As pastors we often complain about the burdens and dysfunctions of the church. Dealing with sinners in a sinful world presents untold challenges and frequent heartache to those who serve. Many a day we simply wish to quit and leave it all behind. Unfortunately the dark side of church life and the realities of our people's struggles too frequently predominates in our minds. It clouds over the joys and blessings that come from the Lord of the Church who has given us an incomparable privilege to labor in His vineyard as undershepherds of the Good Shepherd. So today I wanted to simply pause in my own journey to give thanks and reflect on the equal, if not surpassing, number of blessings overlooked in the process of slogging through the difficult labor of shepherding the church.
This morning I made a visit to the local hospital to see a mother and her newborn child. It occurred to me in leaving that as a pastor I have the unique privilege of entering into the most private moments of people's intimate lives, often in ways others never know. I stand with them in the difficult moment of death to comfort them with the truth of eternal of life in the risen Christ, often assisting in carrying out their earthly remains as my final act. I celebrate that same gift of life by the font of Holy Baptism, being the hand that has the high honor of pouring water on this tiny head through which God works faith in the power of His Spirit. A few days ago I officiated at a wedding as well, and had the opportunity to present Christ as the model of their love, setting the tone of their future marriage. What a great gift to be the one who brings the Word of Christ into so many personal moments of life. In times of acute crisis and in times of pure joy I share the sorrows and joys of living with people who have become my friends and family in Christ. We share each others sufferings. We support each other when faint. How easy it becomes to lose sight of these simple realities. How easy it is to allow the frustrations of failure to block out faith in God's hidden and effective work among us.
May the Lord of the Church renew in me daily a joy of service that sees in each act, no matter how humble or small, a precious opportunity to live the reality of Christ in this troubled world. And may He strengthen my spirit to maintain the fight when the struggle against the forces of hell are so fierce that I am tempted to lay down my sword and surrender. To be a pastor is a holy calling for which I am not worthy, yet one for which I should offer constant thanks that the Lord chose me from among many to be His prophet in a difficult day. Thank you, Lord, for this honor. Forgive me my weak and self-serving tendencies. Strengthen me through your Word and Sacrament, that I will be found faithful in the days yet to come. I commit myself unto you assured of your never ending sufficiency. In Jesus' name, Amen.