Summer is rapidly drawing to a close. Students are preparing for classes, church staff are gearing up for a new season, cottages are shutting, summer resorts are closing their doors. The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer will soon be memories, fodder for fun conversations, and, perhaps, precious memories.
How was your summer? Was it a time for holidays and vacations? Did you find time to step back from the hectic pace of normal everyday life? Did you take a walk in the woods or paddle a canoe across a quiet lake? Did you ride your bicycle from sea to sea? Did you take in a splendid sunset? Did you find time to bask in the sunshine or discover the joy of quiet moments with God? Did you hear the quiet voice of God whisper your name?
I ask these questions because I believe that God has purposefully designed his world and our lives to take on a certain rhythm. Our weeks have a pattern of seven-day cycles and our years are separated into seasons. These patterns continue to repeat themselves day after day and year after year. We take them for granted and yet each day and each year reminds us of God’s faithfulness and grace.
Summer is a part of that cycle. It is a gift from God—a season to slow down and enjoy life. It can be a delightful interlude from the hectic pace of the rest of the year. Yet all too often, rather than being a time of renewal, summer becomes just another blur of activity and obligations. Instead of stepping back from our normal routines, we simply add additional layers of busyness to already overloaded lives. Instead of finding quiet times of reflection, we fill each waking moment with projects.
I do not believe that God intended us to live this way. In his world, these cycles of life included periods of Sabbath. These interludes were designed to refresh, to recreate our lives so that we could not only more fruitfully engage our work but, rather, that we may more fully encounter our creator.
The story of Mary and Martha is instructive. Martha was so fully engaged in serving Jesus that she lost sight of Jesus. Mary, on the other hand, was less concerned with working and more concerned that she found time to be with Jesus. I think we could all learn a lesson from Mary. If those of us engaged in the ministries of the church are going to be effective and productive, we need time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.
It is interesting to me that the section of The Banner in which this column appears each month is dubbed “Church@Work.” It would seem that most often we measure who we are by what we do. We are a church at work—as well we should be. Jesus gave us the mandate to “go and make disciples.” His mandate was not to sit and wait but to go and do. We are a doing church. We establish goals, priorities, objectives, and measurements. We measure success by how efficiently and effectively we do our work. And properly so; we hold one another accountable for our work and ministry.
Yet even as we seek to do effective ministry, let us also listen and hear God. For it is through his Holy Spirit that God is guiding us. Without Spirit-led discernment we will be at a loss to hear what God is saying. The psalmist reminds us to “be still and know.” Jesus encouraged, “He who has ears, let him hear.” It is my prayer that each of us, regardless of our particular ministry context, will quiet ourselves and hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches.