Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reflections on the Installation of a Pastor

The other day as my wife was proofreading an installation service for a neighboring congregation, she observed how hearing the promises in this rite would be helpful even for a church that already has a pastor. I agree. As with marriage, we often forget about the depth and implications of the solemn obligations to which we originally pledged ourselves. Below are selections from the Rite of Installation as found in the current Agenda of the Lutheran Service Book.

Address of the Pastor-elect
P: Dear brother in Christ, the Lord grant that you receive and keep these words in your heart so that you may be strengthened and encourage in your labors.

God gathers His Church by and around His Holy Gospel and thereby also grants its growth and increase according to His good pleasure. That this may be done, He has established the Office of the Holy Ministry into which you have been called by the Church and have been ordained and consecrated by prayer and the laying on of hands. It is fitting that you should again acknowledge the responsibilities of this holy office in which you are to serve as a pastor this congregation.

In the presence of his congregation and before our Lord God to whom you must give an account now and at the Last Day, I now ask you:

Do you acknowledge that the Lord has called you through His Church into the ministry of Word and Sacrament?

R: I do.

These are serious and heavy words to hear, yet they also are tremendously comforting. For the pastor does not carry out his work by his own direction or desire, but because he is called specifically by the Lord Himself through the Church. Note the very important order of the words!

Do you promise that you will perform the duties of your office in accordance with these Confessions, and that all your preaching and teaching and your administration of the Sacraments will be in conformity with Holy Scripture and with these Confessions?

R: Yes, I promise, with the help of God.

P: Will you faithfully instruct both young and old in the chief articles of Christian doctrine, will you forgive the sins of those who repent, and will you promise never to divulge the sins confessed to you? Will you minister faithfully to the sick and dying, and will you demonstrate to the Church a constant and ready ministry centered in the Gospel? Will you admonish and encourage the people to a lively confidence in Christ and in holy living?

R: Yes, I will, with the help of God.

P: Finally, will you honor and adorn the Office of the Holy Ministry with a holy life? Will you be diligent in the study of Holy Scripture and the Confessions? And will you be constant in prayer for those under your pastoral care?

R: I will, the Lord helping me through the power grace of His Holy Spirit.

For all those congregations that have chastised their pastors for being "too Lutheran," such words would be a helpful reminder that this man has pledged himself to be faithful to the very confessions of this church in all that he preaches and all that he does. He has no choice but to "be Lutheran" in his ministry.

Also, would that each of us pastors remember likewise our responsibility to be "diligent" in our "study of Holy Scripture and the Confessions." Growth in Word and Confessions does not end at graduation from seminary!

Finally, each pastor in humility should remember the charge here to "be constant in prayer for those under his pastoral care." This was a sobering reminder for me to be more faithful in this area.

Installation of the Pastor
The presiding minister addresses the congregation:

P: Beloved in the Lord, Holy Scripture says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 NIV

You have heard the solemn promise of him called to be your pastor. Will you receive him, show him that love, honor, and obedience in the Lord that you owe to the shepherd and teacher placed over you by your Lord Jesus Christ, and will you support him by your gifts and pry for him always that in his labors he may retain a cheerful spirit and that his ministry among you may be abundantly blessed?

C: We will, with the help of God.

P: Will you honor and uphold our pastor as he serves in all his God-pleasing responsibilities? Will you aid him as he cares for his family? Will you be diligent to “put the best construction on everything,” recognizing that “love covers a multitude of sins”?

Oh, that every congregation heard these words annually! Much heartache and division might be avoided if such a high view of the Office and its place in the church was recognized and honored.

Perhaps we should read some of these words in a voters' meeting occasionally.....


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