E-pistle May 27

A Shepherd After God’s Heart

The elders currently serving on the Session just this week committed themselves to two months of listening for God’s voice speaking to the modern church though the ancient words of the prophet Jeremiah. What might God be saying to us especially in terms of those issues that divide our denomination and hinder its effectiveness as Christ’s faithful evangelist, as our Book of Order puts it (G-3.0300)?

In the opening chapters of his writing, Jeremiah condemns greatly the faithlessness of his people Israel. But then God gives him words by which to call the people to repentance and he makes promises to them, promises that cannot and will not be broken. Among those promises is the pledge to raise up good and faithful leaders for the people, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
(Jeremiah 3:15 ESV)

Our English word pastor means shepherd. There is no higher privilege in the Kingdom than that of bearing the title pastor. And no heavier burden.

As noted in the prayers of the church this week, we join in thanksgiving and praise to God as Joshua Andrzejewski graduates from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. He will earn a Master of Divinity degree, and it is no slouch degree with its requirements for Hebrew and Greek, Biblical exegesis, theology, pastoral care, preaching, church history, internships, practicums and more.

But Josh’s MDiv will not make him a pastor. It’s only the academic requirement for becoming a pastor. He still must receive a call into pastoral ministry from a congregation of God’s people. He must be examined by the presbytery in terms of his Christian faith and the content of his theological understandings.  The presbytery will have to be satisfied that his “manner of life (is) a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world.”

Josh’s ordination as a pastor is in God’s hand and will be in God’s time, and hopefully soon. But even then it will not be his fine education or even the good work of our Presbyterian system that makes Josh a pastor. Josh will be a pastor when, as Jeremiah says, he feeds God’s people with knowledge and understanding and, indeed, finds himself as one after God’s own heart.

I believe that Joshua Andrzejewski is part of God’s promise-keeping to his church. Josh will be a good shepherd.

Josh and I don’t necessarily agree on all the issues that divide our denomination and hinder its effectiveness as Christ’s faithful evangelist in the world. We may hear the words of particular gospel passages in slightly different accents. But sameness is not the measure of the faithful shepherding of God’s people. Faithful shepherding is measured by the ability and willingness to feed the people with knowledge and understanding and to live as one after God’s own heart. Josh is going to be a good pastor.

Josh has honored me much over the past couple of years. I think I have read and commented on the first draft of nearly every sermon he has preached in those years. I have not always been easy on this gifted young preacher. That is not to say that he has taken every suggestion I have made, but I know he has listened to each. When he was preparing his Statement of Faith for the presbytery committee with oversight of his preparation for ministry, he asked for my input and accepted my challenges. And when the committee said that he must change some wonderfully creative phrases about a complicated doctrine to wording more mundane, we mourned the request together.

In the reading of those sermons and the questioning of the faith statement, in our emails exchanged and lunch time conversations during fall and spring breaks, I found Josh, pastor like, feeding me with knowledge and understanding. Thanks, Josh. And I made a young new friend who is, for sure, one after God’s own heart.

Congratulations, (almost) Pastor Joshua.