Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Recreation? Yes! But Don’t Forget Re-Creation!

Summer is here, and in our part of the world the whole pace of life changes. 

“Triple-H” weather slows us down, forces us to reconsider the urgency of things, and reminds us that we are creatures, after all, and subject to creaturely limitations.  It’s not by accident that most people arrange for vacations in the summer.

The church year is affected, as members take advantage of the opportunity to get away, spend time with immediate family, reconnect with friends in far places and nurture ties to family in other parts of the country. 

During my first years in the ministry I tried to fight the annual slowdown.  After all, God doesn’t take a break.  Why should we?  Various friends suggested to me that they found God on the Cape, up in the mountains, inhabiting islands off the Maine coast, or even Out West.  At first I was skeptical: “Oh sure - God just happens to approve your favorite vacation spot!”

Then it hit me - God does approve.  Even more than the spots we might choose, God approves of our breaking our routines, resting from the frantic pace we maintain during most of the year and opening ourselves to a time in which we rest and renew relationships.  The God who declared the Sabbath day as a time of rest, for our benefit surely sees in our summer times of rest an opportunity to recreate us, to refresh us on our journeys.

The key, I have come to believe, is to make a distinction between recreation and re-creation.  Each has its place, and they often take place at the same time, but they are not identical.

Recreation is activity undertaken for the sheer pleasure of it.  It’s for cultivating an interest, for doing something that’s just plain fun.  It’s for the joy of being with people we love and care about.  Recreation breaks us out of our ruts.  It reminds us that there is more to life than just putting one foot in front of another.   Then there’s re-creation.  Re-creation is what happens when we seek God’s presence in the activities of our life, including our recreational times.

Harry Emerson Fosdick, for many years Pastor of Riverside Church in New York, is said to have had a standard reply to parishioners who came to him in June to explain that they would not be in church until the fall. The reason, they often said, was that they felt very close to God on the golf course.  “Wonderful!” Fosdick would exclaim, “But could you do me one favor?  I’m writing a book called Golfers’ Prayers, and it would mean a lot if you would write some of yours down so I could include them.”

Gotcha!  Yes, but there’s more than meets the eye.  Fosdick had a serious pastoral goal in his reply.  Rather than argue about whether God was more available on the ninth hole than in church, he suggested that in fact God is present wherever we might be...yea, even on the fairway, and in fact ought to be acknowledged.

It’s a simple thing, really.  We declare that God is the Lord of life; so all the world is filled with Divine presence.  We believe that Jesus came to give us new life, and that his coming was so our joy might be complete; so we should expect to encounter him in the things we love to do and the people we love to be with.

This summer, open your eyes to find our Lord’s presence in the things you do to relax.  Try your hand at a golfer’s prayer.  Or a fisherman’s.  Or a hiker’s, or boater’s, or driver’s or reader’s.  Ask God to use your down time for re-creation as well as recreation.  Go to church in the places where you vacation, and if you want to, drop me a line here at the blog (tospeakofgod@gmail.com) - if enough of you do I’ll post a collection in September.  Meantime, may your summer be truly blessed!

Howard MacMullen
© June, 2013

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