Baltimore — To be God’s people rising, get on the holy way.
That was the message of closing worship for NEXT Church’s national gathering on Feb. 28. Continuing the conference theme “The Desert in Bloom, Living, Dying and Rising in a Wilderness Church” the final day’s emphasis was “living again.”
Enacting the metaphor of wilderness wandering, worshippers were invited to “move to a new place, a new vista in this room, even if it just one seat away and stay there for the rest of the service … on your way pass the peace.”
After a reading of Isaiah 35 (the text all conference preachers are using), Kathryn Johnston, pastor of Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania preached of getting on “the holy way” instead of “the holier-than-thou way.” Johnston recounted a story of traveling with her wife in a region of the country that does not give a “you are welcome here vibe” and having their van break down.
With humor, Johnston shared how her anxiety about how she and her wife would be treated almost prevented her from truly seeing the “mom and pop” who owned the local garage offer them genuine hospitality when their car broke down. Johnston shared that her trepidation about how she would be treated prevented from treating others according to the “holy way” held up in the Scripture lesson in Isaiah.
Recognizing that “there are legit reasons to be cautious in this world,” Johnston noted that “Mom and Pop were on the holy way, but I almost missed them because I was on the holier than thou way.” She said, “any time we draw a line, Jesus is on the other side of it.”
Johnston concluded her sermon with a call for those gathered to “get on the holy way.”
“We need to move to unfamiliar places, that’s the holy way. … We need to listen to the kids from Ferguson like we listen to the kids from Parkland … that’s the holy way. … We need to listen to each other … that’s the holy way … because no matter who you are looking at, they are the redeemed and they shall walk there, too.”
The service continued with a communion where worshippers were instructed to ask one another, “Have you been fed?” noting that sometimes we must say, “I need to be fed.”
Johnston closed the service with a charge “to see other people as people on the holy way.”