It's summer time. A lot of us are traveling. During worship this past Sunday we had a number of folk away while a number others were visitors to our area who joined us for worship. Our sermon from the day, about “Jacob's Wives” can be found here.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Francisco recently researched “The Vacation Effect.” Using a large sample group of everyday folk, measurements were taken before and immediately after a one-week vacation, as well as one month and ten months afterwards. Results showed that after a week away from their daily grind, everyone reported lower stress, better mood, and greater awareness and vitality.
The “vacation effect” was strong, immediate, and even lasted for up to one month. Participants also showed changes in gene activity related to decreased stress response and better immune function. Their verdict was that days spent away from our usual routine help us both mentally and physically to function better and enrich our lives in unexpected ways.
As a pastor I'm also aware that time out of our normal routine is an important part of our spiritual health. Many times in the gospel accounts we observe Jesus taking time out to be alone and find moments of refreshment in the midst of doing ministry. The earliest church was strong on the idea of pilgrimage... of taking time out to travel and explore sites that were of significance to faith.
It is a good thing to take time to connect with our wider families, to seek refreshment, and in the midst of doing that, often reconnect with ourselves. As Christian people we do so in the context of our life in Christ. One of the few stories we have of the early life of Jesus is that of His family making their annual trip to Jerusalem.
It seems to have been very much a family occasion, which functioned as a vacation as much as it did a pilgrimage. It appears Jesus was able to escape to the temple without anybody missing Him for a while, such was the casual and relaxed nature of the journey. The story reminds me of trips I have taken with extended family and close friends where the kids go off and do their own things, the younger adults find their own space and the older folk spend a lot of time just catching up and sharing stories!
All of which is a precursor to saying that I am personally going to be taking a few days away to reconnect with immediate family this month... so there won't be a pastors blog for a couple of weeks. I hope that in your situation there will be moments when you can find refreshment, either by welcoming visitors or traveling to be with others.
Some suggest that if we are not in a position to physically get away we create our own our own “mini-vacations.” That we, for a few days, totally change our routine. Turn off the TV and other electronic devices. Eat food we don't normally have on our menu. Don't set the alarm clock (or set it to a different time). Lose our self in a book, or in painting a picture or by doing some project that we would otherwise never attempt. Such changes in our routine can have a similar effect to actually getting away!
Wherever the next weeks find you, and whatever you may be doing, I'd encourage you to allow your faith to be a part of it. We may well need a break from our work, our routine, (or even our local church) but we don't need a vacation from the love of God!
For some music, an oldie from British singer Cliff Richard “Summer Holiday.”
Rev. Adrian J. Pratt.