Stephen’s Letter

Dear Friends,

By the time you read this I will be on my sabbatical.  As many of you know the idea of having a time of Sabbath is deeply embedded in the Bible.  A central Commandment of the Ten being that each week everyone should rest on the Sabbath day.

It may seem strange to talk of taking time to rest in this 24/7 world where we can shop at any time and the internet is always ready to access.  A world where news stories emerge only minutes after events have happened, and TV channels are transmitted 24 hours a day.  Maybe rest time is a thing of the past?

We talk a lot these days about going on holidays, but even our holidays are often action packed and leave little time to reflect quietly on how our lives are going.  Resting is probably not such a popular thing among Methodists either.  We have that “good” Protestant work ethic that says, “The Devil finds work for idle hands!”

However our faith challenges that.  Jesus says we should not labour for what does not satisfy and we should not worry about things like clothing and food.  He seems to suggest that if we seek God’s Kingdom and Righteousness, then we will receive all we need.  The woman at the well is shocked when Jesus tells her that he can give living water to her – “give me that water,” she says… so I shan’t have to come to the well anymore

Although it’s a hard truth, I think, we are not really able to achieve much of value by just working harder and harder each day.  It is only when we stop and look to God that our work takes on a new meaning.  The people who laboured to build the city and tower in Babel worked incredibly hard to build something that did not last and their labour was wasted.  They thought they would be like God, but what they were worshipping was a reflection of their own industry.

It may be true that, as we get older that we need longer to do the things which in our youth just took a short time.  But when that’s the case can we look at the extra time we take as a gift?  With a Sabbath perspective, we may see, in the waiting and the resting, that God is present.  Perhaps when we rush about, at our most busy, we leave least space for God to challenge us.  Maybe we could pray for God to move us away from the cities and towers we are building, towards the fullness of life God desires for us.

So I’ll go on Sabbatical and try not to feel guilty and unproductive but rather, attempt, sometimes at least, to pay attention to God as I take time to rest and reflect.

With love,