Last week I spent a few days away in a secluded place, mainly to prepare a preaching plan for the next Christian year, but also to have some time to reconnect with why I do what I do as a minister. Even if you don’t have a goal of producing something — perhaps especially if you don’t have to come out of your time away with something substantive in your hands — I highly recommend getting away with no one else but your Maker. It will do you a world of good.

You might be surprised by the things you can let go of that seemed so important “back in town.” It happened to be election week and, since I voted early, I had no further responsibility for its outcome. I didn’t have to listen to last minutes harangues of opponents or their barely disguised political action committees. I avoided my news feeds and got a sense that, regardless of the outcomes, God was still in charge of the world.

I was particularly grounded in that belief by the word of God in Scripture. This year I went “old school.” I didn’t depend on commentaries or study guides. I just read the Scripture passages as outlined in the Revised Common Lectionary  for each week of the year — a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures, one or two hymns from the Book of Psalms, a portion of one of the Epistles, and a Gospel lesson for each week, beginning with Advent and culminating on “Christ the King” Sunday. Over the course of a couple of days I was able to see anew the whole beautiful panorama of God’s dealing with creation, from its beginning in prehistory through God’s covenant with the people of Israel to its culmination in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and God’s relationship with the church and the world.

I was especially struck this time with the beauty and comfort of the Psalms. If you have the same sense of chaos and despair that I have regarding the state of the world, it will do you good to read the powerful words of reassurance the psalm writers provide about the magnificence and loving nature of the God whom we serve.

And, as seems to happen each year, I came away convicted about the way I get distracted by the things that ultimately do not matter, the cares of everyday life that rob us of time for God and the people with whom we are close. Whenever you go away you have to return, but it doesn’t have to be with the same attitude or priorities. Initial resolutions might wear off, but long-term commitments to what is important can last.

I pray that over the course of the next year, as we engage these sacred texts together in worship, that you will also be able to see God at work in the world and in your life. Just one word of admonition, however: if you’re going to get any benefit from this work, you’re going to have to show up. I believe that through the twelve months, because of the lectionary guidance and the work of the Holy Spirit, we will touch on all the major themes of Christian experience, but it is simply a fact that there is something you will miss every time you spend your Sunday doing something besides worshipping God. It’s hard to tell what that might be or how essential it is for your discipleship.

I am grateful for a family of faith that engages intently and intentionally with the word of God in Scripture. I am even more grateful for a God who is willing to relate to us both individually and corporately. I look forward to the next year together.