John Hartley - July-August 2015

posted 28 Aug 2015, 02:03 by Richard Jones   [ updated 28 Aug 2015, 02:03 ]

Dear Friends

                Do you have a favourite holiday destination ?    Mine is the little village of Umhausen in the Austrian Tyrol, about a 30 minutes drive from Innsbruck. Situated about 3000 feet up in the Oetztal Valley, surrounded by mountains, it is idyllic for me.   I could live there tomorrow.   However, my family tells me it is too late to uproot now.   Fortunately we are going there at the end of August, continuing a tradition we began about 25 years ago.

                The word ‘holiday’ is derived from ‘holy-day’ – a day being set apart for religious observance.   In times past the holy days – the great feast days of the Christian Church – were the only holidays enjoyed by working people.   Even today, in many European countries (the UK seemingly being an exception) the Church’s feast days are often national holidays.   For what is the holiday set apart ?   In what way should it be different ?

                Two principles are at stake.   Rest is a duty, as well as work.   God is concerned with our bodies as well as our souls.   It is part of Old Testament teaching.   The New Testament goes further in that it teaches the sanctity of the body.   This is based on both the doctrine of creation (the body being holy because God made it in his image) and also the doctrine of incarnation (when God came to redeem the world he took a human body like ours).   Our bodies are the sanctuary of his Spirit.

                We suffer from the strain and stress of an absurd pace of life.  The nervous breakdown, the heart disease, the mental and physical exhaustion – sadly, all are too common.   The true value of the holiday is the opportunity to slacken the pace of life, enjoy a health recreation, get away from the horrible noise of daily life, even to eat better.   As Christians we can go a step further   We are not just body, we are mind and spirit too.   The holiday should take account of that too.   A tired mind needs rest as much as the tired body.   For some it’s a good book, a piece of relaxing music, a hobby, exploring new places, meeting people – as the mind is broadened and relaxed.

                What of the spiritual side ?   Obviously if we go on holiday we don’t leave our religion at home.   If our religion has a detachable quality, we might as well leave it at home for good, for it is not the real thing.  Our Christian faith requires time for communion with God and our cultivation if it is to grow.   It demands time to think, to reflect, to be quiet, to pray, to worship.   A holiday away, or at home, affords time for this.

                Let’s be grateful for our holidays, wherever they are spent.   Never begrudge them.   Let us return to the daily routine strengthened in spirit and renewed in mind and body.

 God bless

John Hartley