Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I missed the touch of the shepherd's staff.

More than 30 years ago, the Rev. Ronald F. Fink went out into the woods surrounding Resurrection Lutheran Church on the hunt for something.  It was but an hour or so before he was set to install a young Pastor into his first call.  It seemed a foolish thing for the good Bishop to do, but oft he went.  When he came back he had a big stick in his hand.  The bark was gone but none of the roughness of a branch pulled directly from the woods.  In the installation rite the good Bishop spoke to the kneeling Pastor:  "Take heed over the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseer (Bishop)."  And then he placed the rustic and heavy stick into the young man's hand.

The man was me.  I have carried in that big stick during the entrance hymn of so many worship services I cannot count them all.  It is just as crude and rough as it was so long ago though the wood has aged to a dark and rich color.  It was his gift of a shepherd's staff to a young Pastor that has helped me to realize that this is my calling and my place.  I do not long to teach in a Seminary or college.  This is where I am supposed to be.

President Matthew Harrison in his blog has recently referenced the sadness of Dr. John W. Behnken (President of the Synod from 1935-1962) on leaving behind the parish for administrative duties as District President and Synod President.  He wrote in his book This I Recall, I missed the touch of the shepherd's staff.  I know what he meant (and perhaps what Matt Harrison feels as well, having given up the parish for service to the Synod on various levels).

Yet you do not need to own a piece of wood to know and feel the touch of the shepherd's staff.  The staff of the Pastor is not a crook of wood but the Word of the Lord, the richly flowing and living water of baptism, the voice of absolution, the firm arms of the pulpit in your hand, and the altar where you distribute to God's people the very body and blood of Christ.  For surely the staff we are given to use to shepherd the people of God is nothing less than these means of grace through which God does what He promises and accomplishes what He purposes.

I don't know about other Pastors, but this touch of the staff is what enables me to do the other things I do not relish (like administering a parish, unlocking the doors, ordering supplies, going to meetings, etc...).  It is this presence and role in worship and in the sacramental life that flows out of this worship (confession and absolution, catechesis, burial of the dead, etc.) that forms the staff whose touch is so familiar, so comfortable, so challenging, and so lofty that at one in the same time I am amazed I am allowed to handle this staff and yet could not imagine who I am without it... Strange... but true.


ErnestO said...

Pastor Peters I pray you hear the Savior say “well done, my good and faithful servant” because you have been a good minister of Christ.

Anonymous said...

According to Ezekiel chapter 34, the
pastor/shepherd cannot stay only in
the chancel, but he must go out into
the community and bring back the
stray sheep and search for the lost
sheep. This is a genuine challenge
for the pastoral ministry today.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, according to Ezek 34, it is the Lord (not men) who is doing the seeking, calling, finding, gathering (v.11-16). Of course this is about Jesus. Sure your point is well taken, but the primary work of the Lord, the feeding sheep, the commands of Christ, truest of worship, mission work, evangelism work, happens when the pastor is in the chancel/divine service/teaching at the church.
Rev. Weinkauf

Anonymous said...

Horace Hummel's Concordia Commentary
on Ezekiel 34:1-10 focuses on the
challenge of the pastor to bring back
the stray sheep: Erstwhile members
may be scattered for any number of
reasons, many will wander aimlessly
and fall prey to sectarian blandish-
ments or abandon the Christian faith
entirely. Many a pastor know it is
often harder to reclaim for the
church the lapsed.

Pastor Peters said...

Who said all of this takes place in the chancel? Surely it proceeds from there. From Sunday Divine Service we find those who were absent for illness or error and we go after them. For Sunday Divine Service we teach and catechize that they may receive with us the bread which is Christ's body and the cup of His blood. It seems a little foolish to quibble about this when they are not mutually exclusive. But the final point remains, the tools or staff of the Pastor are the Word and the Sacraments. Period.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters: Thanks for taking the
Law (scolding) out of your last
answer, that was not good pastoral
practice to scold someone into
coming to worship. Herb Lindemann
would not have approved of your