I had expected to spend this past holiday weekend away at an island camp with the youth from our congregation and two other congregations, returning home exhausted, worn out from serving, delighted to have spent my energy as part of something big and wonderful, where more than a hundred youth come together in praise and fellowship. Do you get the specific servant thing I am describing?
But I was sent home from the retreat (voted off the island) due to illness. One doctor said that he estimates I will need to think about being off work for a week. I went to a clinic at Superstore, and I will see how it goes, and perhaps see my GP this week for a better sense of how long this is all going to take.
I certainly did not Outwork, Outlast, Outplay – but I definitely left a heap of dishes for some of the faithful to tackle.
This was not the outcome that I had anticipated.
Where shall I file this past weekend?
Was it a waste?
Did I do what came to me, with grace?
So here is the question: was what I did last weekend more or less worthwhile than what I had planned to do?
Did I serve God in my enforced sabbatical?
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (ESV)
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Am I grateful?
– yes, for all the care I received.
– yes, for health.
– yes, for a beautiful place which also had a good bed
and that is a beginning
Isaiah 11 (RSV)
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist,
and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall feed;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
We read in Isaiah 11, that the stump of Jesse will sprout. We take this to mean that Jesus is prophesied to be born from the remains of Jesse’s family tree.
Usually, when a tree is chopped down, we kind of figure that it is finished. Things don’t always work out the way we figure.
This reading appeals to me for the vision of absolute safety and peacefulness it presents – a complete lack of danger, threat, chaos or turmoil. I find this a refreshing antidote to the morning paper and the news of tragedy, armed struggle, disaster and violence we hear so often. Peace.
In Advent, we look back in order to look forward. Advent recalls looking forward to the arrival of The Messiah. and look how he shows up:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 RSV
A chopped down tree, a baby – these seem like weak openings, small ways to start. God chooses surprising ways to begin. In the beginning, The Beginning – at the creation of the universe God spoke – he ‘said’.
A friend who is expecting SOON was wearing sweatshirt last night that has some words from Something’s Coming from West Side Story: “Something’s coming, something good.” That feels like the message of Advent – The message of Christmas, too: Something’s coming, something good.
I wonder what he wants to say to us? I wonder what he wants to do / begin in us as something small