Pastors That Embody The Gospel and Don’t Use it as a Weapon: Thoughts from My Friend Fr. Kenneth Tanner


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is the latest Facebook post of my friend Father Kenneth Tanner,  Pastor and Priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Before this he was on Staff and wrote for “Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.” His blog is located at https://medium.com/@kennethtanner 

As for me after doing some work around the house, I went out to watch Maddy playing in her little wading pool and slipped, causing me to do the splits, land hard on my right knee, and further aggravate my right hip. I have my bilateral knee injections on Monday and will have to bring up this, and the number of times I have had my knee or ankle go out, and my increasing number of falls. Since I had my VA evaluation Tuesday I have to send them an update. I think I will go back to using a cane, because it is really getting old. So I am going to go back to editing “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!”

Please have a good and safe day and read Fr. Kenneth’s Essay on being a pastor in a time like this. He is refreshingly honest and pretty much sums up why I will not be a Church pastor or fight the politics of institutional Chaplain ministry when I retire from the Navy in less than 100 days. But we do need pastors like him.

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

Father Kenneth’s essay follows…

 

Those who follow my social media know that the vast majority of my stories and images are about Jesus—his authentic humanity and his vulnerable divinity, how his unique person is our salvation and the salvation of the world. I’m astonished by and obsessed with Christ.

This same Jesus, who embodies the law and the prophets, who became one of us—a frail human who’s not immune to hunger, thirst, pain, and death—in order to liberate captives and set the oppressed free.

Those who bear the name and work of Jesus as they lead the church are not allowed to remain silent about the illnesses effecting their societies. We are held accountable for silence and inaction.

Our nation’s war on drugs and on terror has slowly eroded civil liberties and presents us with a crisis about personal freedoms, police powers, incarceration, and so on, and black Americans have shouldered the cross of what’s wrong.

Jesus came to set prisoners free—actual prisoners.

Justice systems are corrupt, are punitive rather than restorative, and America is not immune.

The gospel seeks to upend all of that with a profound trust in the ability of humans to heal—to be forgiven and to forgive—a trust that’s not shared by our nation’s “survival of the fittest” mentality.

Jesus stands with the poor, the refugee, the prisoner—not the ideal poor, or employable refugees, or model prisoners but the kinds we find in the real world, just as they are in all their inconvenience—and he expects us to lift up their cause.

What’s happened lately is that the political Left and the political Right define a lot of what the gospel urgently calls us to embody and to do as “political,” as supporting the ends of political movements, figures, or parties.

For the Left, if you believe that pre-born children have the right to life, for but one instance, then you must be a Republican or a supporter of the President.

No, you are simply applying to our public life together ideas of humanity, creation, and personhood taught in the Scriptures.

For the Right, if you want immigrants and refugees welcomed and treated with dignity, for but one instance, then you must be a Democrat or a supporter of their leaders.

No, you are simply listening to the law and prophets of Israel and applying to our public life together their relentless and ubiquitous warnings about God’s wrath toward any people who do not welcome and care for strangers and sojourners.

Salvation is not only about life after death but about this world, about our time and place in this world, and God is often waiting for Spirit-empowered humans to bring the kind of salvation he intends for the world by living the gospel.

So while I do not speak out about most things that concern me—I would never stop speaking right now if I did that—I do speak out loudly when I feel compelled before God to do so (as in this week’s meme about Breonna Taylor and our society’s collective responsibility for her).

It is a high wire act and something like a personal siege to be the leader of a spiritual community in this moment.

I don’t know any pastor who’s not disheartened, burned out, and ready to quit. They won’t tell you about it, but I will.

I preached Jesus Christ to the folks at Holy Redeemer for 15 years but like every other church in this town (and around the country), our congregations are divided between those who want everyone to wear masks at church all the time or they won’t attend and those you don’t want to wear a mask at all so they won’t attend, some who think the pandemic is a hoax and others who think it’s real, along with so many other silly binaries that divide us, driven by a media and a political class that thrives on our separation.

It rips me up. Day and night. I/we won’t be one of them by the grace of God but a tidal wave of pastoral resignations and church closings is coming.

I *thought* we were all centered in Jesus Christ. I thought we were different at HR. It’s a MAJOR gut punch. I don’t even hear from families we served for more than a decade. Not a phone call, not a text, not a peep, even though we reach out consistently.

Then I read something from Eugene Peterson, in his “Eat This Book,” about 1982 and economic and racial tensions that were present and how disappointed he was, after 20 years of preaching, to see his congregation as divided as the world.

He started reading Galatians and the Corinthian letters and realized that Paul had the same troubles with his congregations in the first century, divided over truly dumb stuff.

It’s a human problem.

Eugene realized he was not a failure.

And he decided to double down on Jesus Christ.

And that’s how The Message was born.

I decided months ago to double down on Jesus, too. And my joy in preaching and leading has returned, even though far fewer people hear my sermons. They feel like some of the best of my life and some folks are hearing them. And that’s OK with me. It really is.

When I do address matters of public concern I address them not as a person with political interests but as one called to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means that sometimes I sound like a “liberal” and sometimes I sound like a “conservative.”

And therefore a lot of times I am misunderstood by most everyone for all of the reasons I just laid out. And that’s OK with me, too. It really is.

1 Comment

Filed under christian life, faith, leadership, Loose thoughts and musings, ministry, Pastoral Care, Political Commentary, Religion, spirituality

One response to “Pastors That Embody The Gospel and Don’t Use it as a Weapon: Thoughts from My Friend Fr. Kenneth Tanner

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