Sabbatical leave is meant to be a time for spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical refreshment. There ought to be unhurried time for reading, prayer, rest, reflection. Lopez Island in Washington State is nicknamed ‘Slowpez’ by the locals and it was a beautiful and ideal place for us to take sabbatical leave. During the time, I preached on four Sundays at Lopez Island Community Church. The folks there were incredibly warm and friendly, welcoming and appreciative and we weren’t overburdened with duties. I also attended a Pastors’ Conference at Regent Theological College in Vancouver where themes such as community and loving your neighbourhood were in focus.
Lopez Island was also a great place to read and reflect on my relationship with the Lord, my Christian character as a minister and my preaching, pastoral and leadership roles within Legacurry. When we seek the Holy Spirit, He leads us to repentance, a fresh grasp of God’s wonderful gospel of grace and a fresh appreciation of what Christ Jesus has done for us. Such appreciation inevitably leads to worship and a deeper desire to live a godly life to the glory of God and the encouragement of His people.
On my final Sunday at Lopez Community Church I preached on John 15 – about Christ the vine and we as the branches. It is a passage that speaks about abiding in Christ in order to be ever more fruitful in the Christian life. The following Sunday, Ann and I attended a small Community Church in Squamish, British Columbia. The Pastor was preaching on Gal. 5 ‘The Fruit of the Spirit’, but linking it to John 15. Divine coincidence? Certainly an encouragement to abiding in Christ and to fruitfulness! Having finished my final sabbatical leave, I have not returned with world-shattering plans but a fresh desire to be what I am called to be – a faithful, fruitful under-shepherd of Jesus Christ. Long ago when I was leaving Union Theological College I saw the priorities of my ministry as Prayer, Preaching and People. I have not lived up to any of these, even by my own desired standards, let alone God’s. However, as with each one of us, I echo Paul’s words, ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 3v13,14
With every blessing in Christ Jesus for what lies ahead of us.