21 June 2018
Dear St. Mark’s Folks:
There are two common sayings in Twelve Step Spirituality that I believe can help guide us as we do the work of discernment about how St. Mark’s will continue to live out is mission and ministry in the uncertainty that faces us and, frankly, faces an increasing number of congregations in many different traditions. Those two sayings are:
These two sayings are invitations to the traditional Biblical practices of Sabbath-keeping (3 Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a Sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements. )and pilgrimage or sojourn (3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.)
Today officially marks the beginning of summer. As George Gershwin famously put it in his masterpiece Porgy & Bess, it’s ‘summer time and the living is easy.’ It is a wonderful sentiment that often is elusive and seems more like a dream than a declaration of how things truly are.
Summer is a time when we tend to slow down a bit and relax. Many of us are planning getaways for various lengths of time. The children are out of school and the rhythm of life changes for any number of reasons. We have more time to savor the sun. The warmth of the earth nurtures the growth of local (or even our own garden’s) produce that often bursts upon our taste buds and helps us connect with the earth that we can often take for granted.
This is also the time in our liturgical calendar where we can get lulled into a bit of a trance by the hazy, lazy days of ‘Ordinary Time’ once we turn the corner of Pentecost (often right around Memorial Day) and move into that ‘long, green season’ in the church.
There is certainly a place, actually even a commandment, to support this sort of slowing down, it’s called Sabbath keeping and is quickly becoming a lost practice in our lives. Sadly, sometimes the church is no different.
I shared with the vestry the other night that clergy are not immune to the seduction of busy-ness as a measure of our worth. Sabbath, true Sabbath, does not come easy to us. Doing nothing is often equated with ‘wasting’ time. The reality is that we cannot and should not be perpetual motion machines.
That being said, Sabbath cannot be a substitute for action in response to the Gospel.
We are currently in a season in the Lectionary when we will read a great deal of Mark’s Gospel. I would say there’s some providence in that given our circumstances and that Mark is our patron.
As this ‘long, green season’ unfolds I would bring your attention to the rhythm of Jesus’ ministry. Particularly in Mark Jesus alternates between withdrawal (often for prayer alone) and active ministry (feeding, teaching, preaching, healing). As I have mentioned to before these are complimentary and necessary partners in the work of ministry in general and particularly in a season of discernment around questions related to vision, mission and direction for both individuals and congregations.
While this summer will be a time for us to live together into our new schedule of worship, formation and fellowship (Sabbath-keeping) it will also be a time that we will need to gather to share honestly about the big questions facing about finance, resources and facilities (navigating the pilgrim’s way). I hope and pray that you all will dedicate time to both Sabbath and discernment as the summer unfolds and we seek clarity on what God’s vision is for St. Mark’s.
May our rest and Sabbath give us strength and clarity for the holy sojourn ahead of us.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Le 23:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 26:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.