Reflections on Sabbatical

Dear Central Family,

I am writing this as I am sitting at my desk in my study at Central, feeling like it wasn’t all that long ago that I was last sitting here, finishing up last minute things on my to do list that I needed to get done in order to depart on my sabbatical journey. As I get settled back into life at Central, it is good to come back to that which is familiar, even after 3 months away: My chair feels the same, the desk is beginning to return to its normal state of cluttered-ness, and it is good to be surrounded by the familiar people and places of Central .

I am grateful for the time that the church gifted to me to be on sabbatical; I know it is truly a gift, and I want you to know that I and my family have received it as such. This time with a changed focus has allowed me a great opportunity to reflect on many things in my own life with God. I very much value the chance that you’ve given me this summer to have some distance from the daily routine of being a pastor, and to spend extended time with my family, and also some extended time alone. The sabbatical has given me space for growing deeper in my life with God and reconnecting to the deeper things of my soul.

One of the common refrains from pastors who have sabbaticals is that we set out with a plan, and then God shows up and redirects that plan. Though I was able to do much of what was set out for me to do on this sabbatical, including time with family traveling and time alone writing, my time with God and what He did in that time with Him was not what I anticipated. During the sabbatical, I found God bringing me back to some of the basics of the life of following Jesus. Even as I was reading and writing theologically, I felt that God was calling me to be grounded in the some of the basic and common images in Scripture that describe a life of faith: sacrificial offering, water, fortress, and light. Through reflecting on the “basics,” God has been drawing me more closely in the mystery that is a life of worship of and surrender to the Almighty God.

For the first five Sundays of this fall, I will be engaged in a sermon series called “Sabbatical Reflections.” My purpose in the series is to share my sabbatical journey with you all by sharing what God has been teaching me on my journey with Him. Through this, I hope to encourage each of you to reflect on how God is at work in your life, and how God might be calling you to a deeper walk with Him by reflecting on the basic images of our faith. I pray that my reflections will call others to pause and to engage with God in new ways in their own lives.

Please be sure to join us Sunday as we regather from the summer and begin this new series together. I am looking forward to seeing you all and to be back worshipping with our church family!


Pastor Joel