A Pastor’s Sabbath and the ‘First’ Bible
Yesterday morning, instead of getting dressed for church and going through my usual mental checklist for a Sunday in worship, I put on a pair of shorts, packed a bag with PBJ sandwiches, sunscreen and bug spray and we headed to Wildcat Den State Park.
I love the feeling of leaving town, don’t you? The lessening of billboards and businesses, the thickening of dense woods. As we drove further out from city limits, it occurred to me that we don’t do this enough as my four-year-old son periodically reported with delight: “Look, a train!” “Look, mom, the forest!” “Look at the clouds, dad!” Yes, it had been too long.
And, of course, it felt especially scandalous and also appropriate to do this on a Sunday.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a parish pastor and I think we need the church; universal and local, the gathering of the saints, the community of believers. We need to hear the Word proclaimed, to be forgiven of our sins and pass the peace of Christ.
But we need something else, too.
We need to leave the safety and comfort of the known, the predictable, the routine. And while church and its structures might be predictable – God is not. Because even though we can know God and have access through Christ, the work of the Spirit is neither predictable nor routine. The Holy Spirit is always up to something; always ready to surprise us.
I recently listened to an interview with Richard Rohr on a podcast called “Heretic Happy Hour.” He brought up a point I hadn’t heard before that Franciscans refer to creation as “the first Bible.” Before the biblical canon was written down and formed, how did God’s people know and bear witness to God? Through the beauty of the created world – by glimpsing God’s creativity all around them.
It was so eye-opening to hear that! I am constantly reading, exegeting, studying and organizing my thoughts around the Bible – the written word, the inspired, authoritative tome; sixty-six books, two testaments. I love this work, this discipline, this study. But sometimes it’s time to set that Bible down – even just for one morning – fill a canteen with water, put on my trail shoes and ‘read’ the first Bible.