Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
I often say that Jesus was the worst evangelist! Instead of trying to attract followers with sugary words or a gentle tone, we hear Jesus saying, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” What! Where is the promise of heaven and the dream of a gravy train on biscuit wheels? Where is the promise of being blessed and prosperous? Using Jesus’ method of evangelism would reduce our membership even more, and in some cases, we may not have a church at all.
If we are not the church of Jesus’ evangelism, then who are we? If we have somehow been allowed to participate in the body of Christ without paying the price for discipleship, what type of community are we? What type of Christian are we?
I am taking a course at Eden seminary on the book of Psalms entitled, Psalms for Justice Seekers and Peace Makers. The course is taught by Dr. Clint McCann, an ordained Presbyterian minister and member of our presbytery. When I signed up for the course, I thought it would be about a select number of Psalms that speak of justice. Instead, I am learning that justice is at the heart and nature of God’s identity. Justice is not one thing about God; it is THE thing about God. This is why the Old Testament kings and society are called upon to provide justice for the poor and orphaned; widow and destitute. This explains why Jesus went to the outcast and did his ministry with those on the margins of society. Seeing God as justice is challenging my assumptions about what it means to be church, what it means to be presbytery, and how we should treat our pastors and members.
This course is causing me to ask different questions about my work and ministry. Are the policies we have in our presbytery fair and just? How do we practice justice when it comes to compensation of our pastors, associates, women, and commissioned pastors? How do we determine what is fair when the needs of one church is very different than another?
Justice is the cross to bear. It is the cross we would like to leave behind, but Jesus requires that we pick it up and bring it to church. To be a Christian means being uncomfortable and off balance. It is then we learn that God is our support, strength, and song. We learn that walking with Jesus may look out of step with our society. Being with Jesus may even feel awkward and different than the way we’ve known and understood our presbyterian heritage. But to follow Jesus is to know justice and find life and peace.
Rev. Craig M. Howard