way? Hear this more as me planting the seeds for further conversation. That said, I want to list four principles for you to consider about what is intended for the Sabbath.
1. Sabbath as stopping from work, worry and want.
2. Sabbath as resting
3. Sabbath as delighting
4. Sabbath as worship Pray about how God would like you to rest with him during the week.
How can the day you call Sabbath, not only be the best day of the week, but the day you truly live from?
Every week is pressed for time. Time does not just fly—it jettisons from one point to next at the blink of an eye.
This is a list of church-related things. I imagine you have your own list when you look back on your week. For some of us, maybe this was a slower week. For others, a lot more happened than you might remember.
If you’re rushed or tired, it’s good to note all that you’re doing. Not everything could have been done this week as you would’ve liked, nor did God intend for you to do it all.
We are called to be faithful in both a calling and time sense. A loving-God-and-others kind of faithfulness is about embracing a way of life that involves rest as you go and peace beyond our circumstances.
The following Wendell Berry quote reminds me of what sustains us when it seems the ‘dark’ shrouds our vision, or perhaps when our busyness overruns us. “Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery” (Hannah Coulter).
Reflect on the week.
Thank God for the good.
Prepare for what’s next.
My prayer is that God’s love will carry you in the flow of life that is before you, loving beyond what the schedule says you should do this week, loving as the Spirit leads you from the Father’s heart.
When one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. The news from last week about the discovery of a mass grave of indigenous children is horrific. This tragedy, involving an unspeakable loss of life, breaks our hearts.
When I came to Canada, I regret to admit that the horrors and abuse that took place in Canada through the residential school system were news to me. My ignorance to this history, not to mention the continued experience of pain and injustice that has become synonymous with being Indigenous in Canada, has led me into some heartbreaking and meaningful conversations with others in our community. Perhaps you have been blessed by these too.
No matter how many conversations we’ve had, or books we’ve read, or videos we’ve watched, the journey of seeking healing and reconciliation for Indigenous people is less about righting any specific wrong, but about assuming a grace-filled posture of lament.
Aubrey Sampson describes lament in this way: “Lament, meaning a crying out of the soul, creates a pathway between the Already and the Not Yet. Lament minds the gap between current hopelessness and coming hope. Lament anticipates new creation but also acknowledges the painful reality of now. Lament helps us hold onto God’s goodness while battling evil’s evil at the same time.”(Aubrey Sampson, The Louder Song, Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament)
Someone told me this past week that sometimes it is easier for us to believe in God than to accept that such evil has and does exist in the world.
We must resist avoiding conversation about hard things, because if we do we will also be less able to embrace the good.
We must continue to call evil evil. This is wrong, and will always be wrong.
We must hold fast to our hope in Christ at all times and in all seasons.
The first question that may come into your mind is how do I respond this pain now?
There are leaders in our community who have been praying about how we can respond through grace and lament. We can do our best to walk with them in this journey of seeking hope and reconciliation. There will be opportunities this summer and over the course of this year. Join in with these moments, however uncomfortable they might be—not because this discovery in Kamloops is the first of its kind, nor will it be the last, but because prayer and action is needed.
Lament is the crying out of the soul for what we know is not meant to be. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
To read a response from the CRCNA to the discovery in Kamloops and to consider resources for action, go here.
To read an article about Lament from Aubrey Sampson’s book, go here.
Janet and I have spent our last weeks saying our “farewells” to you all. It has been painful for us and many of you have expressed that you feel sorrow as well. What I have discovered is that there is something good in saying “goodbye”.
The goodness of a “goodbye” is found in the very pain we feel when we say it. I believe there are three hidden gifts to be discovered in this pain:
Janet and I have experienced all of these things in the last weeks, and it has been transformative. As your love has been poured into us, we have grown in our awareness of God’s love for us. As a result, we find ourselves wanting to love others more.
Something I’ve appreciated as we have said our “goodbyes” is that a “goodbye” is never final among believers. We know that we will see one another again one day, because we will share a forever home together with Jesus.
The English word “goodbye” is actually a contraction of the words “God be with you.” It shows what believers are actually doing when they say “goodbye”: they are entrusting one another to God. That is what we are doing as we say “goodbye” to you, Bethel.
By 9 am on Friday we, as a church, will have been praying continuously for 5 days. That’s 120 hours, 7,200 minutes, and (if you really want to keep track) 432,000 seconds.
I look at our time spent in prayer as a community seeking God’s face as spiritually significant. First because of how we would honestly respond to the following question: How would we have spent our time otherwise?
In truth, many of us fail to take on the focus of prayer in how we approach God and all those around us. The best comedians find the humor in the most mundane motions of life, not due to their talent and charisma, but because of their refusal to look at life through the lens that it is simply ordinary and unimportant.
The power and purpose of prayer is not that different. We must refuse to meander through everyday life as if it is insignificant. Rather, we must dedicate our time and energy towards embracing the extraordinary Kingdom of God unfolding in our midst.
My prayer is that these risks would become future habits of grace for you, through which God continues to form and shape you in the image of Christ. My hope is that our eyes and hearts have been opened to what God wants to do within us, and that when we encounter crisis, need and desperation we know how to turn to the Father for help.
Leading up to this week, I heard Cathy Ferchau, who helped coordinate this week of prayer, say “may God bless you as you seek his face” numerous times as people picked up prayer supplies at church. And that is exactly right when it comes to the journey of prayer for it’s only the beginning of what God will do next.
The other day I was reading the Bible and realized that I was staring at an unopened invitation. I encountered it while reflecting on these words from Psalm 1 about the person who meditates on God’s Word day and night:
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. (v. 3)
I found myself pondering this question: “Do I believe in this promise enough to bank my life on it?” I knew I wanted the abundance described in this verse, but was I willing to meet the condition for receiving it? The verse says it comes to those who will meditate on God’s Word day and night.
As a way to take God at his word, I recommitted to a life-long practice of mine that had fallen out of use: Scripture memorization. I’m filling up the pages of a binder with verses I have memorized, partially memorized, or want to memorize. I’m selecting a passage to meditate on that I can carry with me into the day.
I want to encourage you to take up this practice. There is something special when we take a little portion of God’s Word and bury it deep within our hearts.
I’m going all out for the abundant life God promises in Psalm 1. Why don’t you join me?
I’m racing against the clock to finish a project for our Shepherding Elders before I leave Bethel Church at the end of May. I’m passionate about this project because it supports a beautiful vision the Shepherding Elders have recently adopted. First let me tell you about their vision, and then I’ll tell you about the project. I think you will understand why I am so passionate about it.
The Shepherding Elders vision is to “grow young”. By that I mean that they are committed to being intentional about identifying gifted younger adults to serve as Shepherding Elders.
It is vitally important that churches grow young. The older generations need to be passing their passion and the keys to church leadership to successive generations or the church will die. We are all aware of churches that have gone totally gray because they failed to bring the young people along with them in their pursuit of the faith. These churches are like a train engine that has been decoupled from all of the cars it was intended to pull.
The movement to grow young started several years ago at a Church retreat when Council, staff and ministry leaders decided to become intentional about pursuing a healthy, inter-generational future for Bethel. Now, years after that small beginning, take a look around the church. Notice the variety of ages represented in our worship bands on Sunday mornings. Notice (next time you are able to come to in-person worship) the many young people running our church’s worship technology. Consider the average age of the staff. Notice, also who is running our church’s ministries, including, most recently, the 24/7 prayer week. You will find that young people are well represented on a continuum of ages from young to old.
God is doing something good and life-giving at Bethel. The younger generations are stepping up as leaders and vision carriers. This is why I am so passionate about the project I am doing for the Shepherding Elders.
The project is to create a training manual for the Shepherding Elders. It will be a way for them to pass on information to incoming office bearers about what they do, how they do it, and why it is so important. As they discuss their role and responsibilities and learn skills together each generation will be able to learn from all the other generations represented around the table.
Bethel has definitely not arrived when it comes to growing young. The church will always be a work in progress, but I believe God will continue to bless the church as we cooperate with him by staying intentional about being truly inter-generational.
Being a Christian in contemporary society can be hard. The Christian Faith is routinely derided, the credibility of the Bible is undermined, and the dangers presented by technology derail believers and make believing parents wonder how they can ever raise their children to be followers of Christ. That is why I was so encouraged by a seminar Pastor Cris and I attended virtually last week. It offered great resources to respond to the challenges we are facing today.
The seminar was the “Q Ideas Annual Summit”. It was both fearless, and faithful. Featuring mostly younger Christian leaders, the summit boldly addressed relevant topics like sexuality, abuse in the church, Progressive Christianity, racial tensions, and technology. It did so from the solidly Biblical perspective.
Here are some of the resources, we learned about at the summit that may be of help to you:
I remember the month after Christy and I first moved into our house on the Northeast side, near the Christian school. Specifically, I remember how rarely we saw neighbours early on. There were several factors that impacted this. One, it didn’t help that the pandemic had just began to hit home with many. Two, it was the tail end of Winter. Three, we didn’t know the community around us either. We were new. No other way to put it.
Over time we made the most of the friendly unplanned conversations. We’ve enjoyed overlapping with the casual rhythms of others which often takes on the form of bike rides, dog walks or highly responsive snow shoveling. We add our own patterns to the mix.
It convicts me daily that where we live matters, especially because God always goes before us, in regards to the people we befriend and the places we live. This is true for where you live around Edmonton. This is very much the case for where Bethel finds itself in the Bannerman Neighbourhood, embracing and partnering with a vision of cultivating a community that cares.
In a time of disruption and transition, we must keep our surroundings in mind and ask: “Lord, what are you doing?” “Lord, what would you have me do?”
I find myself reflecting about this as I get to know Bannerman and local leaders. Some of these leaders, who have been anchors for the neighbourhood, gave me a tour of the community league this week. We walked through the community garden. We talked about all the ways that everyone in this community has a lot to offer each other.
Whether you are thinking about how to partner with the community here in Bannerman or your own backyard—know where you are. Get to know the neighbours. Take steps to learn and embrace the lay of the land around you, because where you live matters.
I have found over the past few weeks that some of the most fruitful and meaningful moments have been the unplanned ones. At first glance this might sound counter-intuitive. I say this because my experiences over the past year have reminded me of how important intentionality is. Since you will not accidentally bump into friends at church or the store, for example, reaching out and arranging these times has been vital.
That said, with how unexpected this past year has been, many, if not all of us, are tired of it. “God, how about a little more expected?” “Can we have a little more predictable and a little more known?”
Perhaps these assurances will return. However, we should never mistake the comfort of having a plan for the illusion of being in control. We never can dictate what tomorrow or the next day will bring, but we can prepare ourselves to be present to the unexpected gifts these days will bring.
Here a few moments that come to mind for me:
On the other end of these experiences, I think of the moments I have called and met with people dealing loss, those feeling overwhelmed. Often, none of us enter these moments with a plan, but we know God wants us there, present. That’s what matters.
God uses these unexpected moments to remind us that he is alive in all of them – every one. How open are you to the unplanned and unexpected?
I said this in a sermon a few weeks ago. My prayer for us as a church is that we will be completely dedicated to the reality that God is, that we always are open to what God is doing, even when our plans seem of course. Perhaps we’re actually syncing up our times and appointments with God’s schedule.
What does he have going on in your life day? Meet Him there.
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