Over the last year, I have been meeting with a cohort of missional pastors. We are each leading new, alternative worshipping communities. The size and make-up of our communities differ. We meet in churches, homes, pubs, and on hikes. Our communities are a mix of believers and non-believers.
Last week, we had the opportunity to meet in person at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Our monthly video gatherings have been meaningful in many ways and will be made even more so after the time we spent together this week.
In addition to good conversation, hikes, and food, we also took turns leading worship in the way of our communities. Thursday morning, after a reflection on the labyrinth, we bundled up (it snowed in New Mexico before it snowed in Milwaukee this year) to experience the labyrinth at Ghost Ranch.
God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 (CEB)
Usually when I walk a labyrinth, I’m by myself. Today, most of our cohort was already in the labyrinth when I arrived. As I sat and waited, I thought about the communities that each of these pastors represents. As I watched them make their way through the labyrinth, I observed how it is impossible to know where each was on their labyrinth journey. Some began as I waited and one made it to the center, but just as you move near and away as you walk the labyrinth, you never know exactly where you are.
I thought about how similar this is to each person’s walk with God. I believe that God works in our lives even if we don’t acknowledge God. Some people we assume are far away from God may be very near. Others, whom seem to have their faith in firm grasp, may find themselves moving away from their center. Rather than making assumptions about people and their faith journey, I honor them and God by listening to their story.
Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27 (NRSV)
When I walk the labyrinth, I am usually looking down. It seems a violation of the sacred to step outside the intended path. This means that I ignore the world outside the labyrinth. I guess this is OK, as I seek to be present while I journey.
At one point, I did look up, and I was reminded of what a beautiful place I was in. It made me consider what we miss when we are so focused on where we are going or how far we have yet to go. It can be this way with pastoral work. Focus is a good thing, but sometimes I need to pause and see the beauty around me.
On Friday night, after the retreat was over but still at Ghost Ranch, I had the opportunity to join a Shabbat (Sabbath) gathering. Afterwards, the rabbi answered questions. In response to the difficulties of setting aside the unfinished in order to observe the Sabbath, he said, “During the week, we have a duty to make the world a better place and to help others. On the Sabbath, our duty is to presence and being aware of beauty, wholeness, and mindfulness.”
Thank you, Lord, for valuing the eternity of our hearts more than the temporary of our bodies. Open my ears to hear and my eyes to see how you are active in each person’s life – and may those who do not yet see your story in their life discover how you are always with them. I give you thanks for the call you have placed on my life. May I be faithful in both my work and my rest. Amen.