Installation of Fred Becker
1 Kings 19:4-8
August 12, 2012
Grace and peace to you from God, creator, redeemer, sustainer.
It is such an honor and pleasure to be with you today--a joy to be here celebrating with Pastor Fred Becker celebrating this new relationship between pastor and people. It seems like only yesterday that I was preaching a sermon to push Fred out of internship and into the world of pastoral ministry.
I remember that day; It was August the 15th two years ago. Pastor Fred, before I remind you of some of the things I said on that day. I want to talk for a few minutes about Elijah.
As we enter the story in 1Kings chapter 19, we see that Elijah has decided to give up. You heard the text. He travels a day’s journey into the wilderness, ploops himself down under a broom tree and petitions God: “It is enough now, O Lord, take away my life...” Now we don’t hear the entire story in our reading this afternoon but if we go back .....We will see that Elijah has had a tremendous victory.
With the help of God, at Elijah’s command 450 of the prophets of Baal and Asherah are killed. I am sure we cannot even imagine the energy, the nerve, and the amount of work it takes to accomplish such a task. Elijah must be exhausted and to top that off he is being threatened by Jeezebel. She sent a message to tell Elijah: So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.
As if Jeezebel as the wife of King Ahab could be a threat bigger than hundreds of prophets. No matter Elijah flees, gets out of dodge-- seemingly fatigued and in utter despair.
Have any of you at Holy Trinity felt like that... You have been working at keeping the church together for these past years and you have done it. You should see that as a great victory. You have carried out your purpose as a host congregation, Hearing the call of God Outreach to your neighbors near and far, good Stewardship of your time talents, and treasure, and Teaching others. All of a sudden the fatigue sets in and you feel like you just can’t do another thing.
Perhaps Elijah is depressed considering all his enemies are gone there is nothing left to do....Burned out, he thinks he is used up, washed up and can be of no further use to God. Or could he be overcome by what one writer calls “the magnitude of evil around him.” We know that story when people are killed in movie theaters and houses of worship we know that evil is everywhere!
Perhaps what overwhelms us is the talk of the demise of the church. If you read or listen to media you will hear that mainline protestanism is dying---and if we are dying who will speak against such evil? I would say we are dying to be reborn. We are after all a resurrection people. Certainly resurrection is availabe to us because we serve a God who dies on a cross only to be resurrected from the dead..
Elijah falls asleep wanting it all to be over. But death from sitting under a broom tree feeling sorry for himself isn’t what God wants for Elijah. That’s what the angel of the Lord is subtly conveying to him
“Get up and eat.” While he longs for a way out, God sends him a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water/. In the middle of the wilderness....provisions, to renew his strength.....
Holy Trinity, God has sent you provisions.
I don’t know if you realized it yet but you guys have gotten quite a gem in Pastor Fred Becker. I spent a year with your new pastor and what I know is that Fred Becker has a heart for God and for the people of God. He has the gift of radical hospitality, a gift for encouraging, a knack for exhibiting God’s love and energy to spare. And have you heard him laugh? It is infectious -- enough to move most people from gloom to joy. Being with him, hearing him preach, you will no doubt hear of the goodness of God, and God’s love for all of you.
But, try not to get angry with your new pastor when he pushes you in directions you have never gone--
When he leads you to look around in your community to see what God is up to-- When he asks you to let go of unrealistic and false views of who you are, and things that haven’t worked for years. Don’t get mad when he pleads that you ban those poisonous words, “ we have always done it that way” from your vocabularies. That’s his call!
Remember church if he is always saying a word that you like to hear because it confirms you in your positions, supports you in misdirection, and promises no upset in your way of life---you should be worried. He may be acting as a great chaplain but he’s not being prophetic and the mission and ministry of God well?
Elijah stays under that broom tree and is nurtured until he no longer feels like a victim and his strength returns. Then he travels forty days and forty nights on that strength to the mountain that Moses stood on, hears God in a still small voice and goes on to do God’s work in the world.
I hope you will hear the Word and the message of God in the voice of your pastor; sometimes those words will be of encouragement and love. Sometimes they will be words of challenge. A professor of mine used to say that the Word of God was meant to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Through Pastor Fred I hope they might have the appropriate affect on you.
Sometimes Fred you will be hesitant to issue those words of challenge; sometimes you will want to hold back from the prophetic utterances that God gives you to speak. You might fear angering some Jezeebel and having to hide under you own broom tree. I understand, because I have felt like running and hiding myself a few times, but I am a witness that God provides. So listen again to the words I spoke to you on that last day at St. John’s two years ago.
Remember I told you that while we don’t want to upset our comfortable positions in our comfortable congregations, sometimes:
-----a word that challenges us all to think about how we perpetuate unjust systems of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia,
----a word that cautions us that hanging on to all of our stuff affects those who are hungry and living in poverty,
---a word that reminds us that we are called to respond to tragedy or disaster on the beaches of Wildwood or faraway places of Wisconsin, Aurora, or Haiti, might be necessary.
Fred if we just tell people that God loves them and don’t call them to love one another and the entire world that God has made then we might be inching toward false prophecy. If we don’t tell those we are called to serve, that perhaps Jesus wants us to have more than just a Sunday morning faith that sits and sings hymns that feels good and expects Jesus to love us and take care of ONLY --- our needs.
If we don’t challenge them to a Monday thru Saturday faith that dares to walk out of these doors to look around see what is happening in the world to do what matters to God----for the sake of the other, for the sake of the world---we might be missing the mark.
value what they value and they will value you and engage- work with them laugh with them, cry with them. Engage them in and with the words of scripture. Engage them through and with the love of God
But don’t let them off easy! Show them how to respond to God’s love. Because here in Wildwood Jesus still has work that needs to be done.
“Get up and eat pastor and people of Holy Trinity otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”
Eat, be fed and nourished with the bread of life that God provides. Be strengthened to do the work that God has given you. In the name of Jesus and for the sake of the world, Get up and eat! ....