If a preacher is only speaking about topics that leave people feeling safe, warm, comfortable, affirmed, unchallenged; then we are not doing our job.

Dear Members and Friends,

I continue to feel ever so blessed to be able to serve you as your Interim Senior Pastor.  There is a gracious spirit that runs through this community.  People genuinely enjoy spending time together.

More challenging are those times when we start discussing those topics where we may have a difference of opinion.  In a church differences may arise out of such simple activities as where to prioritize money in the budget, or can be more complex about speaking to authority in the political world or becoming specific about peace and justice.

One of the realities of our faith is that there is a powerful peace and justice voice that arises out of our Bible—both Old and New Testaments.  Jesus spoke rather bluntly to  these themes.  Just how blunt he was is not always apparent, and yet arises when a person reads the Gospel stories in their historical and social contexts.

I believe most of us not only understand this, but agree with it.  Our challenge isn’t about Peace and Justice issues in the broad, general sense; but arises when we go specific.  Our challenge is to embrace such conversations and have them, knowing that we may not agree with one another.  Conversations can still take place.  Decisions can still be made, knowing that not everyone is in full agreement.  A concept of the US political system (often misunderstood or forgotten) is that we are not a democracy but a republic.  It’s a fine difference, but one with significant implications  What it means is that decisions ultimately are made by majority vote; however the majority “listens to” and is influenced by the minority.  Likewise the minority recognizes that the majority may make the decision, but respects this because they have been listened to.  It becomes dysfunctional when the majority ignores the minority or the minority attempts to coopt the agenda.

We are congregationalist in origin.  Remember our history.  The early congregationalist churches were not called churches but rather meeting houses.  Sunday was for worship (religious).  The rest of the week was for the business of the community (political).  It was understood that the minister would often speak on religious matters AND on political matters.  Dissent was welcome.  One did not have to agree.

If a preacher is only speaking about topics that leave people feeling safe, warm, comfortable, affirmed, unchallenged; then we are not doing our job.  The reverse is also true.

Our challenge as a faith community is to learn how to include in our conversations those issues that may be more delicate in nature and learning how to TALK TO each other and LISTEN TO one another.  Part of the challenge is to include the presence of Jesus and his teachings.  We need to always be aware that GOOD Christians do not always have the same understanding of what God is calling us to do.

As this congregation works on clarifying its voice, mission, ministry it may well take us into uncomfortable areas.  Peace and Justice issues may call us into the realm of politics, Bible study, and how faith calls us to interact with life.  Avoidance isn’t the answer.  Part of the answer is mutual respect.  Some Sunday messages may affirm you as a person, draw you closer to the spiritual, or may challenge you.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bruce