As the 3-day memorial day weekend looms, the mind of a pastor can often wander into places that are not healthy. The unending flow of twitter updates and Facebook posts praising various vacation destinations, Instagram photos of amusement park rides they’re about to go on, and an inbox full of forgetful folks requesting “subs” to fill spots on Sunday serve only to further deepen the anxiety. This is certainly not a healthy place for a pastor to live–but it is a realistic one for those leading the family of families called the church.
Imagine the preacher, the band, the teachers, the coffee makers, as “hosts” of a grand dinner. With great anticipation, they do all the prep work show up early, only to realize that his guests decided to order pizza and stay home or get fast food on the way out-of-town. The hosts would find themselves staring out the window praying that God would bring someone to receive the fruit of their labor. The preacher may get to the point where he actually is uncertain if there going to be anyone coming into his home this weekend. Then, Jesus will speak to Him. It might be whisper or a barbaric yawp. And, after listening, the pastor (and anyone other hosts) will come face to face with his idolatry. By grace, he will confess his sin, repent, and fill his mind with the truth of God. He will hold fast to the conviction that God is glorified whether two people or two thousand people gather. The day will be awesome.
But then, later in the day, he’ll sit and wonder about the hearts of those who will not be there. Perhaps the better question is not whether “his” people will be at “his” church on Sunday but, rather, whether HIS (God) people will gather at HIS (God) church somewhere or will even take the time to commune with “HIM” (God) while away on vacation. Vacations are wonderful terrible things it seems.
Welcome to my world–one that you probably think sounds pretty screwed up. My intent is not to lob shame on anyone who chooses avoid church on vacation. But it is my intention for all of us to ask some questions about what “rest” really means. Admittedly, vacations have always been a strange and difficult thing for me personally. I never rest very well. My mind is always working, even if my body is doing little more than atrophying. It takes me at least two days into the vacation to actually begin vacationing. There are others who rest VERY well on vacation…perhaps too well or too often. Within seconds of the official start of a “vacation”, they are able to disconnect from everything, people, chores, kids, work, stress, and technology. But I’ve wondered if, sometimes, they go on vacation from God. I wonder this because I know I am guilty of it myself.
We’re really not supposed to ever disconnect from God at anytime in life. Not at work, not at home, not even on our vacation. In other words, there is no such thing as a Faith-cation–unless your faith is little more than religion–which makes it really easy to shut on and off all the time. It’s not that genuine Christians SHOULDN’T do this, it’s that I don’t believe we actually can. In some sense, it should be near impossible to take a break from a living relationship with a person (like taking a break from our marriage–how do you do that?). Again, unless you’re God isn’t really a person which takes us back to the whole religion thing again.
First Corinthians 10.31 says that whether we “eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God.” That is a pretty comprehensive list–eating, drinking, and whatever you DO. That means that we have the ability to recreate to the glory of God. It also means that there is a way to NOT glorify God on vacation.
But I started this blog with talking about gathering as the church this weekend, so let me clarify. Everyone will agree that, unless you are part of some weird cult (or a nut-job fundamentalist church), going to a particular church on Sunday cannot and does not make you a genuine Christian. But, without doubt, genuine Christians are committed to gathering as the church family regularly. There is no guilt compelling them, no self-righteousness effort involved, simply a heartfelt desire to be with the people of God, to fellowship with them, to serve with them, to worship with them, and to commune with Christ, by His Spirit, in a way that is only possible together. Vacation doesn’t change that desire. So, depending on where you are, that might mean you gather with another group of believers–praise God. But, if you are climbing the peaks of the Himalayas, you might find that difficult. In that case, you still have a desire to intentionally commune with God personally, to read his Word, to pray, to enjoy God as a part of the vacation and not a distraction from it.
It is important to get out of our normal context for a time to rest, reflect, and to recreate. God wants us to Sabbath. But Sabbath rests were made for us so that we might enjoy God. So, as we vacation, perhaps we should all consider how we might display the greatness of God while we are away–and not just how we plan to do that when we get back.