My Sabbatical has come to an end. I entered back into our church yesterday and was welcomed back with love, affirmation and cake. In my first sermon back (which is posted here) I told the story of the best sermon that I heard during my sabbatical. (I heard some really good ones at a number of different churches this summer, but this one settled deep into my soul.)
It didn’t occur in the middle of a worship service, but at the Ironman Pre-Race dinner. And it didn’t come from an eloquent preacher, but from a humble Catholic sister.
Sister Madonna Buder was the oldest participant in Ironman Canada. She is 76 years old and has raced in several Ironman events, even though she didn’t first pull on a pair of running shoes until she was 48 years old. She was invited to the podium and after saying some brief gracious remarks, said simply, “When you are out there tomorrow and you hit a dark moment—and everyone hits a dark moment—remember, that you are loved. You were loved into existence.”
You were loved into existence.
I looked at Charlie and we both had tears in our eyes.
While out on the Marathon run in the Ironman, I was more aware than ever that I was loved into existence.
I was running with one of my best friends, in a beautiful place, doing something that I barely dreamed I could do.
I was running into the arms of my family who loves me and cheers me on in all the crazy things I do.
I was running with the prayers and support of my friends back home, a couple who had even called me on my cell phone to assure me of their prayers for me, others who had emailed or posted on my blog to let me know that they were thinking of me.
I thought back to all that I had experienced in these past three months and all that I have experienced being at San Clemente Presbyterian Church these past nine years (I had plenty of time to think about all of this—it’s a long run!).
I found myself well up with tears again because without question, I could say that I know that I was loved into existence.
And without even intending to do so, I found myself thinking and praying for others.
I prayed for the people around me, some of whom live for little more than physical fitness.
My mind wandered back to so many people I had met along the way the last couple of years.
Do our friends in Malawi know that they were loved into existence?
Do the Christian leaders serving in the Philippines, the cab drivers who were such kind Spanish tutors, the med students at language school, the people working the cruise ship who are so often so far away from their families in order to make a living, the nature lovers who have turned their backs on the church, even the creatures all about me:
Do they know, O Lord, that you loved them into existence?
And once again, I realized how love—when truly experienced—becomes mission. How the experience of knowing something so profound leads you to the desire to share that good news with others.
My prayer as this sabbatical season comes to an end is that I can so communicate to my church the presence of the Father who loved us into existence, that we, anchored in that confidence, will become more and more a part of the Father’s mission to make right the world that he "so loved into existence."
Stay tuned as we try to figure out exactly how we are called to do that.