This coming Sunday we will celebrate communion. I’m not sure how many hundreds of times I’ve spoken the sacred words of institution. Every phrase…every word…almost every syllable is ripe with meaning. Today, I’m enamored by the implications of proximity in these words. “This is my body and blood (I’m always right here with you)” and “…you proclaim my death until I come again (I’m not here).” We know what it is like to hold both things at once—God’s presence and God’s seeming absence, God’s closeness and God’s distance. We understand proximity.
I’ve been granted a sabbatical by our Personnel Committee for 2022. My original plans were to be absent from you this Summer, but the ever-present COVID-19 factor caused conference schedules to shift. I will be taking sabbatical this year from January 22 to February 25. My last sabbatical—four years ago—was focused on rest.
This sabbatical is primarily focused on study. The first three weeks will be an immersion in Eastern faith traditions and their contribution to spiritual, mental and physical therapeutic method. The last two weeks will be a study of the Hebrew text of the Psalms guided by the words and work of Dr. Robert Alter, professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at University of California, Berkeley, and for fun, I’ll be practicing my bass guitar daily under the instruction of Riley Hagan. I promise I’ll continue to exercise, eat right, and add enough rest to the routine to take care of my heart. In my absence, you will have the opportunity to hear some excellent sermons from local ministers: Rabbi Sam Rose, Rev. Dr. Matt King, Rev. Jennifer Fouse Sheorn, Rev. Susan Crowell, and Rev. Michael Schnatterly. (more about them next week)
Proximity is on my mind this morning. I will be absent from you for a few weeks, but I hope my prayerful presence will be felt. I trust I will feel your prayerful presence while I am away.
—Jim

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