I can't express how thankful I am for the incredibly rich time that Holy Week and Easter worship were for us as a church. The flower arrangement on the cross inside the Interim Sanctuary (pictured above) probably expressed it best - beauty, depth, life, joy, renewal, excitement, wonder, hope.... Thank you to everyone who came and worshipped (over 1,200 souls!) and a special thanks to those who lead or served in some capacity. It was a true blessing to me as Senior Pastor to be with you for another Easter.
I've now been on pastoral staff at All Saints for 12 years – the last 6 of those as Senior Pastor. This summer also marks Elissa and my 20th wedding anniversary, so the majority of our married life has been spent here at All Saints. And maybe it goes without saying, but please know that it's not only at Easter that we are overwhelmed with gratitude to have the privilege of sharing our life with you.
This summer will include something new for me as a pastor - a sabbatical. I've never taken a true sabbatical before; 4 years ago I took a six-week "working" sabbatical; but I've never had a concentrated period of time devoted to rest, personal renewal, and "lingering" with God and my family. So, I'm very thankful to All Saints' Elders for encouraging and giving me this time. (We've recently passed a policy that all full-time pastoral staff will be given a 3 month sabbatical every 5 years).
I'm also a bit nervous about this sabbatical. I'm not a very good "rester"; and I haven't been out of full-time ministry or study for almost 20 years, nearly the entirety of Elissa and my marriage. It will be weird to not preach for 12 weeks, to listen to someone else preach and preside in worship for an entire summer, to wake up every morning and not have immediate needs to meet and tasks to do... but in many ways that is just what I need.
I need to be reminded of the difference between "being" and "doing", and of the priority of the former over the latter. The gospel is not: do good and God will love you. The gospel is: God loves you in and through Jesus (full stop); now, in Christ, there are some really wonderful and good things to do. Being over doing is hard for me, but in so many ways it is the foundation for life as a Christian and especially for a pastoral life as a Christian. Thus, the sabbatical...
What am I going to do? Plans are still being finalized. We'll be in Austin for much of the time, but we'll also be traveling for our anniversary, for our boys' sports, and for some study.
Who will be preaching? Your other pastors, especially Jordan Griesbeck (Youth Pastor) and Josh Keller (Young Adults Pastor) as well as John Trapp (College Pastor) - this "next generation" of pastors will preach a majority of the weeks I'm away. My last Sunday before leaving will be Pentecost Sunday (May 20), and my first Sunday back will be August 12.
What can you do? Please continue to gather together for worship and to participate in the life and ministry of All Saints while I'm away. My sabbatical is an opportunity for our church as whole to remind ourselves that a church never rests upon or revolves around one man (unless, of course, that man is Jesus). This is a reality that every church needs not only to be reminded of but also to practice.
Also, please pray for my family and I to enjoy our time and for the Lord to meet with me during my sabbatical - that my "inner self will be renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16) and that through my sabbatical our entire church will be invigorated to continue being the body of Christ in Austin for the world.
With love, thanks, and peace, in Christ,