The summer we always like to focus on taking a break, sabbatical, having a Sabbath for the pastor and time away. Let me tell you why I think that’s so critical. And if you’re chair of the Deacons or you’re a church leader, I hope that you encourage your Pastor and church staff to take time away to refresh themselves. And let me tell you why this is critical.
One of my favorite stories is written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote the book or short story The Great Face. It’s a story about a mountain that on the side of the mountain, if you look at it at a certain angle, you see a Sage – the face of a very wise man – on the face of that mountain-of great wisdom. The legend in that town, just at the foot of that mountain, was that one day, a great leader would come to the town, who would reflect that face, and look like that face. And that would lead them into a great day.
So this legend lives on in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book. A little boy named Ernest grew up looking at that face every day – hearing the legend – dreaming with every visitor who came to town – would this be the face that reflected and looked like that face up on the mountain? Would this be the great leader? An all the years, people would come and go; and people would say maybe that was the face – none of them turned out to be the person – that great leader to come.
Turns out he became an old man – and at last, a famous poet. A great wise leader came into the town. And he went and looked at the man and asked if he was the face on the mountain, and the man said no that he wasn’t. But he continued to do his poetry and to teach in the town. One day while he was teaching a group, he shouted out to the group, “Look at Ernest! Look at his face! It looks like the man in the mountain.” The whole village turned around and Ernest was the face in the mountain. He had looked at that face every day of his life until that face became his own.
What I learned in that story is what we look at, what we set our gaze on, shapes us. And if all you look at is the stress of every day church life, all you become is stressful. If what you look at is disappointment, you become disappointment. It’s what you look at that in the end becomes who you are. You take it into yourself.
Why we keep our children from watching certain things on TV because we know it will get inside of them and it becomes who they are. And we don’t want that. This is why taking a break is so important. Why we even call it a Sabbath or sabbatical. It’s a “Shabbat” – It’s a worship time. We set our gaze not on our problems, not on the day to day stuff, not on the everyday issues that we have to confront – we take a break and we set our face on Christ. And his freedom enters us. His joy enters us. His love becomes a part of who we are. Take a break to set our gaze on something different and it changes us.
I hope you will take time this summer to fix your gaze on something new – that will refresh you. Have a good summer.