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A Letter from the Associate Pastor to Presbytery

Keeping Promises…a word from the Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Portz
September 20, 2012                  

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As followers of Christ we are “people of the Word,” however, we are also called to be “people of our word.”   As human creatures we make promises almost every day.  We say to people, “I’ll be there for you” or, “I’ll pray for you.” But do we keep our promises?  Throughout life, we make promises to others and to God when we get married, ordained, bring a child into the world, enter into employment, join a church, or bring a child for baptism.   In many ways, particularly as pastors, our lives are judged on how well we keep our word, our promises, our commitments and even those things we vow to keep confidential.   Our effectiveness as disciples (and pastors) depends on us remaining true and faithful to our word.  A professor of pastoral care once said to me, “Those who break their word continually will not only be not trusted by others, but they will multiply broken promises into more broken lives.”

In Christine Pohl’s book, Living into Community, Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us, she writes about the weightiness of promise keeping, the cost of promise keeping, and the complications we get ourselves into when we promise things we can’t deliver on or never intend fulfilling.  There is a very interesting section of the book in which she considers how we are to live into promises we don’t like.  I commend the book to you for reflection.

In the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-31) the one son promises the father he will work in the field, but then decides not to work.  The other son initially refuses the father’s request to work in the field, but later goes to work in the field.   The one son broke his promise to the father.  We are not told what happens to this son, but he is compared to those religious persons who have an initial burst of faith saying, “Yes Lord, anything you ask!” but who, in later life, fail to continue to do the Father’s work and follow his will.  The other son who at first said to the father, “No, I will not go” but later due to conscience or fidelity to what it means to be family, eventually goes to work in the field, he is seen as being more faithful and obedient to God than the other son.

In several pastor groups with whom I meet, we have discussed the topic of promises.  I asked the pastors the following questions:

Lastly, we talked about the “blessings of consistency,” that is, when we keep our promises and stay faithful in a world that seems filled with infidelity, faithlessness, and people who fail time and again to keep their word.  I have been blessed by the ‘consistency” of promises I have made, the promises made to me by others.   It is my prayer that all of us will be people of “the Word” and “people of our word.” May we all be blessed by the promises we keep.

In Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Portz, Associate Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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