given on Sunday, July 26, 2015 (I was not in the pulpit on July 19.)
How to take God on Vacation
Summer brings vacation time for most of those in the United States. With school in session for 9-10 months of the year, summer traditions have included going to church camp, vacation Bible school, picnics, family reunions and vacations. Sadly though, vacations have a way of skipping God.
How can Christians skip over God in their lives? Well, vacations take us to new locations and change daily routines. You may only be gone a few days, but typically that includes a Sunday. Away from home, many chose not to attend church on Sunday morning.
In fact, I doubt that many weekly churchgoers know that as a member of a UM church, there is an expectation members should not miss more than four Sundays a year. Church attendance is one of John Wesley’s acts of piety. Yet, on vacation finding a church to visit is typically not on the itinerary and it takes God out of our vacations.
Taking God on vacation means locating a church to visit. Maybe there is tourist information you can check to locate a historically significant church to visit. Another possibility is to visit a different denomination to learn about other churches, or maybe attend a family member’s hometown church. Some campsites even offer a Sunday service that might be on Saturday evening or at a different time on Sunday.
Of course, vacation is for self-renewal and another possibility to take God with you is to design your own worship time. Maybe you need to step away from the family and find a quiet spot to read, to reflect, and to pray privately. If you are camping, nothing compares to a quiet time in God’s world looking at the lake or a river or a mountain or a canyon. God’s world becomes the sanctuary and it can be any place you stop and focus on God.
Speaking of camping, the kids home for summer have options, too. The tradition of going to church camp still continues even if it changes the format. Nothing requires going to church camp, but it provides opportunities to grow in faith as well as provide a break in the summer—for the kids and the parents.
Of course, some kids have other camp opportunities. Maybe it is 4-H camp or a favorite sport camp. These are not necessarily church-related, but God can go along, too. Each time young people learn how to interact with other kids in a Christian manner, they are learning to live their faith. God does not walk away from anybody, young or old, just because they go camping or on vacation.
Young people brought up in church and in a Christian family, learn how to take God with them. God is there to protect them. God is there to give them the strength to try new and different things. And parents, they can let the kids go off by themselves knowing that God is with them.
But what about the grown ups? How come they take off and forget to take God with them? Maybe they don’t, but sometimes their actions do not reflect their Christian standards. Sometimes there is a little too much indulgence in food and alcohol. Entertainment may not follow their beliefs like gambling too much or going to entertainment that is questionable. Why simply overspending while gone could be a problem.
Taking God on vacation is just as important for adults as it is for kids. Maybe there is no church camp, but there are retreats adults can attend to renew or revive their faith journey. During spiritual retreats, the itinerary includes worship times, classes, and quiet reflection time. In these retreats, maybe participants are not taking God with them, but God is taking them.
Probably taking God on vacation is much simpler than one might imagine. Living a Christian lifestyle, God is always present. In this week’s lectionary, the reading from Psalm 14 and Ephesians 3 emphasize how God is always present with us. The readings remind us that it is important to stay connected with God all the time.
On vacation, God’s world is revealed to us in new and different ways. Our country has taken steps to preserve some of the natural wonders and to recreate recreational sites of beauty, too. This is God’s world and vacation time is perfect to thank God for all he created. Maybe the view across the lake takes one’s breath away. God is there and you tell him how awesome he is.
Vacation sites are filled with natural beauty, but some sites are human-made. The gifts God has given humans have created glorious architectural structures. Some gifts are shared through artistic creations that hang in museums; some are heard from a stage; and others are found at a table with tantalizing scents. God is there; God is everywhere.
God is on duty whether you are struggling to locate a specific address or dealing with a flat tire along the roadside. God is there to protect or to send help. Maybe the person pulling up beside you is a stranger; but when they stop to offer help, they are the hands and feet of Jesus.
Of course, you, too, can be the arms of Jesus for someone else, too. Christians treat others, as they want to be treated; and the server at the diner looks to be having a bad day. Take the opportunity to put God into action. A kind word can do wonders; or maybe a question and offering the time to listen to her answer shows God cares.
Taking God on vacation really is important. Not only do you need God for protection and security; but also others need you to share God with them. Mission trips are another way to vacation with God. It may be hard to offer your vacation time to help others in crisis, but the benefit may be just the prescription your spiritual life needs. The results of the mission trip can be evident at the site, but the lasting results within one’s soul might be more valuable.
Planning a vacation does not mean that everything has to change. Just make sure to look for God’s gifts around you. Offer yourself as God’s servant when opportunities pop up. Pray.
Pray all the time whether it is in thanksgiving, in praise, or in supplication. Just pray. Maybe the prayer is for the drivers along side you on the roads or maybe for that server in the restaurant. Offer prayers for the natural wonders dazzling your eyes. Maybe you continue prayers asking for God’s guidance at the job to which you will return.
God is pleased when his children make decisions that demonstrate their faithfulness. Certainly it is easy to think only how the vacation is going to be just for personal fun, but vacationing with God enriches our lives spiritually and assures God of our desire to be in a right relationship with him. And when your return to work and to your daily life, others, too, will se what a vacation with God can do for one’s quality of Christian life that comes with the promise of eternal life—or eternal vacation.
Summer is half way over for our community.
Many friends and family find ways to vacation
And we know you are with them always.
Thank you for their safety and their fun.
With summer half way yet to go,
Help us strengthen our Christian lives on vacation.
As eyes see your glory in nature and made by humans,
Hear our praises and accept our thanks.
And as summer vacations come to a close,
Let us find the spiritual and physical renewal
Needed to continue along our journeys.
May others see you in our lives and ask why.
May others find vacationing with God a sample
Of life ever lasting along side you and your son. –Amen