Devotional Thought of the Day
34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.” 37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.” Mark 6:34-37 (NLT)
14 “Return home, you wayward children,” says the LORD, “for I am your master. I will bring you back to the land of Israel— one from this town and two from that family— from wherever you are scattered. 15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:14-15 (NLT)
11 It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13 (TEV)
14 We lay hold of him when our heart embraces him and clings to him.
15 To cling to him with all our heart is nothing else than to entrust ourselves to him completely. He wishes to turn us away from everything else, and draw us to himself, because he is the one eternal good. It is as if he said: “What you formerly sought from the saints, or what you hoped to receive from mammon or anything else, turn to me for all this; look upon me as the one who wishes to help you and to lavish all good upon you richly.”
16 Behold, here you have the true honor and the true worship which please God and which he commands under penalty of eternal wrath, namely, that the heart should know no other consolation or confidence than that in him, nor let itself be torn from him, but for him should risk and disregard everything else on earth. (1)
By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the center and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. But whatever truth and grace are to be found among the nations, as a sort of secret presence of God, He frees from all taint of evil and restores to Christ its maker, who overthrows the devil’s domain and wards off the manifold malice of vice. And so, whatever good is found to be sown in the hearts and minds of men, or in the rites and cultures peculiar to various peoples, not only is not lost, but is healed, uplifted, and perfected for the glory of God, the shame of the demon, and the bliss of men.24 Thus, missionary activity tends toward eschatological fullness.25 For by it the people of God is increased to that measure and time which the Father has fixed in His power (cf. Acts 1:7). To this people it was said in prophecy: “Enlarge the space for your tent, and spread out your tent cloths unsparingly” (Is. 54:2).26 By missionary activity, the mystical body grows to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13); and the spiritual temple, where God is adored in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:23), grows and is built up upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme corner stone (Eph. 2:20). (2)
This morning I had the greatest 15 minutes of my week since Sunday. I met and visited with a lady who was an incredible blessing to me. Her words though few, and with a tired voice, encouraged me to be what I am, a pastor. As I prayed with the lady who has lived in 10 different decades, I watched a beautiful smile, and her tired body relaxed, as she knew again the love of God. It is the first time we’ve met, and I am already looking forward to seeing her again.
It is not why I do what I do; It is who I am.
That is being a pastor, a shepherd. It what those called into ministry are called to be. I’ve included a lot of citations above, because they explain it far better than I can.
The reading from Ephesian starts it out by expressing that we aren’t born to be pastors/shepherds, but we are chosen to do it. Chosen to shepherd (that is what pastor means) and to guide people as they mature in Christ, as they struggle with living out the promise of being someone united to Jesus, as they struggle as the Holy Spirit transforms them into His image. As they struggle with their growing pains. As we hear Jesus command us to feed them (and he had to tell Peter that THREE times according to St. John’s gospel!)
I love how Vatican II puts it, as we see the transformation, even the exorcises all evil from them ( Paul calls this circumcising the heart and Ezekiel speak of it as well) Paul talks of us pleading with them to be reconciled to God, to being drawn to Him, to bring them to be embraced by a God who is both merciful and loving.
It is of the greatest of joys when this happens, as it did this morning as I sat next to my new friend, the new person I had the honor of reminding that Christ is indeed with her. Something she indeed knew… but loved to hear again. There are other times; it is not so easy. When showing them what Luther wrote of in the catechism means bringing about healing. Treating that which hurts and is painful.
This is why Jesus said pray for the shepherds, that God would send them as promised. It isn’t easy, it is heart-breaking and frustrating, it is ministering to people who might be angry at you, mad at you, that may think you are intentionally trying to hurt them.
A pastor stays with them, doesn’t discount them, and continues to point them to Jesus. He keeps encouraging them to cling to Jesus. He keeps reminding them that Jesus is there. Though it may be tempting, he doesn’t run from wolves or alligators or those who are crying in pain. He doesn’t run when it hurts him, or even those he loves. He helps them cling to Jesus. To trust in Him rather than their idols.
He is who he is; it isn’t a job, is a vocation.
If you are a pastor or priest, spend lots of time being amazed at what God is doing through you, for it is still He who will provide the food, the word and the Lord’s Supper which nourishHis people with the knowledge and experience of His presence.
If you are served by one of us, pray for us, encourage us, be patient with us, knowing we have to draw you into God’s presence, sometimes even as you are kicking and screaming. As you can help us to – for there are more broken people that we can minister too at times…
At all times – may we cry out together, Lord Have Mercy!
And may we encourage each other by crying out, “the Lord is with you!” and hearing “and also, with you!”
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 366). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.