I Need A Pastor (a charge to Ben Robbins)

Ben Robbins

Charge to the Pastor/Installation at Northmont U.P.

March 11, 2018

Here’s something you’ve probably never thought about if you’re not a pastor.

When Ben and Sarah and Brian and Laura and every pastor here today took our ordination vows, we lost something.

When we became pastors, we lost our pastors.

Pastors do not do our work alone.

We have good folks in the presbytery who advise us.

We have colleagues and pastor groups and spiritual directors and therapists to guide us.

We have family and friends to support us.

We have congregations who love us…most of the time. Some pastors, like Ben, are even married to pastors.

But pastors don’t have pastors in the same way congregations have pastors.

I composed this charge in the midst of misery otherwise known as a terrible, no good, very bad week. My elderly mother has been sick, and I was up with her for a few nights, so sleep deprivation soured my mood.

My husband was out of town. I had too much work to do and too little time to do it.

I sat through some deeply boring meetings, and some more productive meetings, but they all left me exhausted.

My son was more needy than normal.

My cats were needy, but let’s face it…cats are always needy.

By Friday night, I sank into the family room couch exhausted. I turned on the tv, and I could swear that the people on the screen were saying words, but they made no sense. It was like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  Wamp. Wamp.

I sat there on the sofa, a lumpy old lump of Susan and I thought,

“You know what I need more than anything?

I need a pastor.”

Not to tell me what to do.

Not to cheer me up.

Not to tell me how I am messing up.

Not even to hold my hand.

I need a pastor to remind me I am God’s beloved child.

I need a pastor to invite me back into God’s story, which is a much better story than I could ever, ever write for myself.

Here’s the thing, if the good people at Northmont Presbyterian Church are anything like me, they are busy.

They are frazzled.

Sometimes they are moving through life at warp speed and sometimes they are sitting in traffic on McKnight Road.

They are moms and dads in the thick of that impossibly difficult, way beyond wonderful job of raising children.

They are dealing with the needs of aging parents, or maybe they have discovered they are the aging parents.

They are young people who measure their worth by their SAT scores and what they see on the screen of their smart phones glowing in the dark at 1 a.m. when they should be sleeping.

They are people who long to have a family, or are trying to recover from the family they had.

They work too hard at jobs they hate, or are so in love with their jobs they have very little left to give to anyone else.

If they are anything like me, the people at Northmont are people who are doing their best to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of messy, complicated lives.

You know what the good people at Northmont need?

They need a pastor.

And Ben, God has decided the pastor the good people at Northmont need is you.

Not to tell them what to do, although your gifts for leadership will be important as Northmont seeks to be a vital community of faith and serve God’s people in the North Hills.

Not to cheer them up, although I predict your sense of humor will be one of the gifts of your ministry here that will be long remembered after you have gone.

Not to tell them how to fix their lives, although if you prioritize your life with Sarah and Liam, you will demonstrate God’s intention that our lives are not about what we achieve, but how we treat the hearts God has entrusted to us.

The people don’t even really need you to hold their hand, although your servant’s heart and ears will lead you to hospital beds and nursing homes and coffee shops, and all those holy spaces where silence and secrets and deep sorrows are shared and kept close. Hands will be held there.

The good people of Northmont need a pastor.

They need you, Ben.

Because, when they stumble or skip or limp or drag themselves into this sanctuary on Sunday morning or any other day of the week, really,

They will have forgotten, again, who they are.

They’ll wonder again, does this matter?

They’ll wonder again, is it really true?

Nadia Bolz-Weber says that pastors have pretty good job security because God’s people, every the really faithful ones, are forgetful.She says that those of us called to be pastors cannot assume that just because people leave on Sunday believing the Gospel, they will still believe it a day, a week or even an hour later.

The pastor’s job, she says, is to put Jesus in the people’s ears and mouths, and with love and patience do it again and again and never stop. Until the kingdom comes.

So do that, Ben.

Take every opportunity every day, in all that you do, to remind the people of their baptismal identity in Jesus Christ.

Remind them that being beloved children of God is enough, more than enough.

Make your ministry here at Northmont be about inviting God’s people back into God’s story of love and grace and forgiveness.

And never, ever stop pointing to Jesus Christ, who is pastor for us all.

Ben, may God bless you and keep you. May the face of God shine upon you.

May God look upon you with love and favor,

blessing you with energy, imagination, intelligence and love,

and give you peace on this joy-filled day,

and on the hard days,

and on all the ordinary days in between.