By Heidi Goehmann
Most Sundays I feel like a chicken with my head cut off. There are people to see, children to wrangle, and many precious faces, whom I love so much, that I could check on.
My running thought stream usually looks something like this…
“Did Macee bring her Bible? I need to put that bulletin announcement in for next week. John had surgery, I better check in with him.
I wonder how Mildred is. It’s so hard to lose your spouse. Who can help do games for VBS? Did Dave get coffee this morning, he’s gonna need it?!
Can we get air-conditioning in here already? Zeke, yes, you must wear shoes in church. No, you can’t sneak Star Wars guys up to the children’s message.
What night is the college student Bible study this week? I need to text them…”
I could go on, but I know following my thought cloud is tedious. I love my church. I love the people. I know it’s not my job to check on everyone and do everything. I don’t actually do that. But, either way, Sunday mornings for the church work family, can feel a little more like an Olympic activity and a little less like worship and respite.
I know I’m not alone. I hear the same concern from many church work families. They feel a disconnect from going to church to hear the Word and meet with God, because they are so busy trying to help everyone else be able to do it.
Luther exhorts us in the explanation of the Third Commandment that we “should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Most of the time this isn’t an issue of avoiding the Word, or ignoring the preaching. Nor is it about unhealthy church dynamics or boundaries and expectations much of the time.
Church workers, often miss receiving the Word in the same way that congregation members do on any given Sunday morning. For the pastor, this is a time of work. This is good work, but it’s still work. They study the word, they prepare the word, they hear themselves speak the Word and all of those things are spiritually enriching. The question is whether it is a sabbath of the Word though? A sitting-in-remembrance-of-God’s-great-love-for-them kind of sabbath. Are they being filled in the way that sitting and listening to the Word being preached to them is? How about the pastor’s family? Other workers getting things organized and ready?
Also, Jesus died and rose so that we might be redeemed and have eternal rest, but physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we were meant to have rest today as well.
Luke 5:15-16 tells us about Jesus’s experiences of ministry and rest:
But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
The crowds will always be there, be they 5, 25, or 5,000. Jesus went to a desolate place, a quiet place, a lonely place to pray. He established a sabbath of the Word, communing with the Father, and a sabbath of physical, mental, and emotional rest, because it’s something all humans need. Jesus was fed and refueled as a real, walking, breathing, eating person during His time on earth.
This sabbath rest of the Word is something so valuable that can happen on Sunday mornings, but most likely needs to happen at other times and in other ways. Church work families are so often feeding others, tending others – Please let yourselves also be fed.
Here are some ideas for both church workers and congregation members to spur one another on to have a time of sabbath rest in the Word:
Church workers and families
Find a quiet place – make a spot – around your table, in your bed, in the garden, wherever, to meet with the Lord in His Word during your week. Pray, praise and give thanks, by yourself and with your family. Refuel in snippets of time as you can.
Find a time for someone to feed you the Word – maybe your church has a Bible study that you don’t have to lead. Join a group of church work buddies to share with. Or write out a Bible verse each day to contemplate, just for yourself.
It’s important to have a time that isn’t about studying to teach and preach or share. Take academia out of your resting in the Word time. If reading Greek helps you sit quietly in the Word, so be it. If it doesn’t, don’t use it for this. Knowledge can be wonderful and it can be exhausting. Take time with the Father to remember what He has done, to simply remember – this is sabbath rest.
Love your church workers – send them cards with Bible passages for encouragement. Send a text with a Word of Truth that touched you today. Any particular way that you can share the Word with them is a huge blessing!
Have a question ? If at all possible, do not ask it before or after the worship service. If it can be done in an email or a phone call, or an appointment scheduled to visit together that week, that’s a great solution. This helps all of us in the Body of Christ to focus on the Word for worship and the business of church at other times.
Find joy in worship! Eat up that Word. Soak in that message, those prayers, the voices surrounding you in praise to our Great God and Savior. The Body of Christ coming together is rest a restorative treasure in the midst of the busy world around us. The Gospel is poured into our lives in every worship service, so that we may go pour it out to every one of our neighbors.
Rest well with one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, in His Word and as you worship with one another! To God always be the glory, for His work and for His rest.