Sabbatical Beginnings

By Pastor Bill

I’m blown away by the excitement and support SLC has given as I begin a 3 month time of travel, learning, family time, and rest/recreation.  Saying I’m thankful doesn’t really cut it – I’m over joyed and mega-thankful!

Over the summer I will occasionally write some articles to keep SLC connected to my journey.  Remember, as PJ showed last summer, it is better to say that WE are going on a sabbatical as we will all be blessed by this venture.  So indeed, I will share some reflections as I go and here I want to mention briefly an experience on the flight from JFK to Tel Aviv as I begin.

Evidently there is a festival happening in the Holy Land of particular importance to the Ultra-Orthodox Jews.  These are the folks who wear the hats and who you see rocking back and forth while they pray and face Jerusalem–especially at the Wailing Wall.  I must confess, itFile May 24, 10 53 50 PM didn’t help my sleeping as they got up and down in the plane to find a place to pray and put on their prayer shawls and Phylacteries. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind: First, one  has to admire their dedication and zeal.  Yet, I also thought of Jesus’ words about practicing one’Father Son Ultra-Orthodox Instruction Planes piety before others (Matthew 6:5).  Two of them, a father (60s) and son (40s) sat next to me.  In between their prayers and sleep – I noticed that the father was reading the Torah with his son and teaching him – my Hebrew isn’t good enough to follow what he was saying but the father was quietly yet passionately instructing his son who was engaged constantly nodding and once in awhile offering his comment.  They said very little to me but were not unkind, in fact,  the son gave me some kind of rolled sweet treat so I guess my smile made some connection.  Their devotion made me think of Psalm 1:2. “Their delight is on the the Torah (law) of the LORD, and on his Torah (law) they meditate day and night.”  They definitely take this verse literally!

Yet, as I saw their labors and commitment to the law, it also reminded me of Luther’s words directed to teachers and pastors in his commentary on Galatians:

I admonish you, especially those of you who are to become instructors of consciences, as well as each of you individually, that you exercise yourselves by study, by reading, by meditation, and by prayer, so that in temptation you will be able to instruct consciences, both your own and others, console them, and take them from the Law to grace, from active righteousness to passive righteousness, in short, from Moses to Christ.

I’m thankful for Luther’s rediscovery that the righteousness of God is actually a free gift Lutherachieved by Christ’s death and resurrection, given freely, & received by trust (Galatians 3.11).  This giving and receiving kind of righteousness, what Luther calls “passive,” is what saves and makes us whole. Now I’m free to follow and obey God, empowered by the Spirit, to the best of my ability and that includes my piety and prayers.  But I’m thankful I now get to do all I do out of sheer appreciation and joy vs. an obligation!

Tomorrow Nazareth and Sea of Galilee.  I will be where our Lord began his ministry of reconciliation!  PB

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 26, p. 10). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

5 responses to “Sabbatical Beginnings

  1. Pr. Bill, we are so very excited and happy for you! Thank you for sharing your sabbatical journey with us. We look forward to reading more about your experiences, your thoughts, and your pastoral perspective for those of us in your flock.
    God’s Blessings and Peace!

  2. Hello, Pastor Bill — God must be giving us the “high sign” our prayers are indeed with you, when your first encounter with “Israel” was with the devout vs.the secular! How fitting that you-3 were “pilgrims-together” heading for the Holy Land, on the first leg of the trip! Who knows? Maybe your seat-mates absorbed a bit of “Gospel” — One can only hope!

    Godspeed — Sharon Clark

  3. Hope you are having the time of your life. I can not wait until next year when I have a chance to go to Israel & Jordan with you and other Church members. Be safe.

  4. Looks as if u are having a fantastic trip. Our prAyers & thoughts travel with you. John went fishing, caught 50# halibut, if you were here you would have gotten your 10%. MEH

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