June 13, 2009

One Pneumatic Year

pneumatic |n(y)oōˈmatik| (adjective) 1. containing or operated by air under pressure, 2. of or relating to the spirit.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” – John 20:21-22

For the privilege of living and working among you these last twelve months as your latest pastor, I offer you my heartfelt thanks—even as I also raise up to God grateful songs. Albeit swift, it has been for me a rich and substantive year. Allow me a singular anniversary article in which to name three places of vocational gladness and three prayers for continued Spirit-breathed growth for our church.

I am humbled to be your Teaching Elder at such a time as this. Preaching in particular and the shaping of Sunday worship in general are the strongest burdens I feel in my ministry. So many of you have communicated to me your glad response to this emphasis, which has had the effect of confirming my sense of call here and prompting me to pray—fervent prayers for the Spirit to blow vigorously in me and in you, filling our scripture-shaped worship in the days ahead. Working with our worship staff week to week has been most stimulating for me, and I am so grateful for the competence and commitment they bring to every Lord’s Day service. Still, my most fervent prayers are for you, congregation, as we together worship week to week: Can we sense the Spirit of God in-spiring our worship? Where is the Lord sending us in scripture to grow in knowledge and wisdom? Do we know that pneumatic peace of God in the way those early disciples did? None of us can respond to Jesus if we do not know Jesus, so in every season of a church’s life its prayerful engagement with scripture is a vital concern. Pray for your preachers, even as your preachers pray for you. I am grateful to be one of them.

I am appreciative of the opportunity to be your Moderator and a Head of Staff, working with your officers and staff to equip this flock for its work. My interest in these two formal titles, and the fact that I refer to them from time to time, is not rooted in their potential for vanity but in the urgent function associated with them. Whether with officers or staff, my burden is to bring scripture and the Presbyterian way to bear on our common work of “equipping the saints (you) for the work of ministry.” Presbyterians have a wonderful tradition of spreading church leadership around, so as to avoid the personality cult or the one-person show. Elders lead the flock, Deacons serve those in need, Trustees steward our facility, Staff support and direct our ministry, and Pastors strive to imbue the entire offering with scripture and sacraments … all of this, with an eye toward blessing you to be a blessing to others. As such, it has been my privilege this year to ask all our leaders: As the Father has sent the Son, where is God sending NWPC just now? Where are we feeling the tug of the Spirit, the pneumatic push of Christ in our midst? What is the Lord up to in our ranks? I look forward to seeing how those sacred questions are met with Spirit-filled discernment.

Finally, as to relationships, I am so delighted to be your Pastor (the official title), one of your pastors (a collegial function), and your brother in Christ (a gladsome bond). You are a delightfully fascinating congregation—rich in a variety of persons and deep with spiritual gifts. The apparent simplicity of the borough in many ways belies the great breadth of your experiences, perspectives, and Christian faith. And so I might ask: Where is Christ sending you in your life? Where is the pneumatic push of the Holy Spirit for you? To what ministry within or (especially) beyond our congregation are you being called?

“Pneumatic” … filled with the Spirit … propelled into ministry by the wind of God. Grateful for small seas already crossed, I look forward to sailing with you through the next 12 months. Come Holy Spirit.