Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I missed the touch of the shepherd's staff.
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.