Dear Fellow Children of God,
Kathy and I have returned from two weeks of vacation in Gainesville, Florida. It was a very good vacation. It wasn’t necessarily warm, as some might expect. Florida was in a cool part of winter and often the temperatures there were colder than the temperature in Palmer. Go figure! But, during our time in Gainesville we spent time every day with family. My 88 year old father, my sister and three brothers and their families all live in the Gainesville, Florida area. In fact, I have calculated that in the last 9 days of vacation, on 8 of those days we ate with or spent significant time with my dad. And, in addition to family time I golfed and fished, Kathy sewed, and we did not set alarms except on Sundays, it was a very restful vacation.
But, I feel some tension about this vacation, and actually all vacations.
Our Elders at St. John try to take care of the staff of our congregation. They want us to be healthy. At times I have been told to take more time off. I do know the importance of self care. Often I have welcomed new pastors to our area with the words of Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
A “pastor” is called to “shepherd” the people of God. Actually, that is what the word “pastor” means, “shepherd.” But, in order to shepherd the church of God which is bought with the very blood of Jesus, a pastor has to be available.
I am sometimes “scolded” for working while on vacation. But what happens when God’s people, people about whom I sincerely care, are in need?
So, in just the first week of this vacation I received a call about someone in the hospital. The next day I got a call about a crisis for a St. John family. I followed up on that the following day. I got a call from the office that same week that the man in the hospital had passed away, and the funeral was scheduled while I was out of town. I was contacted about a concern for some folks in need. I got a call from someone wanting to know some information about our denomination.
My tension is that I want to be there for God’s flock, for the people I know and care about. Yet, I also know that, after an exceptionally busy fall, Christmas season, and beginning of the new year, this 62 year old man needed some rest.
How does God’s church deal with this tension of leaders needing to be available, and also needing to take care of themselves, or “Keep watch over themselves” in order to “shepherd the church of God?”
My thought process has three answers that I would like to share with you as we work together to serve the Lord as pastor and people.
First, I know the need for presence to serve. I also know the need for time off to refresh. Jesus often found time away to rest. ( See Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31-32, and more.) So, I try to do my work of shepherding God’s people. I also try my best to care for myself so I can continue serving. I spend time each day in Bible reading and prayer. I do take a regular day off. And, I take time for family and vacation.
Second, we have good people serving God’s people in addition to myself. Our Administrative Assistant, Judy, and our Director of Christian Education, Jamie, do a wonderful job of serving God’s people all the time. In addition our 12 Elders and Pastor Eugene Larmi of Lamb of God in Wasilla backed me up during this past vacation in the case of an emergency. In fact, pastor Larmi conducted the funeral for the gentleman who passed away. The family was very thankful.
But, third and most importantly, there is only one Good Shepherd of the church of God. There is only one person who lived a perfect life and shed his blood to save God’s wandering sheep. That one person is Jesus, the son of Mary, and the Son of God. Jesus is the real care giver, the ultimate shepherd, the Good Shepherd. Jesus says, 14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-- and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15) Even when I am present, Jesus is the real care-giver for God’s people. When I am gone I can trust Jesus to care for His lambs.
I want to be there for as pastor and shepherd for the people of God whom He has entrusted to me. I also need to take care of myself. So, I try my best to trust my Lord, even while I vacation. I do know Jesus and His love is what God’s people really need!
A Child of God, Caring for God’s People, Trusting Him to Care even more,
P.S. Here are a few pictures from our Florida Vacation. https://picasaweb.google.com/114993745799525883148/FloridaVacationJanuary2016
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.