“I gave my first sermon to the congregation of Bloomfield on April 7, 2013. The congregation had a potluck the night before for me and my family. I was hopeful that Bloomfield would welcome us into their tightly knit faith family. But I did feel out of place.
I was not born and raised in Bloomfield, I had no family connections to speak of, and I felt that we came from completely different worlds. And so, there I was on a sunny April Sunday morning, standing at a pulpit where generations of pastors stood before me, about to give a sermon that would, hopefully, lead to the congregation approving my call to serve as their pastor. I took a breath, said a half spoken prayer and read these words of Scripture:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:5-7 NRSV
The people of Israel were exiled from their homes, living in a land of a different people, language, and religion. They felt lost, yearning to return home, to the way things used to be. And here was God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, instructing the exiles to build a life in their new, strange home and to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.’
Even though I was a stranger to Bloomfield, I felt God calling me to build a life and to seek the welfare of Bloomfield. I realized I was not the first, nor the last, to receive this call. Indeed, the Scottish immigrants who found themselves in the wilderness of Bloomfield 200 years ago were strangers as well. They built home, gardens and families. But most importantly, they built a church to be the center of a new community , seeking the welfare of its neighbors. And in caring for Bloomfield, the Bloomfield Presbyterian Church found their own welfare.
I ended my sermon this way,
Many Christians feel like they are in exile. Many feel like strangers and outsiders in their own communities. Many feel they do not recognize what their community has become. But God calls us to work for the welfare of our community. As the community’s welfare grows, so will ours. We are on a mission of love from God through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Someday, God will call us to our true home, but not today. Today we cultivate hope and live in God’s future. Amen!
After the worship service, the congregation gathered and approved me to serve as their pastor. I have learned that Bloomfield has never forgotten the basics of faith: worship God, meditate on God’s Word, pray continuously, and serve neighbors with love, compassion, and care. It is my prayer Bloomfield will never forget this faithful life. In living out this simple faith, Bloomfield is assured that the Lord has
plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me,; if you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 NRSV
Happy 200th Anniversary Bloomfield Presbyterian Church, the Body and Bride of Christ!
Pastor Tim Pollock, June 2018