Perhaps one of the most humbling experiences for a pastor serving a congregation is when she or he begins to discern that her or his gifts are not what a congregation needs to thrive in the present and move into the future. I have been in discernment with Mt Zion’s call committee which is attempting to faithfully carry out its duty to bring a suitably gifted candidate to this congregation.

Mt Zion’s profile which all of you helped create calls for a pastor who is gifted in working with youth and for energizing this congregation to be a welcoming place for youth and families. I enjoy working with young members, but ministry to that age group in particular is not my primary focus of ministry energy. My gifting is more in the area of general pastoral ministry, preaching, and helping established relationships and ministries to continue to function in a healthy way. Further, I do not perceive myself as gifted in being a driving force for the creation of new ministries or direction.

Therefore, our mutual discernment has led us to withdraw my name as a candidate to be your next regularly called pastor. We do not do this lightly, but with sadness. Given our new relationships which have grown over the past year, this was a tough point of discernment. Often faithfulness and faithful decisions come at a price. Love invites sacrifice as we listen to the Spirit as best we can so that we can live in the Spirit. Sometimes we hear the voice of God’s Spirit leading us down paths which we might otherwise avoid. I would have been delighted to stay here at Mt Zion and become your regularly called pastor. My perception is that many of you would have been equally delighted for me to stay. But we must follow the process which Mt Zion has set in motion with the intention of choosing a pastor that will help you be an even more welcoming place for children, youth, and young adults.

Your call committee will continue to work toward this end. I will continue here as long as you need me and as long as I can remain here. My primary call here has been from the start, transitional ministry. I have been blessed in this ministry—in what I have learned and in the ways you have inspired me by your energy and your welcome. You are ready for the next step of calling a pastor.

And since this is a sermon, I wish to hold up Abraham as an example—this is short, so focus! Mt Zion stands with Abram, at a point of unknowing where faith grows stronger not from certainty, but because of the uncertainty and the desperate need to trust deeply in uncertain times. You have the promise of God’s presence which gives courage. As with Abram there is a wide gap between knowing of God’s presence and trusting in God’s presence. Faith came to Abraham when he gave up trying to fulfill his own dreams and expectations. He gave up because he kept failing over and over again. Abraham learned to trust not because he was good or had natural faith, but because he was desperate. He followed where he was led because he learned that was the only live option. May we do the same.

The Spirit is leading us in Christ’s love and presence into the future. We pray with Thomas Merton whom I quoted last week a prayer which Abram learned to pray, “I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.”

The more you pray that prayer, the more strongly you trust that prayer and the God behind that prayer, the more open you will be to the good that is coming for Mt Zion and this community.

This is a crucial time for Mt Zion—you must work together as one! Support your call committee and trust that they have your best interests in mind. The call committee is faithfully fulfilling the mandate you gave them. Continue to pray for them. The process in which you are engaged will lead you in God’s presence and grace. As with Abraham, God is with you and leading you in mission here in this place. I have confidence in your future because of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.