On Sunday, April 19th, I shared a bit of my story as a way to introduce myself to you—hopefully what I shared was in service to the Scriptures, acknowledging that I, like the Disciples and other followers of Jesus, do not always see what is in front of me, nor recognize God’s truth when it is front-and-center.
Let me be a bit less personal in sharing a bit more about who your new interim pastor is—at least as I see myself today. And most often what people want to know about their pastor is, “To what do you feel called?” That question has been with me for years, with some extra energy around it more recently. My answer is “Authentic Community Engagement.” Such a response is clear, concise, and complete. But people often look puzzled, either because they simply don’t get what those three words mean when strung together, or because they do get it and are wondering what they mean to me. I don’t like to leave people puzzled, so I have had to ask myself what exactly I mean by authentic community engagement.
Authentic means being willing to engage people in deep, meaningful relationships. A willingness on my part to open myself to you, and be vulnerable. I have found that it is worth the risk—for it is in service to our relationship, as well as in service to God because my soul is more at peace when I am authentic. Yes, such vulnerability is risky, and uncomfortable. The other side of the risk, of this seeming paradox, is that you get to know me, and then I don’t have anything to hide from you, nor do I feel the need to posture or position myself with you. Such authenticity, then, allows us to move in and around one another with more ease and comfort, creating a sense of community that is built upon trust and love for one another.
When I engage people with authenticity, I am participating in relationships that allow me to participate in what God intended—for us to love one another. And that love for one another is not to be grasped, but, rather, like Jesus, we are asked to empty ourselves (Philippians 2, English Standard Version “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant...” [emphasis mine]
The love that we have for one another, I hope, will translate into that emptying of ourselves, and engaging our community with that very same love. Love that compels us to pursue the justice that Israel was admonished, cajoled, and enticed to pursue, and that Jesus invited us to participate in.
So, I come full circle back to the sermon from Sunday and ask myself, “What is it that the LORD desires of you, Chris Morton?” And my response is to engage the community with authenticity. I look forward to being a part of Welcome Table Christian Church, with authenticity.