August 30, 2018

Coming in Peace

In my work supporting and coaching pastors, this preacher frequently found himself in the pew in recent years, listening to sermons -- and often first-Sunday sermons, no less.  Not long ago, a young, energized pastor landed in one of the larger congregations in the presbytery.  All eyes were on her first sermon.  She read the scripture reading, stepped out from behind the pulpit, faced her new congregation, and with a warm smile said, "I come in peace."

I loved that line.  From back in the cheap seats where I was sitting, you could feel large numbers of Presbyterians take deep breaths and relax.  "Since you called a young, Millennial pastor, you are probably worried I'm going to turn everything you care about upside down, hang a disco ball in the choir loft, and ruin your church."  We all laughed; some, nervously.

Your new pastor is too old to be labeled a Millennial, but I likewise come to you in peace.

Am I energized about returning to the pulpit, table, and font?  Am I looking forward to traveling with you in this meandering walk of discipleship?  Am I ready to place one foot solidly inside your wonderful facility, and another squarely in the community of North Macon?  Absolutely.  Do I want to turn you inside out in the first 6 months?  Absolutely not.

Instead, let's spend some months of Sundays giving thanks together for the Prince of Peace.  I can and do come to you in peace only because he himself has given us his shalom -- that gift of deep wholeness, of there-is-enough; a kind of spiritual abundance that puts us at ease and allows us to turn outward with loosened grips, to ask, Where is there not yet peace?  Where can we go with his shalom?  How are we being called again to be his peaceable people in such a peculiar time?

Here's the good news: Northminster is already Jesus' church; always has been, always will be.  Woe to the ambitious preacher who forgets that comforting promise and changes the carpet.  Likewise, woe to the comfortable congregation who forgets that disturbing challenge and nails down all the furniture.  But let us be clear: It is his challenge that changes us, by reformation ... not his full-time spiritual subcontractors by means of revolution.  Thank the heavens he is in charge.

And so, here's a modest proposal for this next year in our shared life: Let us relish in Jesus' peace -- soak in it and share it.  Let us practice that peace by not trying to change one another, but by listening, learning, and loving on one another.  Let us together take some time to take a fresh look at the good news of the resurrection and what it might mean for us in this new and next season.  Let us be at peace with one another, week by week, that we might again be People of Peace for the community all around us.

God has come to us in peace in our older brother Jesus.  That is all that matters.  Derivatively -- honored to be your next pastor and grateful to be your spiritual sibling -- I come to you in peace as well.  I cannot wait to learn what God has been up to in your midst.