The New Pastor on the Christmas Story and Church

At church this morning, the new pastor was preaching about Luke 2, which is about Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.  He talked some about the traditional Jewish belief in hospitality, referring to Jewish traditions, which was cool.  The pastor was also talking about the innkeeper’s wife and was speculating that she may have been helping Mary with the newborn Jesus.  I can envision that.  But his overall theme seemed to concern being open to participating in what God is doing, even when that may be inconvenient.  Mary was pregnant, yet she and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem.  The shepherds were working at night, and the pastor was saying that this was because they were anticipating the birth of a newborn lamb; but they went to see the newborn Jesus.

The pastor opened the floor to three people in the congregation, who volunteered to tell their stories about how they came to our church, and what made them stay.  One lady talked about how she moved to Vancouver from Portland and was looking for a Catholic church, since she was raised Roman Catholic.  As she was driving past the Methodist church, however, the Holy Spirit was telling her, “Come here.”  She was initially hesitant, thinking, “Methodist?”  But she attended a service at the Methodist church, and it felt like home to her.

Another lady talked about coming to the Methodist church from a Moravian church.  A third lady then talked about how her marriage years ago was on the rocks, so she was looking for a church.  She came to the Methodist one, and the sermon was about anger and how it is all right to be angry.  That helped her, so she kept coming back.

The pastor was saying that church is a place to meet God, otherwise we are just sitting around.  The pastor also said that, if we feel that God is calling us away from this church, we should follow God’s leading.

How do I process this?  I am not sure what to do with the idea that we should follow God even when it is inconvenient.  By that, I mean that I do not know how that relates to me personally.  I am someone who likes routine, so “inconvenience” is a scary word for me.

I am not sure if God wants me to attend the church that I am currently attending, but I do not worry about it.  If someone has a strong feeling to go to a particular church and attributes that feeling to God, I find no reason to question that.  I am reluctant, though, to call my feelings “God’s will.”  Which church I decide to attend is my own decision.  I do not believe that I would be disobeying God were I to keep attending this church, or decided instead to try out another church.  It’s my choice, and every choice has its pluses and minuses.

Why do I attend this church?  There were a variety of factors in my decision.  The church is fairly small, so I have gotten to know the people by name, and many of the people know me by name.  But, to be honest, a significant factor in why I attend this church is what it is not.  I would have problems going to a fundamentalist or a conservative church that, say, depicts Kim Davis as some sort of martyr, whom Christians should unite behind and support.  I can read blog posts with that point-of-view, and I can even respect Kim Davis for the length that she is willing to go in standing by her convictions.  But I would have great difficulty being in a religious community that pressured people to support her, as if there is not another side to the debate.  My church has conservatives in it, but, from the pulpit and in the service, we do not hear militant right-wing fundamentalist rhetoric.

Do I come to church to meet God?  Well, I come to church for a variety of reasons.  It is something different to do each week.  It can get me out of my myopia and give me opportunities to meet people and to be nice to them.  Hearing people’s joys and concerns definitely gets me out of my myopia.  I enjoy singing the worship songs.  I believe that church teaches good values.  I would also say that this particular church has given me more insight into what Jesus was like and what made him tick (i.e., he could get frustrated and needed to be alone at times, yet he was also motivated by compassion).  Whether I meet God there or not, I do not know.  There are times when I leave the service, feeling hungry for more.  Maybe I should worship more intensely.  Or perhaps I should start attending the small groups, or Sunday school, once that gets started up again.

The sermon next week will be about mercy.  I am definitely interested in hearing about that topic, as one who struggles with forgiveness!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to The New Pastor on the Christmas Story and Church

  1. Judy Redman says:

    James, one of the classic definitions of what worship is is encountering God. This is clearly not what you are thinking when you say “maybe I should worship more intensely”, because I don’t think it’s something you have that kind of control over. 🙂 You say that you don’t know whether or not you meet God in church. Perhaps it would help to ask how you would know if you met God. I think we meet God in many ways in many places and most of the time it’s not in big, impressive ways that are immediately obvious. You don’t realise until afterwards that God was at work. I would say that the fact that the sermon got you thinking about these kinds of things means that you met God in church on Sunday. 🙂

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  2. James,I’m glad that you found your church, it seems like a very nice community. 😀

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