Five Things I Learned on Sabbatical

by Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner

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The prayer before communion in the Iona Community begins, “Generous God, we thank you that, time after time, in the most surprising places, you spread a table before us and welcome us to the feast of your presence.” I thank God for the feast of renewal, adventure, and God’s presence I
experienced on sabbatical. I am so thankful to you for granting me this time away. And, I’m very glad to be back with you.

Several of you have asked what some of the highlights were. I had more highlights that I can cover here, so here are a few lessons and insights I have from my time away.

  1. Sabbath produces renewal. A sabbatical is an extended period of Sabbath. Taking time away is not just a good idea, it is essential to being whole. Sabbath is not just downtime, but a discipline of resting in God’s care. Letting the rhythm of life slow in order to reconnect with God in a variety of ways has restored my mind and soul. Sabbath doesn’t have to be an extended period of time. God intends for it to be part of the normal rhythm of life. As I come back, I am more mindful of my need to make this a regular part of the week.
  2. Daily spiritual practices change us. During sabbatical, I read a number of books on spirituality and discipleship. I started using Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Divine Hours. Once or twice a day, I meditated on the scriptures and prayers appointed for the day to center on God. It was not an unfamiliar practice, but one that I had practiced inconsistently in recent years. Over time, I have noticed how it has changed my perspective and helped me better see where God is
    present in the events of today.
  3. Faith is more meaningful with people who know you. I worshiped in other churches several times. Worship was done well, sermons were good, the music was inspiring; but it still felt kind of hollow because I didn’t know people. I am convinced that people yearn to be known and accepted for who we are. I am more committed than ever to
    helping people connect in meaningful ways to each other and to God.
  4. Staying away from social media is really hard! I pretty much failed at staying off of Facebook after about two weeks. But, in that time I thought a lot about how I use social media. I stayed away from checking my feed every time I had a spare minute. I decided to post thoughts and events more frequently. It has helped me focus on what I am doing in my life, while still feeling connected others.
  5. My golf clubs got a lot more attention than my guitar. I bought my first set of brand new golf clubs this spring. I figured I should use them as often as I could. The good news is I played a lot more golf than I usually play in a summer. The bad news is that my game has not improved anywhere near what I had hoped. I guess there is still time to pick up that guitar and see if I make a better musician than I do a golfer.

Join me at the Adult Forum on Sunday, Sept. 25, at 9:45am to hear more about what I learned on sabbatical and ways I hope it shapes our future together.