A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove
from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36.26
On August 1st I will have been the pastor of First Presbyterian Church for four years. For the average Presbyterian Pastor that is 10% of their career. My call to this congregation is as a Transformation/Redevelopment Pastor. Those words come loaded with expectations both from me and the congregation. Now that we have reached our four year mark together, I thought it would be good for us to assess what Transformation/Redevelopment looks like at First Presbyterian Church in 2019, our 150th year of ministry.
To begin, we should dispense of the “redevelopment” side of that title. Nowhere within scripture does God promise to “redevelop” us. The idea of redevelopment is a looking back and an attempt to directly return to what was. Living bodies never return to previous places as much as the plastic surgery industry would like us to believe otherwise. Living things grow, mature, and at times die and sprout new growth.
So that leaves us with “transformation”. This term is lifted up in scripture. When Lindsay and I got married, our text of choice was Romans 12. Verse two states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” If we judge according to the expectations of this world it won’t end well. So what are we to do?
“Be transformed by the renewing of your minds” is one of the most promising texts within scripture. The renewing of our minds comes from the healing that our faith can provide us. The way that we approach our faith dictates our openness to that healing. Christianity can easily provide only a salve which removes pain in the short term, in essence, symptom management. For many Christians, this is where they stop. To actually address the causes of our symptoms we need to have a level of trust and faith which do not come easily but when we do reach that level the fruit is so much sweeter.
Here in lies what will be transformational for our church. During our 150th anniversary celebrations I heard numerous stories of how our congregation was transformational in people’s lives. Our congregation was the conduit for Christ’s healing for countless individuals. At some point, we stopped believed in Christ’s ability to heal rather than just soothe. We became content with simply behavior modification rather than heart transformation. When people come into the community of First Presbyterian Church they must encounter the risen Christ who heals and transforms hearts. When our church again becomes a place known for healing, we will be the gift that the Hillside of Duluth needs.
This healing comes from opening ourselves to Christ’s work through each other. Christ has gathered us into a community for exactly this reason: to know each other and be known by each other, to encourage and love each other as we walk this way of Christ toward healing. It is not an easy path but it can be a fun, adventurous one when we walk it together. May we join in the joy and peace of transformation. May it be so!
In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Jeremiah Knabe
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