As I sat down to write today’s article pondering the prompt, “What have we learned?” I immediately began pulling up emails, and scouring studies, and statistics. I then turned to several bloggers I respect and read their brilliant think pieces. I even logged onto some of my favorite podcast and news channels. Each one was more informative and provocative then the next. I had pages of statistics, quotes, and illustrations but no clear idea of what any of it meant. Then it hit me…we are all clamoring for and consuming so much information, but it has little power to grow or transform us. It simply informs. We still have to do the work of synthesizing the information we receive into something useful and transformative. This transformative work requires the time and space to sit, think, and discern.
Yet in so many conversations with clergy, the level of exhaustion, overwork, and depletion makes me wonder how much transformative synthesis is actually happening? Are we merely consuming information then using it to tweak the programs and plans that we already have or are we leaning into this moment afresh to discover something new about ourselves and God? My friend Rev. Virzola Law, Senior Pastor of Northway Christian Church in Dallas, Texas often says, “Moments of transition are defining moments, we learn more about ourselves and more about God.” We have all learned afresh that God is truly a sustainer. It turns out that churches being closed for worship over an extended period of time isn’t the death knell that many of us thought it would be.
I wonder, if we’ve learned afresh that God is our sustainer, then what have we learned about ourselves as a result of God’s sustenance over the past 9 months? What has this new information and experience produced in us? Have we become more secure in our awareness of God’s blessings? Is our incessant need to plan, perform, and produce, merely learned behavior that’s hard to break? Have we learned to live sustained? I am reminded of the Israelites in the wilderness complaining about the manna and quail that God provided to sustain them every day. I remember how hard it was for them to follow the few rules governing their new reality, instead wishing they’d never left Egypt. We like to believe that we are somehow different, that we would be better in the wilderness. Yet in this wilderness moment, many of us find ourselves clinging to what we knew, even though we longed for something different then.
Father Richard Rohr wrote, “You can call life forth from anything if you already possess it.” Now more than ever our world is clamoring for life. Life that fills and sustains us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Through our six-week Sabbath sprint cohort, we are learning that leaving Egypt, while difficult, had its benefits. We are learning that transformation into the people of God requires more than information, we need sabbath space and sabbath time to be restored and to be re-souled. Sabbath more than rest, respite, or relief, enables us to synthesize and transform this moment, all of the information we are consuming and our new experience of God’s sustaining power into life giving reservoirs of faith personally and communally. We are learning that when we are bold enough to lean into this moment faithfully, creatively, and innovatively, instead of fearfully, we are resilient. We are learning to make meaning in community through Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube. We are learning that LIVING sustained by God enables us to call forth life in a dark and dying world, that desperately needs the light of Christ right now.