Occasionally, someone will tell me that I am the C.E.O. of the church. I know what they mean. The pastor has an administrative role in the organization of the congregation. I personally take that role very seriously, but I have never liked that idea that I was C.E.O. I am certainly not in charge. In fact, all of us in the church are answerable to someone else. The Reformed Tradition stands with the Scriptural witness that Jesus Christ alone is head of the Church. He is our Emmanuel, God with us. Through his incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and return, Jesus has vanquished sin and death.
In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is called “our great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14). Jesus continues to act as mediator between God and humankind, bringing God to us and us to God. In this proper understanding, the pastor is not a priest. All are laity (including the clergy) before the high priesthood of Jesus. With apologies to Martin Luther, we affirm the laity of all believers. The implications for church’s ministry are profound. Instead of the work of the church being done by a clerical caste, the entire people of God participate. In baptism, every Christian is set aside to be part of Christ’s mission to the world. We are called to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and imprisoned, and to share the good news.
If all are laity under the priesthood of Christ, what is the role of pastor? Ordination does not confer special powers. The pastor is not a Super Christian with a cape and a capital “S” on his or her chest. Instead, the pastor is simply one of the people with an incredible responsibility. We are called to baptize God’s children, to break the bread at the Lord’s Table, and speak God’s Word when no one else will. Even the important work of pastoral care, presence and listening, is informed by the wonderful story of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ.
On June 9, 2019, I will be installed as your pastor. “Installation” seems more appropriate to a refrigerator or maybe a new piece of software. However, that language says something incredibly important. A pastor performs his or her duty in a place and with a people. I am yours, and you are mine. As the marriage vows connect husband and wife in a profound covenant, the vows at the installation bind pastor and congregation together.
It does seem strange that this installation takes place now. After all, I have been serving as your pastor since September 2018. However, I am grateful for the wait. You have shown me and my family great love since being here. I am more committed to this congregation now than when I first came. We have a mutual ministry here. God has some amazing things in mind for our future together.