God on vacation

Published 9:05 am Friday, June 15, 2018

by Charles Qualls

“In the good old summertime, strolling through the shady lanes …”

Thus begins the refrain of an old song that we sang during Rotary Club meeting the other day. Yes, we sing. Seems we’re rather known for it. But, that’s a story for another day. Although this is an old song, it’s one of the anthems of the season. 

Did you know that this song has been popular since 1902? If honest, most of us don’t actually know many of the lyrics. We just sing along when the title line arrives, then mumble through the rest. It was used in several movies, most notably the 1949 film by the same name that starred Judy Garland. 

So, that’s where we are just now. The warm weather has arrived; beach season is in full swing. Like some businesses, and many other groups, our church has a particular rhythm to a summer. Our youth and children stay busy. We have some mission efforts that go best during the summer. Otherwise, though, summer can be a little laid-back. Attendance tends to dip a bit, but it seems that everyone expects it.

I’ll let you in on a secret, though. God doesn’t actually go on vacation.    

I’m tempted to say something like, “Don’t forget about your church. God will be right here waiting for you.” After all, our budget obligations go right on even if people forget to send their contributions. It’s distasteful to talk about money. But if we don’t, the church’s commitments can be neglected. 

That’s not the only reason I would say something like, “God doesn’t go on vacation.” There are far better reasons for me to mention that, actually. Here’s where I say that some of my best friends are Jewish. Though it might seem that something ignorant is about to follow that oft-worn sentence, it’s true. With all respect for their belief that God resided in Zion, we Christians see God as a little more transcendent. 

So, I can’t with integrity as a pastor say that God will be here waiting on you. We believe that God is in and around you. That God is not kept inside the church, but instead works and breathes inside any believer who chooses the faith. 

It’s just that God doesn’t really take the summer off. 

Some of us act like God does, though. We get out of the habit of church-going and we just don’t get back in very easily. We’ll miss for a valid reason one or two weeks, since we are out of town. Then, we’ll get back and decide that we’ve got things to do around the house on a Sunday. Then, company comes into town the next week. We take the kids to their sports or music camp one weekend, we go visit Grandma the next. We run errands while everything is quiet one Sunday, and we trot back over the beach the next. And, the next.

Pretty soon, the summer is over and God never once went on vacation. Your house of worship missed you but kept on gathering. Sort of. You weren’t the only one gone on any of those Sundays. So, things probably rarely were what they could have been down at the old churchhouse. Because when the body of faith is missing you, and anyone else, it’s incomplete.

Some of you fell out of church-going years ago. But, God never once went on vacation. God was there every time you murmured a desperate prayer under your breath. God was there as your grandchild made it safely into the world. God was moving in your life, and in the life of that old friend, as you patched up things and decided to let bygones be bygones. 

God was listening broken-heartedly as you whispered to someone that the preacher was boring. Because God knew that your family of faith still needed you even though you didn’t think you needed them. 

If you’re in town on a summer Sunday, I sure hope you’ll find your way to a church in our community. The body is stronger when all its members are present. Antiquated as it sounds, I’m convinced that our city is still stronger when its churches are well. I’ll be bold enough to say that something important might happen at church on any given Sunday. That’s because God doesn’t go on vacation, even in the good old summertime.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.