Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14
Several years ago, Rebekah and I attended a three-day long retreat for pastors up in the mountains in a ski resort east of Salt Lake City. The theme of the conference was “Pastor’s Sabbath” and the emphasis was on how clergy (and spouses) must intentionally seek out Sabbath rest when Sunday is so often a hectic, loaded, busy day of work.
The preaching was amazing: James Forbes, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Tony Campolo; then the Bible-study was led by renowned Old Testament and Hebrew scholar Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann dug into the roots of Sabbath and spent a lot of time unpacking the Hebrew word/concept of nephesh.
Vitality and Refreshment:
Nephesh has to do with vitality of being, of having life, of sentience. It goes beyond simply the ability to draw breath but also speaks of soul. What God designed Sabbath for, Brueggemann pointed out, was to refresh our life, to restore our vitality and the resources from which we draw life.
Too often, pastors and other church leaders see their nephesh give out (like a dried out well) because they have no resources upon which to draw.
While Brueggemann encouraged us to “keep Sabbath” at times other than a Sunday morning, we were also challenged to experience worship services with our congregations as refreshing, invigorating, and revitalizing opportunities to have our nephesh restored.
At best, Sunday mornings are refreshing and restorative. At the same time, it is important that we not limit such replenishment to congregational worship but seek God and drink deeply from the Well of Life many times a week. Jesus offered the woman at the well “Living Water” from a source that is always available and never runs dry!
How My Nephesh was Renewed!
All this is by way of preamble to my testimony that I found worship yesterday morning to be completely refreshing. My nephesh was renewed both in leading and in participation. Rebekah preached a message on compassion you are going to want to listen to (pick up the video at the 21-minute mark and my song right after at 44-minutes) and I sat in with the Praise Band to play guitar.
But it all came together for me when we sang Presence of the Lord (by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood). To be on a stage, playing electric guitar, accompanied by real musicians who actually know what they are doing, slow rock stitched together with Hammond Organ, singing my heart out. Listen to the words:
I have finally found a way to live just like I never could before
I know that I don’t have much to give, but I can open any door
Everybody knows the secret, everybody knows the score
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I have finally found a way to live in the presence of the Lord (Eric Clapton)
I find Sabbath rest in many ways, all week long. But there is a particular refreshment I experience in community, in corporate worship, that thrills my soul in ways it’s hard to describe.
So I am grateful to be in a faith community where my nephesh is always so consistently replenished. With a little help from the band.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” – John 4:15