I’m about two weeks in at my new job as co-pastor of a church here in New Jersey. So far, my job consists of a lot of hand shakes, hugs, and prayers over meals (just the way I like it). As I prepared my first sermon a week ago, I wanted to put extra care and a little extra “Kelly” into it. I wanted to let this church know exactly what they got themselves into, or at least what they’ll likely hear every other week. It was witty and personal and most importantly focused on the Good News that the story is really about God and we get the honor of pointing all of the glory to the rightful Victor. The congregation was gracious and sweet and complimented me on a job well done. Some wonderful seminarians even came out to support me. First sermon: success!
Then I read the lectionary text for this coming Sunday. Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Ephesians 2:11-22. Look it up if you’re curious. You’ll likely see what I saw: an intense call to action to get our stuff together and start honoring God by bringing the body of Christ together as one. I read it and read it again hoping there would be some kind of lighter thread to pull so I didn’t have to push the boundaries on my second week in the pulpit. But the more I read, the clearer God was that there is a stark reproof of sorts to be preached this week. We, as Christians and as humans, are called to pursue justice. That means we should call out segregation in our schools, claim the dignity of immigrants in our country, fight for marriage and ordination rights of the LGBTQ community in our own denomination, seek justice for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. On Sunday, my list will go on. To be fair, this call to order applies just as much to me as it does to anyone in my congregation. But it still feels like a huge risk. I am putting myself out there as a social justice, Gospel-centered, calling-for-change, God-honoring pastor.
And then I said that same sentence to myself again. “I am a social justice, Gospel-centered, calling-for-change, God-honoring pastor.” That is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Honestly that’s what all pastors should be. I should never back down from that kind of reverent calling. So I fully name that I’m taking a risk this coming Sunday. This sermon may upset some folks, anger some folks, make some folks question what they know. It ends in hope, and I pray all in Titusville on Sunday with listen all the way through. This is the message that God has put on my heart so I will honor that over potential human acceptance any day. Plus I am certain this will not be my first risk from the pulpit so this new congregation may as well jump in early!