Pastor’s Corner – Sept 3

Following Jesus is hard.

As your outgoing pastor, I am going to be as honest with you as I can. This Christian life we have decided to follow, and this way of knowing a God of love, justice and peace is not designed to be an easy path. We are called to “love God” and “love our neighbor.” The simplicity of this commandment found in scripture has a pleasant sound, but its consequences can deafen us unless we allow them to move us through our own awkwardness. My new congregation in Billings is fond of saying “And everything else is just a footnote” after this commandment.
Here is my footnote: when I came back to Helena 6 years ago, St. Paul’s called me to reach out to young adults (18 until you decide you aren’t young) in the community. Within the first year I had realized something, “Unless we shift our entire church culture, my efforts to meet and encourage young adults in their faith will be fruitless.” Shifting our church culture means we need to shift the culture, so that people of all ages can serve in leadership, grow in their faith and do it all side by side. In our world, the divisions of difference have grown, not on purpose, but by convention. Ages are separated by institution walls: Children in schools. Older adults in retirement homes. Adults by differences in culture, class, status, and even by the fact that you can go to work and home and never see a person outside either location.
The path of Jesus for the church is going to be breaking down walls to reach people with love. This isn’t complicated and I think these words embody this sentiment for the church, “It sounds trite but it is true: If you want to move from handout to ministry, if you eschew the world of “drive by charity,” if you are ready to stop “playing church” and want to “be the church,” then pray about it. If you belong to a local congregation that wants to make a difference, and you wonder what God has in store for your future, then pray about it. Pray for God to direct your congregation to ministry with, not to, the poor and marginalized. Pray for God to open your eyes and the eyes of your congregation to see those who experience marginalization among you.”
One of my favorite ministry moments in Helena is still one of the simplest. Leaving a coffee shop with a friend he said, “Can you pray for me?”
“Sure,” I responded.
(Awkward silence).
“Yes!” my friend urges.
“I haven’t done this on the street before.”
“Same as if you are doing it inside a church.”
Our communities in Montana, across the west are full of people who have no community of faith, and many are searching for meaning in a community who will help them remember Jesus’ great commandment. Can we get through our awkward and follow the hard path? God willing my hope is to prayerfully attempt this work in Billings. Will you join me in this work? Will you work with your incredible new pastors and do this work of the church in Helena?
Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler
P.S. God likes awkward people, and most often is just waiting to work with us to change the world in love.