The above is a picture of my city. Kalamazoo. The place we have been called to and have chosen to live. As a friend of mine would say, it is beautifully flawed.
Our community, the Kalamazoo community, is still reeling from the violence which has recently shaken us. It has shaken our faith, our ability to trust – not only God but others. It has shaken our sense of security.
In the midst of this aftermath, there is something that has not been shaken in me. In fact, I believe it has deepened. My love.
I could talk about my call to this community, but I believe you can experience a call to a particular place you do not love – think Jonah.
But love. Several times I have been asked how the recent shootings in Kalamazoo have personally impacted me. And at first I wasn’t sure how to answer. Over the last two weeks, in the midst of a life-giving learning community, I began to realize the deepest impact has been love.
As a pastor my call is to a particular congregation (Haven) within a particular denomination (the RCA); but my call has always been to much more. It has always been a call to the larger Church and to the broader community. Always.
The call to pastor in the context of a city, or a community, is a call to love that city with the love of Jesus. And the events of the past few weeks have clarified and deepened my love for Kalamazoo and the community surrounding it. I love the congregation with whom I serve, I love the larger Church of Kalamazoo and I believe I cannot truly seek the Shalom of God for the Kalamazoo area if I do not love Kalamazoo.
Jeremiah 29:7 tells us to seek the welfare of the city we are in, to pray for it to prosper.
In the last two weeks I have had several interactions which have caused me to ask this question:
Pastor, do you love the city you are in?
I’m not asking if you love what you do. I’m not asking if you love your congregation or denomination. I am asking if you love the city you have been placed by God in to partner with Him in reconciling and restoring all things.
Do you love your city?
Your city knows. It experiences you. The city you are in has a heart beat and knows. Would you wonder with me if your city experiences you as a Jonah who didn’t want to be in Ninevah or if your city experiences you weeping along with Jesus over it?
Pastor, do you love your city?