Sermon at Irvington Friends Meeting June 9 2013
Reading: Matthew 5:13-47
Last week Brent Bill read the first part of Matthew 5, and told us that the Beatitudes are something that we should feel uncomfortable with, they are something that should challenge us — but we have made ourselves comfortable with them. Basically, we have a bad habit of making Jesus safe, and ignoring, or explaining away what he has said. Jesus was not crucified because he said a lot of nice things — Jesus said dangerous things that shook the very fabric of society. The sermon on the mount is very much the challenging message of Jesus.
One thing that really draws me to the Religious society of Friends is that Friends have a history of taking Jesus seriously. We don’t try to explain away the Sermon on the Mount — we actually assume that he meant these hard things. For us, Christianity implies some rather extreme differences. George Fox spoke of this when he spoke of there being an ocean of Darkness and an Ocean of light. Jesus speaks of this throughout his ministry when he speaks of the kingdom of Heaven, or Kingdom of God — and contrasts it with the kingdom of this world.
One of the hardest sayings is that the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” One common way of interpreting this is that the kingdom of heaven will come soon. This implies that whenever Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of heaven — he is talking about what will be — not calling us to change. Another interpretation, one which Friends embraced, is that the Kingdom of Heaven is close enough that we can reach out and embrace it. We have the option of living in the Kingdom of heaven. This matter of interpretation really colors what the Sermon on the mount means. If we are to embrace the kingdom of heaven here, then the sermon on the mount has some rather life changing consequences. One might say that embracing the sermon on the mount is embracing the very testimonies that we claim, those of Peace, Truthfulness and Simplicity.
Jesus calls us to be light and salt. We are to enlighten a dark world, we are to bring flavor to a bland world. Like it or not — while we embrace this kingdom of heaven, we still walk in the worldly kingdom. We have to live according to the standards of heaven — but we live in a place where these customs are strange. We are salt and we are light because we live and show the world a better way. We live in hope that the Light will shine in the darkness.
Jesus goes on to state: “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” This must have been very difficult to hear, because it sounded like Jesus was claiming greater authority than the Torah. He made new pronouncements of God’s law. Actually, if we believe that Jesus was God in the flesh, Jesus spoke with God’s authority. This is a new understanding of the Law. The old understanding was one of the kingdoms of this Earth. The law was understood as rules — and mostly rules of things that should not be done.
In the new kingdom, these rules should become un-necessary. If we do not nurse grudges, or lose control of our temper, or practice hatred — there is no need to avoid murdering. The attitudes that lead to murder have been taken care of. If we practice truthfulness, oaths become unnecessary. Notice that Jesus tells the crowd not to swear any oaths, but instead to speak honestly. The very practice of swearing oaths assumes that there is more than one standard of truthfulness — in the kingdom of heaven, Truth it its own standard.
For me, the central message of the sermon on the mount is the very essence of simplicity. We did not read the whole thing today, but later in the Sermon, Jesus tells the crowd that no person can serve two masters. We live in two kingdoms, but we can only be loyal citizens of one of these kingdoms. We either live according to the customs of one or the other.
I appreciate the traditional Christian cardinal virtues and seven deadly sins. This division can really show the nature of the two kingdoms. The kingdoms of this world focus on sin. Our worldly way of thinking is that we must control sin, make rules about how far is too far. We don’t regulate wrath, but we limit it by forbidding murder. We don’t forbid greed or envy, but we limit them by forbidding theft and fraud.
The seven cardinal virtues is a completely different focus — Faith, Hope, Love, Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Courage. This is not a focus on controlling sin, but on virtue. The Kingdom of Heaven replaces wrath with love, and greed with temperance, and envy with justice. Living by the standards of light, our righteousness goes beyond rules — beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees, to use the words of the sermon. Our approach is radically different.
This call is not easy. Jesus goes so far as setting money against the Kingdom of heaven – saying that a person can serve God or money. We live in a culture where money consumes a bigger part of our mental and emotional energy than God, so this call is very counter-cultural. We live in a world that divides enemies and allies. We live in a world that wishes harm on those named enemy, and condemns those who would show any kindness — yet, Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Jesus tells us to stand against the wisdom, and even the morality of our world.
I love the Sermon on the Mount — I love the Words and teachings of Jesus — I believe that Jesus taught us how we, as citizens of heaven should live. I love this message, because I see salvation in it. This is the light that could change the world — if this catches on, the whole world is transformed.
I am also very afraid. Changing the world is a task that is far beyond my ability. My habits have been shaped by the world I live in. I am trained to react to fear, and to evil in the way of the world. Sin is so much easier to understand than virtue. It is easier to ask how much I can get away with, without breaking the rules than it is to live as a citizen of heaven.
I am so very afraid because this change is different than my culture. I see what it means to live differently. Jesus taught this new way, and he died as an enemy to both empire, and the religious authorities. The disciples and so many in the first sets of Christians died the same way. When Friends challenged Religion as a political tool in civil war era England, many were imprisoned because they took Jesus literally. How can your love your enemies when at war? I am afraid, because the world taught me to put my faith in money — and Jesus tells me that possessions cannot be trusted. I was even taught to swear allegiance to both an earthly and heavenly master — that there is no disparity, even though Jesus said we cannot serve two masters. I’m afraid, because Jesus tells me everything I learned from my worldly culture is wrong.
We are to be light — showing the world this better way. Jesus calls us to challenge culture, to be better than the world around us — to be better than we have been, better even than we are. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand, waiting for us to embrace it. With God’s help, lets embrace the simple virtue of God’s kingdom. Let us learn the language of heaven — let us speak the language of Justice and the language of Love.
Queries for consideration:
- What does it mean to be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven?
- How do we change our heart, so that the impulse to sin is gone?
- Who do we serve, the kingdoms of this world or the Kingdom of heaven?
Preached at Walnut Ridge Friends Meeting:
I don’t know how many of you know about the religious views of Thomas Jefferson, but you should know that he considered himself a true follower of Jesus, but he had serious doubts on the Church’s understanding of Jesus. He created a rather remarkable document called the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, better known as the Jefferson Bible, in which he separated what he considered to be the real “Jesus” from the Jesus of the church. He created this document by reading with scissors in hand. He went through the four gospels, cutting away what he did not like, and re-assembling what was left into a coherent story. With scissors, Jefferson created a story of Jesus which had no virgin birth, no miracles, no Divinity, and no resurrection. For Jefferson, Jesus was a moral teacher, not unlike Plato.
When I first read Jefferson’s Bible, I disliked it. I am a person of faith — and there is nothing more important to me than the idea that God came to us as a human. The story of Jesus is the story of a compassionate God that lives and suffers with us. It is also the story of the conquering of death. The gospel is not only that Christ is risen, but that we are invited into the community of the resurrection. We are invited to be raised with Christ. For me, Jefferson cut out the very reason the gospels were written.
It is very easy for me to look at Jefferson, and yell at him for the parts of the Bible he cuts out, and I do — because what he cut out affirms my faith, but I will say one thing about this process — almost everybody does it. Jefferson is different from everybody else in that he was honest about it. There are passages that just make us uncomfortable, and it is very natural to ignore those parts, and focus on other parts that we like better. The problem with this natural behavior is that we are supposed to wrestle with scriptures. Sometimes those things that make us uncomfortable are the exact things that we need.
Recently, many people have been struggling with how to understand certain passages. I don’t think it is necessary to get into the argument, but it is necessary to observe something about the nature of arguments, people seek an authority that shows they are right. Problem is with this approach, the only way to quote Paul in to show your own righteousness is to cut out Paul’s conclusions. People rightly identified Romans 3:23 as a central passage in Paul’s writing, Paul reminds those who feel better than others that they are sinners too. No matter what side of the argument people are on, taking sides and feeling better than the other side is reading Paul with scissors.
Another issue at hand is that we are talking about having a strong conviction of the sinfulness of our neighbors. I had a lot of people in my life who very vocal about how they were entirely sanctified. They had not had any sin in their life for years, however they were often convicted of other people’s sin. I’ve had people convicted of the sinfulness of my haircut, my clothing, my diet, my work schedule, and even my Myers Briggs personality profile.
While this clearly communicated that the person was more righteous than I — it did not communicate love and mercy. These convictions did not do me any good — God has not convicted me of any of these things. In spite of this, I did try to live out holiness . For a time, I followed the model of holiness I was provided, and I said some very unfortunate things to people. Eventually, I was convicted of my own sinfulness, I did not love as Christ taught me to love, nor was I as merciful as I hope God will be with me.
Romans was written in the mid 50′s. Caesar Nero was recently made emperor, and Claudius’s banishment of all Jews from Rome had recently been reversed. We don’t know how Rome was first evangelized, but a safe bet is that it was Jewish Christians, perhaps some who were converted on Pentecost Sunday in Acts 2. Paul was dealing with a big problem in the early church, there were two parties fighting for power — the Jewish Christians who had been there from the very start, and the growing Gentile population. A ‘us and them’ mentality started to develop. Paul was a genius, he used the very same us and them language.
Paul starts with behaviors that were common in the Gentile community, but taboo among Jews. No Jew, for example, would be an idol worshiper. This past, if a community made a case for purity could always be seen to taint the Gentile — who would have been an idol worshiper by cultural expectation. Those who called for purity the loudest left no path to purity for the gentile — they would always be second class citizens, even though they now challenged their own culture.
Then Paul shows his complete genius, he moves on to the sinfulness that you find in the church, even the leaders of the church. I think it is possible that he was listing the sins of the apostles. Paul was a murderer, James and John’s envy is why their mother asked for Christ to give them a special place in His kingdom. Peter, the liar was so untrustworthy that he denied even knowing Jesus. I do not think it is possible to find someone who always has obeyed their parents, or who loves perfectly. While Paul tells everybody how terrible “they” are, it should be getting clear to everyone that he’s talking about us. Paul is even talking about himself. All of us should be anticipating when Paul says that those who judge are no better. All of us are in need of God’s mercy.
Thing is, we don’t always get it right — I know I don’t, but I’m also in very good company. Peter was the first of the apostles called to accept Gentiles as members of the Christian community. He went and ministered in Antioch, however we learn from Paul that Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles when Jewish Christians came to visit Antioch. We learn that, Peter, even in his apostleship, was capable of hypocrisy. Paul was not merciful or gracious when he turned away his traveling companion John Mark. Paul and Barnabas split ways over this incident — and from Paul’s writing’s we can assume that Paul later realized that he erred in judgment as well as in mercy. We don’t get it right but we are in good company, the very best of Christians didn’t always get it right either.
Christ still chose to walk with us. For me it is good news that all judgment is given to Christ. Our judge is the same who forgave the Peter for denying him, building him into a cornerstone of the Church. Our Judge is the same one who met Paul on the road to Damascus and changed his heart from murderer to apostle. Our judge is the one who embraced us as sinners, and walks through the mud with us, even though we often get it wrong.
Sermon delivered at Friends Memorial Church, Muncie, IN
Reading: I Corinthians 1:18-31
Recently, I have been encouraged to think about the idea of vocation — especially my own vocation. David has encouraged me to think about it, as have some of the people at Earlham School of Religion. What is my call, what have I been called out of, what does it even mean to be called? Thing is, we don’t think much about vocation, beyond learning a trade. We live in a secular culture that does not really believe that anyone is called.
In this process I’d been thinking about the call of prophets such as Isaiah, Jonah, Jeremiah, Samuel — you know, those stories many of us heard in Sunday school. I’d also been thinking about the call of the disciples, and the call of the Apostle Paul on his way to Damascus. I’ve thought about my years at church camp, with the encouragement to consider a call to foreign missions.
Remembering those stories, they were always exciting. It was always wonderful how the boy Samuel heard God’s voice. It was truly amazing how Isaiah was in the presence of God. Jonah may not have spent time in the belly of the great fish if he listened and obeyed. Of course, I’ve read everything again since my childhood — and the thing is, none of the stories sound the same anymore.
It is interesting that, of all those who were called, the one who had it easiest was Jonah. The disciples lived transient lives, and died under the cruel hand of Rome. Isaiah call was to preach to a people who would never listen. Samuel prophetic message was one of the death and destruction of his foster-family who he loved. Jonah was the only one of these who saw remarkable success — and the irony is that he wanted to fail. Reading the call of the prophets, vocation becomes a terrifying thing. Vocation is one of those things where obedience is much more important than success — and, as someone who wants to claim a calling — this truth scares me.
At this point, I think I should thank David, and all of you for encouraging me as I explored the idea of vocation, and tried to arrive at some clarity about my future. I remember having a strong sense of clarity about my vocation, years ago before experience forced me to explore my own faith more deeply — back then, I thought vocation meant God would produce success — I did not yet realize that God asks for obedience, not results. As I did not get the results I thought I should, I decided I was mistaken about calling. I’ve cautiously re-explored this more recently, and you have done much to redeem the idea of vocation for me. I am grateful for this opportunity and your encouragement.
Friends, Paul told the Corinthians to think about the circumstances of their call. Now the Corinthians was not written to the leaders of the church, but to the Christian community in Corinth. If we read the whole of the epistle, we see a church that has problems. There is a split, and people are lining up to take sides. There is apparently a major sexual scandal in the community, and there are some significant disagreements on what kind of behavior is appropriate. When Paul is telling this Christian community to consider their calling, Paul is speaking to a community that is torn by all kinds of bad behavior, all the way up to the leaders in the church. Though the community and the individuals are in a destructive cycle of sin, Paul tells them to remember the circumstances of their call. What is the call to the community, and to the ordinary Christian? What is the call to the church at Corinth, and dare I ask — what is God’s call to Muncie Friends Memorial?
Paul tells the Corinthians to consider where they were when they were called. It was a community that was made out of few who were known as wise, powerful, or privileged. God called a bunch of ordinary people to form a community that lived and related to one another in the name of Christ. We as Christians — even though, here in America, many of us are in a different place now, are the spiritual decedents of a desperately poor and oppressed people. We must remember that once, those of our faith were beaten, imprisoned, and killed for their faith — and, it still happens today.
We should also consider where we were when we were called to Christ and community. Each of us has our own story, and each of us has our own struggle in trying to live it out. Our community also has a story — we can see part of it in the corner of the foyer, we can read another part of it in the “meeting history” pamphlets. This community was once just a couple families — it found a place in the community and grew into something more. Consider where we were when we were first called together as a community.
But — just like the early church is gone, there is no one alive who remembers the last half of the 19th century. We are a heirs to that community, but in a very real sense — that community has gone on. Where were we when we were called together as a community? From what were we called, and to what are we called?
Paul seemed pretty clear that the Corinthians were not called to divisiveness, and rallying around factions. We can be certain that they were not called to scandalous behavior. Just like it is easy to see the negative, we can look at ourselves and see what we are not called to — and indeed, what keeps us from being what we are called to be. What I am not sure of, is whether Paul pointed this out because there is a call to unity and holiness, or because this disunity came from neglecting the call — either way, it was not good.
What is our calling, as a community in this time and place? There are some things that we can say for sure — Paul mentions such things in later passages, such as 1 Corinthians 13. All of Christ’s followers are called to live a life of love. The mark of a Christian is supposed to be “see how they love one another.” Paul tells many Christian communities that called to to be saints — or a general call to holiness. What we know, is that we are called to a faith that changes us.
Whatever our calling is — we belong to a community that believes in vocation. We wait in silence, leaving space open for people to be obedient to hear God’s voice, and answer a call to speak to the community. We write traveling minutes for those called to a ministry trip, knowing that these people will go home, the calling will run its course. We record ministers who are called to spend their life in special service of the community. We do all these things, because we believe anyone can be called, whether it is a call of a single moment in time, or a call to a longer period, and a wider audience, or a call to life long service.
We believe that communities have a calling, so we practice the same listening in context of the business meeting — it is difficult, but, because we believe we struggle to discover what our calling is for today. We struggle to know our place in the wider community, believing that God has given us good to do. We believe that God calls people, and that it is possible to hear, discern and obey. We make mistakes — but we try to answer that hard question and obey. Friends, consider your calling as both as individuals and as a community.
I was talking with some friends some time ago, and one of the topics that came up was plans for lent. Do you give up something like chocolate or coffee for lent? Do you give up meat, or all meats but fish. One of my friends said he was going to donate a meal a day to an organization that feeds the hungry. I committed to read a Christian book by an author who has a different approach to Christianity than I do, and who is not homework — which has proved more difficult than eating vegetarian for a few weeks. The most profound idea came from the person who said: “I want to give up a grudge and forgive for lent.”
Now this was a new idea for me that inspired thought. While I was not in a place to judge the spiritual needs of my neighbor, I really was curious what it would mean to give up a grudge for lent. Usually, when people give up something for lent is it something more visible, and something that they can reasonably pick up again on Easter Sunday — like the time I gave up chocolate, I ate a whole chocolate bunny on Easter Sunday. A grudge is something that is not as visible as coffee or chocolate. It is also something that does not survive neglect very well. We have to feed grudges by enumerating the grievances. If we don’t feed a grudge for seven weeks, its bound to starve at that time. My friend who gave up that grudge for lent surely will not be able to pick it up again.
Of course, if we truly believe what Jesus said, that we should forgive not only 7 times, but 77 times, we really should not wait until lent to give up a grudge. Grudges show a failure to forgive — often they show a failure to even resolve the issue. One of the nefarious things about a grudge is often every grievance that we list and feed the grudge with are factual. One thing about living with community is that every day presents itself with something new that we can forgive — and, in the act of living in community we also offend others, often without even knowing we had done so. Jesus spoke of forgiveness very often.
Of course I grew up not only in around Christians, but in a culture that is not very interested in forgiveness. Whether we like it or not, we live in a culture of grudges and revenge. Sometimes we seek to get even by punishing the person or persons who committed the offense until we get back what we lost. We seek revenge even when we are not sure who we want revenge upon, for example we are currently in two wars seeking revenge against a handful of people who died over a decade ago. Some of us speak of a God that acts the same way we do — as opposed to acting as Jesus taught us. Some of us speak of vengeance as a virtue and cannot see how forgiveness is part of a just world — but, forgiveness is the way that Jesus talked.
We all need forgiveness too. Sometimes I appreciate a lesson that I’ve learned from our Anglican friends — there are certain parts of the Christian ideal that we have a lot of problems with. There are some sorts of sin that our communities can all easily confess. These are the sins that destroy communities, break down relationships, and prevent the church from functioning as the church. Every Sunday, Anglicans around the world confess these sins in this prayer:
Most merciful God,we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed,by what we have done,and by what we have left undone.We have not loved thee with our whole heart;we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,have mercy on us and forgive us;that we may delight in thy will,and walk in thy ways,to the glory of thy Name. Amen.
Jesus not only talked about forgiveness, but he compared our behavior to the behavior of a man who’s king forgave him literally the largest imaginable debt — a debt of a myriad of talents. The literal value of 10,000 talents is about 300 tons. Assuming that these are talents of gold, that would be worth, according to the current price, 15 billion dollars. The figurative value is more like a trillion dollars. It is a debt that one cannot imagine an individual obtaining without seriously harming the nation that he serves. This servant was a poor servant to king and country.
One might say that this servant was very responsible — and that he failed at his responsibility. When asked to fix the problem was not able to and asked for mercy, The king did not punish this servant but instead forgave the great debt. Such clemency means that someone, or a lot of someones had to take quite a loss. It also means that the king was not able to show that he dealt with who was responsible for the issue. 10,000 talents is a huge legitimate grievance. When the king forgives, there are many who may have the right to be angry.
But in this parable, the servant quickly finds someone who owes him 100 denarii. Denarii are silver coins a little larger than our quarters — so it was about a pound and a half of silver coins. As these were not pure silver, the metal value would be about $420 in today’s money. Perhaps a better way to look at it would be that it is what a day laborer could expect to earn for a day’s work — which brings the value up to between 5,000 and 10,000. Whether a few hundred, or a few thousand dollars, the point was that the unmerciful servant who owed a debt which could only be accumulated in the name of a nation, put a man in prison for small debt.
When we pray the Lord’s prayer — we pray that God will forgive us our debts as we forgive others. We pray that we will become the standard of mercy and forgiveness that God uses when judging us. This is tough for me, because I hope that God will be more merciful to me than I am to others — but the parable is the same as the prayer. While the king forgave this debt — when he heard of the servant’s behavior, he changed his mind. He judged the unmerciful servant with the same lack of mercy and threw him in jail until that impossible debt was repaid.
One last thing that I find remarkable about this passage is that it seems very much connected with the idea of what it means to be Church. Right before this parable Jesus gives advice on how to act when offended and how the community is to deal with grievances. Its not always easy to understand how Jesus suggests mercy, and another time casting out a person who will not admit that he’s wronged the community. Its not easy to understand when to cast out — and when to let the wheat and the weeds grow together — but I digress, we do the best we can.
What stands out is that right in all this about grievances and forgiveness, Jesus says the verse I believe tells what is the most basic definition of Church. “wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” When people are together there are grievances — and in order for the community to survive, we must learn the way of forgiveness.
I am lucky to serve with a congregation that I would work and worship with if I lived in the area. While we can talk in abstract about what it means to be church, and what is the mission of the church, it is helpful to be part of a community that struggles to live out their understanding of Church and mission..
Friends Memorial is made up of mostly educational workers and retired educational workers, though there are also medical service providers, and a few young families. It is an aging middle class congregation which happens to be in a working class neighborhood. As the neighborhood changed, the meeting had to decide whether to remain in the declining neighborhood, or to obtain property in a place that better represented membership. They decided to stay and minister within the community.
Several of the non-profit social services around the area at one time had their office within the meetinghouse. As they expanded and grew, they found other property, but there is a long standing relationship due to shared space. Members are active in the community, and the community recognizes the work of the meeting.
Currently, the neighborhood association meets at the meetinghouse, and the meeting is represented as part of the neighborhood. Recently, this association has been recognized by the city government, and has been invited to discuss decisions that affect the neighborhood. The meeting thus provided a voice to those who could not speak for themselves.(See Proverbs 31:8-9)
As far as a concept of mission to their community carried out internally, every month there is a day when the meeting hands out groceries to roughly 250 families living in poverty. In addition, they serve a hot meal once a month to everyone who walks in the door one night a month. The meeting also brings food and supplies to a local homeless shelter, and monthly highlights a local ministry shared between multiple churches.
Some members of Muncie Memorial feel that the meeting also has a mission to a subset of the wider Friends denomination — helping support the needs of some smaller and poorer meetings. This feeling of mission is carried out by offering space and resources. The meeting has members who excel at hospitality, and making space for those who meet.
If there is an area that needs improvement it is that the meeting has become too busy. It is filled with people who work well together, but too often can’t find time to stop and pray together. Sometimes it is not clear whether the work is a response to a sense of calling, or attempting to continue a program that no longer serves the need of the community. There needs to be a period of discernment and refocus — however, I feel blessed to be part of a group that does church well.
As someone seeking the role of pastoral ministry, one of the challenges I face is mentally separating the idea of personal mission from the mission and calling of the church. Too often, people’s idea of a church is a group of people listening to a single voice. While it is clear that this is not true, it becomes a goal to promote the idea of mission outside of personal mission.
While it is obvious that a community has reasons for seeking a pastor, and there are advantages to having status and position in some contexts, I believe that the most important thing a pastor can do is encourage others to find their own calling and gifts. Very often, the most important pastoral mission is to get out of the way.
A pastor, in order to meet the needs of the church, must find a way to pray for his or her congregation without praying for them vicariously. The pastor’s spiritual practices cannot replace those of the members — and while the pastor works in the name of the church, the pastors work cannot replace the work of the people. In this context the pastor’s role is to discern whether or not helping is doing too much.
The role of the church becomes to seek God’s will together, and when God’s will is discerned to plan a way for the community to work out God’s will. My hope is that I will be able to help maintain the community, facilitate an environment of listening and discernment, and to encourage those who discover God’s calling as best that I can.
When people have discerned what it means for them to be a Christian, I see my role as a facilitator and a listener, someone to help them find the resources they need — and offer a listening ear. The mission of the community is to find life giving vision — my mission is to keep to help keep that vision vital and encourage others to continue seeking.
When encouraging people to seek their calling, the pastoral role should encourage a deeper seeking than what might come to mind. There is not only the question of home and local community, but the relationship with the broader community and secular society. The Church is broader than an individual groups of people — so another pastoral role would be to help guide the group to a broader self understanding — not only facilitating communities, but working to create communities of communities. In the process, it would be necessary to build bridges, and try to keep personal issues within the community and wider community from being overly disruptive. A pastoral role would be to encourage people to live well in community — and as much as possible, live well with every community that one participates with.
A pastor does not build a church, nor can a pastor truly be effective at carrying out the mission of the church — if an individual could do that, then it would not be an assembly. The role of someone in the pastoral position is to smooth the way so that church can more easily happen. The role is also to preserve right relationships and keep the community healthy. The ministry is one of keeping a flock, instead of letting it scatter.