Mission trips, like church camps, establish a wonderful rhythm of life apart from the normal modes of life, a sort of suspended experience of time that allows experiences of God uncommon to our common lives. Having this kind of experience on a tropical island heightens that sense of separation from the norm.
It feels a whole lot like Sabbath. Of course there is work on a mission trip, but work that fosters a holistic rest and rejuvenation for the sake of the world's wholeness.
But this led me to another, more fundamental question: Which is the real world? Oceanside cottages are no less real than my North Main apartment in Columbia. My routine at the seminary and at work is no less real than the schedule we've established here. So, perhaps the question is, which real world is real? Which is the real real world?
Many of you who have attended church camps or Christian conferences know the sort of liveliness that comes from these times away. Sometimes we say, "I wish real life could be like camp," and other times we say, "that conference was what real life is really about."
But what if both are absolutely necessary? After all, God created seven days, but only one Sabbath. As we begin the all too quick transition out of here (less than 42 hours left on the island at the time of writing), what we need is not a combative sense about which is the real world, which is really a question about which is the better world.
In truth, all life ought to reflect the wholeness of the Sabbath, but that takes six days of work, preparation, and reconciliation. The week is incomplete without the Sabbath, but at least on this side of eternity, the week is also incomplete without Thursdays like today. We worked hard and long - completed three additional projects because we got done sooner than expected - and then cooked a communal meal before a long devotional on the beach. But we also sniped at one another, made mistakes, got lazy, ignored problems, and, well, lived in the midst of the dirt of life. In the same way, sabbatical times like this, the ones that ground us in hope for the coming Kingdom of God, are vital parts of life, but they cannot be the only parts of life, lest we ignore the dirt of life that needs tilled, seeded, weeded, cared for, harvested, and tilled once again. Of course, the dirt needs rest in between crops, and for that, Sabbath was made.
We are the dirt of life. We need those things - tilling and planting and seeding and harvesting - just as we need rest. If we lie unworked, we become wild and fallow, unfit and unable to produce good fruit. But if we work without rest, our soil loses all its nutrients, and once again fails to produce good fruit.
Which is the real real world?
Both are the real real world, and today, I am thankful for both of them.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.