A message from the pastor: The sabbath

But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…

Exodus 20: 8-11

Dear Friends,

It takes God and Moses twenty-four times longer to explain sabbath than it does to explain murder. Twenty-four times more emphasis to say, “cease… and keep the sabbath holy,” as to say Thou Shalt Not Kill. Shouldn’t stopping, praying, and loving God be simpler than planning a horror? Well, not in ancient days, not in scripture, and maybe not to this day. So I re-read those verses describing sabbath from time to time.

And, starting January 1, 2022, I’ll take an overdue sabbath. (See fine print, below.) But I encourage you to celebrate your January sabbaths with someone quite inspiring: the Rev. June Cooper. We know her from various visits and her leadership at City Mission Boston across two decades. Along with Lynd she is planning some exciting worship, and several after-hour conversations based on her expertise. Being with the Rev. Cooper is a great way to pause, pray, and love God, so I hope you welcome her. If you don’t know her yet, you will love her.

We’ll have another welcome of a sort in February: We will welcome back our colleague Yevgenia Semeina to the organ bench following a maternity leave, Covid style. We can’t wait to see her again, even as we thank Lynd for all the extra organization during these difficult months of pursuing safety. Yevgenia and I will return on roughly the same day. I say yay.

Perhaps you know that with 36 hours’ notice, we switched from in-person worship on Christmas Eve to one outdoor offering and one online gathering that Holy Night. We prepared for up to 50 attendants outdoors at 4:30 p.m., and ended up just shy of 80. Christmas miracles outdid my own predictions—thank God. We thank Misha Hill, Tony Rudié, and Rich Bryden (among others) for getting us online so quickly and Amanda Ketchpaw, in particular, for getting the sanctuary ready, even though it had to wait until December 26 to be used. Sabbath may be hard to explain, but community and being a Body of Christ serving together works for us all along.

As I depart for sabbatical my own plans are evolving. Several things have been cancelled due to Covid. And we are in a time of uncertainty, unlike most in living memory. So one of the things I will do during my time is pray for your health, our health, and our nation’s health. I’ll pray that you be safe and wise, even as I know the leadership of NHCC guides us that way. We probably have surprises and changes yet ahead. But as a Body of Christ, as a community of faith, we will find the path of hope together. So I will see you soon, rested I hope, and honoring those verses in Exodus to celebrate the holy things that we do together.


(The fine print: In the Spring of 2022 we will have served together at NHCC for 20 years. God works in mysterious and wondrous ways….The longest prior ministry was 19 years, starting in 1893. Tempus fugit, when you’re having joy. Every five years our pastors receive 2-3 months sabbatical. For the last two years it has been complicated to take this, so I took one month in 2020 and will take the month of January this year, and then we’ll figure the rest out in the future. Sabbath is good for all of us, so enjoy.)

P. S. We didn’t gather much of a Christmas Eve offering this year. Donate to support two worthy causes.

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