Pastor John Reutter-Harrah
Thoughts from Pastor John
“I’M ON A JOURNEY…JOIN ME?”
If you’re anything like me, maybe you find yourself on a journey. You’re asking questions.
The faith you grew up with doesn’t seem to fit anymore. The old answers that you were so sure of don’t seem big enough. Maybe you were not raised in a church, but what you know of the Christian faith seems exclusivist and judgmental. Let me tell you a little about my journey. I’m on a journey of discovering a God who keeps stretching my boundaries. I’m discovering a God who, in the person of Jesus, kept making the circle bigger, including people who had been cast aside because the religious people didn’t approve. The early church continued the inclusive ministry of Jesus. In a vision, Peter hears the words, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (Acts 10:15) Over the years, I have become a welcoming and affirming pastor, having been converted by the stories of LGBTQI folks both inside and outside the church, and by re-looking at Scripture through their stories.
I have discovered over the years a wider understanding of salvation, from an exclusivist view (unless you name the name of Jesus, you are excluded from God’s promises) to inclusivism (salvation is through the work of Jesus, but who am I to judge?) to a growing universalism (God saved the world in Jesus, but not everybody knows it yet.) Doesn’t Jesus say, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth (the cross), will draw all people to myself? (John 12:32) And Paul in 1 Timothy (2:4) informs us that God desires everyone to be saved (to experience wholeness and healing and peace and forgiveness here and into the future). Does God get what God wants? (Rob Bell asks this question in Love Wins)
And does God really desire that those who don’t say a prayer a certain way, or aren’t baptized, or believe a certain way about the Bible, will end up in hell, a place of conscious, infinite torment, as a punishment for finite sins? Does that seem like a loving God? Is there another way God might provide judgment and love?
I know some Christians say that, yes, God is a God of love, but because God is a God of justice, a price must be paid for our sins. So an angry God demands an innocent blood sacrifice so that we can have forgiveness? I don’t know about you, but I struggle with that understanding of the cross.
There have been a number of views of the meaning of the cross over the centuries. Let’s at least agree that if God is in Jesus, then God goes to the cross. God doesn’t send someone, God takes upon Godself the sin and suffering and pain of the world.
I am discovering some new spiritual practices, so that my faith is not just claiming certain statements about God, but realizing the presence and power of the God.
I am beginning to explore the presence of Christ in all creation. (What does Paul mean when he says, “In Christ all things hold together?”-Colossians 1:17. What a mystery!) And if Christ is in all of creation, and God made this world (over a long process) and called it good, wouldn’t God be concerned about climate change?
My reading and my conversations with people inside and outside of the Christian faith keep challenging me. The earliest followers of Jesus were called “people of the way.” I’m on the way. As a Lutheran follower of Jesus, I have planted a flag next to God’s gracious love for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It always starts with God’s unconditional love, not anything we do.
My journey is not for everybody. It’s my journey. But I also know many other people who are asking similar questions. If you’d like to connect over a beverage, I’d love to hear about your journey, your questions, your longings.
There are lots of faith communities out there. Maybe you’re being called to explore with us what a journey of faith looks like in this 21st century. Maybe you’ll sojourn with us for a while, and then move on. Maybe you’ll just have that mocha with me and you’ll continue on your journey. In all eventualities, may you be deeply aware of God’s love and grace along the way!
Director Musical Ministry
I have had the joy of serving here at POL since 2008.
I feel strongly called to be using my musical gifts to draw people closer to God in various worship settings and styles. I am thankful to be part of a church that lifts our voices and hearts every Sunday with two different worship services.
Before coming to POL, I had the privilege of working at St. Luke Lutheran in Portland (organist; choir director; pianist; handbell choir director); Trinity Lutheran in McMinnville (everything); and Community of Hope (pianist) in Wilsonville.
I have had the joy of serving here at POL since 2008. I feel strongly called to be using my musical gifts to draw people closer to God in various worship settings and styles. I am thankful to be part of a church that lifts our voices and hearts every Sunday with two different worship services. Before coming to POL, I had the privilege of working at St. Luke Lutheran in Portland (organist; choir director; pianist; handbell choir director); Trinity Lutheran in McMinnville (everything); and Community of Hope (pianist) in Wilsonville.
In addition to serving in churches, I have been a professional musician in the greater Portland area since 1969, playing keyboards and bass in a variety of bands, including my own. Since 2000, I have been a member of a very good Portland band called “Pressure Point”, and I keep fairly busy playing corporate parties, wedding receptions and private engagements in the Portland/Seattle/Bend area.
I also serve as a part time music instructor at Clackamas Community College teaching “History of Rock”; “History of Jazz” and assisting students with CWE (Career Work Experience). Before that I taught music education in the Beaverton School District at Five Oaks Middle School.
I am blissfully married since 2007 (yes, I started “late”) to Chris Lord. I have two step children, Blake and Codi; and I am an uncle and great uncle to about 21 nephews and nieces. My wife and I love being outdoors whenever possible; and we very much enjoy walking, biking, boating and working in our yard. My parents have a beach cabin in Oceanside, Oregon, and that is one of my favorite places to go relax and regroup.
I believe that one of my favorite worship related quotes/thoughts is that life here on earth is sort of like choir “practice”, to prepare us for what we will be doing for all eternity: namely praising and thanking and glorifying and worshiping our awesome God! So, what are we waiting for?!