Spending Quality Time with Jesus

Rev. Martha Jacobs
Spending Quality Time with Jesus
Psalm 62:5-12, Mark 1:16-20
January 21, 2018

The Tuesday after our Annual Meeting, I will be going on a Silent Retreat. I will spend 5 days basically in silence. However, as I have said from this pulpit in the past, my silent retreats are far from silent. They are days and nights filled with quality time with Jesus and with myself. At the Annual Meeting next week, if you vote in favor of applying for the Lilly Grant that will fund my sabbatical and cover expenses for you to do your own kind of sabbatical work, I will spend a good portion of my retreat time on the parts of the application for which I am responsible.

Roots, Reflection and Renewal are the three key words that the Sabbatical Committee have discerned for our parallel process. And, so I will be intentionally spending time with God on this, thinking about our roots, about reflection and about renewal

My guess is that I will spend quite a bit of time walking the outdoor labyrinth at Holy Cross Monastery. When I walk a labyrinth, a picture of which is on the front cover of our bulletin, I intentionally concentrate on my relationship with God and where God might be directing me to go. When I can, I walk a labyrinth. However, there are times that I don’t have access to one, so I will use one on paper, to help me to focus on God and not on the world around me. I will trace the path through the labyrinth, either with just my eyes, or using a pencil or pen.

I sometimes come away from my time at the labyrinth with some new insight or understanding. Even when I don’t have a specific concern or problem, I come away more peace-filled and feeling “held” by God’s Spirit. So, I believe that thinking about our Roots, Reflection and Renewal, as I walk the labyrinth, will bring clarity to the time I spend praying about and discerning how we might best approach our grant application.

Of the 3 “R’s” – Roots, Reflection and Renewal, the reflection part is the easiest for me. Through my training to be a chaplain, I learned how to reflect on my own feelings, concerns and needs, and have learned how to put them aside when dealing with others who are in need. If I don’t, then the conversation or situation might become about me instead of focusing on the needs of the person in front of me. My guess is that my reflection time during my sabbatical will be multileveled and, I pray, filled with Jesus guiding me through the ups and downs I will encounter.

Now, the reflection part for our congregation will be up to you. From the ideas that all of you have raised in the various conversations and meetings that have occurred around applying for this grant, there is a wealth of rich ideas that will enable you to do your own reflection while I am spending time reflecting on my own faith journey and history and how it impacts my life and my work as your pastor. You can read more about those ideas on our web page that has all of the information about the Lilly Grant. And, a sub-committee will be shaping those ideas that float to the top into a plan for you while I am away.

The roots part, as of now, I believe, will be the most difficult for me, as I seek to journey back to Germany to dig deeper into my own Judaic heritage. I will be visiting some of the concentration camps and hope to talk with people who were directly impacted by the despicable actions of Hitler and the Nazis.

Being at the Temple for the joint MLK service a week ago, also tapped into those roots and continues to help me. I have come to realize that even though I am at peace with my Jewish heritage and accepting my being culturally Jewish, there is still a lot of work I need to do on tapping into that part of me that enhances my call as your pastor and as one who serves a God who welcomes all people.

The roots part for you, I pray, will be very interesting and helpful to you as individuals and as a faith community. I know parts of many of your faith stories, but not in depth. And, my guess is that most of you don’t know each other’s’ faith journeys. At FCC, we are a rich amalgam of histories and faith traditions that God has brought together to worship, work together and serve those in need. You too need to tap into that part of you that enhances our congregation and your own faith journey as you too seek to welcome all people.

The third “R”, the renewal part, is yet to be seen. I believe that if we try to see the renewal before we tap into our roots and reflect on where we are now and where we have been and where we might go, we may not be as open to God’s Spirit working through us and moving us forward together as a cohesive body, called to serve those who are in need and make a difference in our world together. We all need quality time with God and with Jesus, not just during my sabbatical. We need to find time every day to commune with God and draw closer to God, which I believe gives us strength to get through these very trying and unsure times.

When talking about this upcoming retreat with a good friend, who is also a clergyperson, I said I was looking forward to spending some quality time with God. She looked at me rather puzzlingly and asked what I meant by that….wasn’t all the time I spent with God quality time? Well, I had to pause to think about that for a few minutes, because if I said “no” that would reflect badly on me and maybe on God as well. If I said “yes” then why did I need to go away in order to be with God?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all the time we spend with God is quality time, but how we spend it makes a difference. In thinking about that, a question arose for me about you. Do you feel like the time you spend with God, with Jesus, is quality time? Are there times that you aren’t sure God is there, or even listening? Are there times that Jesus is trying to get your attention and you are too busy or too overwhelmed with what is going on in your life to pay attention? We have discussed some of these questions at our Questions of Faith sessions, another of which we will have today. But, just because we discuss them doesn’t mean that we have or find the answers.

What if Jesus walked by right now and said, “Hey, ______(name people in pews), stop doing whatever it is you are doing and follow me.” I wonder if I would hear that, or be prepared to respond, “Here I am God”, like Simon and Andrew and James and John did, when they dropped everything and followed this stranger? Yes, I did do that back in 1991, when I felt called to ministry, but I am not so sure I could do that today. With all that is going on in our world, sometimes it feels like God is an afterthought – even for clergy.

So, this morning, with all that is happening in our world and in Washington, DC, I would like us to intentionally spend some quality time with Jesus. I could stand up here and make some suggestions as to how each of us might do that. But, instead, I want to offer you a few minutes of quiet time to reflect for yourself on what quality time with God is like for you.

In order to help you a bit, I provided the picture of a labyrinth on the front cover. You might want to use it to help you concentrate and listen in your heart for what God is calling you to, today. Or, you might want to look out the window, or close your eyes. Whatever you are comfortable doing, I invite you to allow God’s Spirit to enter into your heart anew as we take some quiet time right now.

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