Encouragement From The Word

Leisure: not what you think!

One of the things the Coronavirus pandemic has shown us is that our society, indeed the whole world that is influenced in any way by western culture, has been too busy.  Chances are, I don’t need to tell you that: it is more than likely evidenced in your own life, as it is in mine.

I read an article yesterday that was sent to me by a friend who is a monk in Pennsylvania.  It is entitled “Leisure in the Life of the Christian”, and appeared in The Catechetical Review, Issue No. 6.2.  In that article, the author, Simone Rizkallah, a Roman Catholic lay worker, wrote about the meaning of leisure.  She quotes Josef Pieper’s book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, wherein he writes that leisure is a “mental and spiritual attitude, a condition of the soul, an inward calm, of silence, of not being ‘busy’ and letting things happen.”

Since we tend to define leisure as the things we do when we are not working, this might seem like an apt definition by our standards.  But, if you dig deeper, there is far more to it than that.  Rizkallah suggests, echoing Pieper, that leisure is not the ancillary activity we undertake when we’re not doing the ‘main thing’ of life – working – but is intended to be the centre of life.

Talk about countercultural!

That doesn’t mean that our work is unimportant; quite the opposite.  But our work does not, and should not, define us.  (By implication, therefore, our lack of work ought not to define us, either – a word of grace for those who are currently unemployed!)  But we have tended, in our culture, to see leisure as entirely secondary to our work.  Indeed, as followers of Jesus, our true work is actually the practice of prayer and faith.  As Rizkallah writes, “without the silence, space, and time for the cultivation of leisure, I cannot pray well.  I cannot wait well.  And then I may not be in a prime position to recognize ‘when and how’ [God] arrives.”

I’m a big fan of etymology, the study of word meanings.  I’ve been fascinated by it for a long time.  The article I read noted that sloth is actually quite contrary to leisure:  “Slothful people are idle, restless, agitated, and often workaholics.  They are spiritually lazy and easily bored.”

Yikes.  Not quite the same definition as we have given it over time, eh?

Again, echoing Pieper, Rizkallah notes that the word ‘leisure’ in its Greek and Latin roots actually translates – virtually transliterates – to the word ‘school’.  Now, I don’t know many students who think school is leisurely, at least by our culture’s definition of leisure, but it’s where the notion of the liberal arts came from:  “[e]ducation was for the sake of (human) freedom, perfection, and salvation; not for the sake of work.  It seems while the West has largely forgotten this connection, its enemies have not forgotten.  For example, the terrorist group of Nigeria, Boko Haram (which means “Western Education is forbidden”), is one such example.

One more etymological gem:  the root of the word ‘culture’ is ‘cult’, which refers to worship.  Cult doesn’t have the same meaning in North America, where we see it as a hardline religious or ideological group that expects abject obedience from its adherents.  (There is an exception:  French-speaking churches in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada will still refer to their worship gatherings as la culte.)

So if leisure is the basis of culture, then leisure is the basis of worship, at least in one sense.  But what do we worship?  Money?  That breeds materialism, which focuses on the economy rather than on human dignity.  Power?  That leads to a culture that political and even violent, says Rizkallah.  Honour?  We’ll be centred on vanity.  Pleasure?  We’re headed for hedonism.  But if our culture centres on the worship of God, that’s revolutionary.

I say all this to suggest that perhaps this season wherein we have far fewer options to entertain us might be an invitation from the Lord to reframe how we see our lives, and how we contribute to the culture around us.

Are you spending more time in worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we can’t yet gather together to do so?  Are you spending more time in service to others in Jesus’ name, aiding the vulnerable and the needy?

Or are you hankering for things to get back to ‘normal’, so you can crowd out the opportunity to face these challenging questions with more busyness?

Spend some time pondering that today, while you still have the opportunity.

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4.21-24, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Don’t leave it to the professionals

What’s your ministry?

A lot of church people would say, “Ministry?  That’s the minister’s job.”  We pay professionals to teach our children piano lessons, or to bark at us at the gym, so we often assume that ministry is to be left to the “professionals”.  But is that really a biblical model?

The noted Quaker theologian, D. Elton Trueblood, once said, “If you are a Christian, then you are a minister.  A non-ministering Christian is a contradiction in terms.”

Each person who has received the grace to follow Jesus possesses at least one special ability to serve God and build up the church – to minister.  And the word ‘minister’ simply means ‘serve’.  Do you know your spiritual gifts?

Lots of people keep busy in the church, and sometimes, they burn out – not because the work they are doing is not in some way valuable, but because these people may be serving outside of their gifting.  Do you feel burned out?  It could be that you are serving in an area that is not working for the way God wired you up.

If you’re serving in the church and are experiencing the joy of the Lord, as well as seeing spiritual fruit borne, congratulations; you’re serving according to your gifting.  If not, it may be time for a change.  Take a spiritual gift inventory, learn how God has equipped you to serve, and adjust your ministry.

If you’re not doing ministry, though, why not?  It’s not enough to come to church and “be fed”, if you’re not making practical what you’re being fed!  (To get a blunt take on this theme, listen to this clip of one of Amy Grant’s lesser-known songs.)

Do you love Jesus?  Then understand that he has given you abilities to serve him in the church, to minister.  Discern those abilities, those gifts, and put them to work.  Every local church has all the spiritual gifts among its people that are necessary to undertake the work God has planned for that church; we just need to unwrap those gifts!

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.  As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4.16, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Pray for peace. Work for peace.

I imagine you remember what you were doing when you heard the news 14 years ago today, don’t you? I know I do.

I was sitting in an automotive repair shop waiting room, getting an issue dealt with on my vehicle. There was a television on. Whatever was on before broke for a news flash: airplanes were crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City.

That senseless act of terrorism changed the world forever – and probably not for the better.   In a matter of moments, the worldmaxresdefault-2 was no longer the safe place it had been – or, at least, it had been perceived to be. When the ‘all clear’ was sounded and airports and borders reopened, it suddenly became mandatory to take your shoes off before clearing security.

For some, 9/11 became a watershed for inconvenience. For others, it became a rallying cry for change. While westerners watched in horror as the video was played over and over again on the news, Palestinian children rallied in the streets to cheer. In the Middle East, many perceived that the Americans were getting what they deserved.

Why were there such disparate views on one tragic situation?

Some in the Middle East saw the United States as a collective bully. Others saw the US as their saviour. Americans saw the nonsensical loss of life and vowed to gain revenge. Whether that revenge was justly exacted remains a point of disagreement with many.

What we can all agree on is that we live in a different world because of 9/11. “The war on terror” became a new phrase, symbolic in different ways for different people. In a way that not even the Cold War could, this new era has caused us to live on the edge of our seats.

So what is a Christ-follower to do , all these years later?

Pray for peace. Work for peace. Don’t be afraid of those who may think, act, or dress differently than we do – but don’t be afraid to disagree with them, either. Reclaim the old definition of tolerance: make allowance for other people to be wrong. But don’t hate them, or fear them, for it. Learn from others, and pray for them. For when we all rally around the Prince of Peace, there will be peace.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace” (Ephesians 4.2-3, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Connect, Grow, Serve

Our vision for ministry – what God calls us to do, flowing from the Great Commission – at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, is to help people connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community.  But how does that all happen?

Because, as Andy Stanley reminds us, “vision leaks”, it’s important to be reminded now and again what it is that God has Blue Logocalled us to be as a community.  Based on Ephesians 4.11-24, you can listen to the message here: