The Lord’s Prayer: Kids of the Kingdom!

Line-of-Kids

Kids of the kingdom
That’s what we are
Kids of the kingdom
That’s what we are
We love Jesus
We love the Lord
We love Jesus
We love the Lord

I grew up going to Vacation Bible School, Lutheran School gatherings, Sunday School, and a Lutheran camp. I sang the above lyrics more times than I care to count.

Seriously.

So. Many. Times. Still. Have. Nightmares.

The sentiments of the above children’s tune are admirable, but they are a little misleading. We are “kids of the kingdom”, that is true. However, we are not kids of the kingdom because we love Jesus. We are kids of the kingdom because Jesus loved us. And died for us. And rose for us. And called us through baptism. And enlightens us with His Word and Spirit. And feeds our faith with His holy Supper. Because Jesus loves us and does all these things… because we have been made part of His kingdom, we seek to love Jesus with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul.

Throughout Scripture, the english word kingdom is used quite often. It is usually in reference to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. However, the connotations that go along with kingdom are different than our present conceptions. The term had much more to do with the reign of a king (i.e. their specific actions of rule) as opposed to a delineated physical kingdom. It dealt more with the actions of the king to care for his people and territories. Luther takes this kind of approach in his explanation of the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean?

The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come?

God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

God’s kingdom comes among us when God visits us with His grace and favor, and when that grace and favor empowers us to live as His people showing love and mercy to one another. The work of the Holy Spirit is active in extending God’s kingdom through His means of grace. Through these actions of God, we see His reign in our lives. It is an impressive and ever present power that gives us comfort in all of our vocations.

As a pastor, I am quite positive that God is working through me to be His instrument in this world. Proclaiming law and Gospel. Forgiving sins. Administering the Sacraments. As a father, I am a vehicle for God’s reign as I teach my children God’s Word. As I instruct them in the faith, the reign of God is reaching yet another generation. It is so wonderful when God gives us glimpses of His kingdom amongst us. When we are hidden from it or distracted from seeing it, we can still be sure that His promises are sure for He commanded us to pray in this way. May the peace and comfort of God’s reign visit you each and every day!

Find Rest for Your Souls

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

ox-yoke

Jesus had just exploded the minds of the disciples and His hearers all across that Galilean countryside by the time that we arrive at our Gospel reading for this morning. From the time of the great Sermon on the Mount of Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus had healed a leper, a centurion’s servant, a paralytic, some woman who touched the edge of the cloak He was wearing, two blind men, two men with demons, one man who couldn’t speak, Peter’s mother-in-law, along with the countless droves that descended upon the house afterwards, and He raised a girl from the dead. Just for fun, in the middle of it all, He calmed a storm out on the Sea of Galilee.

The most recent spectacle had been centered around Jesus’ teachings. He began taking on the Pharisees and Scribes at every turn. He talked about the persecution that His disciples, His little ones, would have to endure. The very teachings and life of Jesus would act like sword that would sever relationships even those who were family members. He encouraged His followers to not fear though because there was One who was mightier behind it all. And like we heard in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus was pulling back the curtain to reveal the God who was behind all that was transpiring… for everyone who receives Christ, receives the Father. Ultimately, the life of a disciple of Jesus isn’t about who is greatest. It isn’t about rewards. It is always and only about Jesus.

The disciples weren’t the only ones losing their minds either. John, who was imprisoned and, unbeknownst to him, was awaiting his execution, hears about all of the things Jesus is doing. He hears about all of the things Jesus is saying. While it is not clear if John is doubting, he is certainly confused at the least. So John sends his disciples to ask Jesus a simple, straightforward question: “Are you the One that is supposed to come? Or should we look for another?” In other words, “Yo! Jesus! Please tell me that you know what you’re doing!” Jesus responds back using the language of the prophecies of Isaiah, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” And just in case anyone had their doubts about John, Jesus puts those down also – “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

While those with ears were listening, Jesus had a few more things to say, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were the regions that had seen first-hand the works of Jesus. The healings. The raising to life. The demons cast out. The blind seeing. The deaf hearing. The mute speaking. The works foretold by Isaiah. These all happened in their midst. And, yet, they are skeptical. Shame on them.

Then, in a somewhat surprising twist, Jesus turns His focus from the world to His disciples… those that had also seen and heard everything to this point… and gives a prayer of thanks to the Father. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” The wisdom of God and the plan of salvation is hidden from the wise and given to the little children… the disciples of Jesus. Earthly wisdom and worldly stature cannot reveal the plan of God. Yet, the simplest of minds can understand it when the Spirit reveals it to them. This is truly the working of God. [Head explodes]

Then Jesus turns to His disciples, in the midst of their confusion and bewilderment, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Jesus knew the road that He had to follow to Calvary. He knew the road that most of the twelve would follow. Crucifixions, torturous imprisonments, vile executions, beatings, tears over the lost, never-ending endeavors to gather God’s lost sheep, the toil of managing a growing church in the midst of persecution. Jesus knew it all. And He speaks these words to them. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the Old and New Testaments, there are really two separate ideas used when it comes to the metaphor of a yoke. In the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament, the metaphor of a yoke bears the idea of an animal yoke. It is something that weighs you down, and something of which you struggle with all of your might to rid yourself. It is something to which two animals might be yoked together so that the work might be more bearable, in and of itself it is a burden. However, in the rest of the places in the New Human yokeTestament, the metaphor of a yoke is used to talk about the yoke that a human might wear in order to make the work that he has to do easier. Yes, the person will yearn to rid himself of the yoke when the work is done, but it is, nonetheless, something that allows you to accomplish a task that is before you with more ease than if you had to bear it on your own. Notice the tenor of Jesus’ statement now. He knows that there is labor and toil ahead of those believers that will weigh them down. It will discourage them. It will be impossible to do by themselves. So Jesus, extends His yoke. This life will not be easy but when we find ourselves wearing Jesus’ yoke, we find the peace and rest our souls need… even in the midst of the worst turmoil and grief.

This is no metaphorical peace and rest because our grief and pain… our turmoil and temptations are real. The calamities and sin in our lives and the lives of others bring about real delusions, real devastation, real weariness and trepidation. A metaphorical relief to these things would be of no solution to you. It would amount to nothing more than a pat on the shoulder from your old buddy, Jesus, telling you to buck up because things are going to get better. Don’t worry! There’s always tomorrow! However, when tomorrow arrives with the same problems as today, the shortcomings of our weak hope will only darken the hallways of life. We would be left with the same question as John the Baptist. “Is Jesus the One, or should we look for another?”

Jesus knows our grief and pain. He knows what it is like to lose a loved one expectedly after a longsuffering disease, or unexpectedly… so fast that it turns your life upside down. Jesus knows the proverbial monkey of addiction that you carry around. He knows the hidden prayers you mutter as lies and deceit burn another bridge. He knows the empty promises and the hopelessness out of which they are made. He knows that worry about the future that plagues every moment that you are awake. He knows the worry doesn’t go away but only intensifies when you go to sleep. He knows that the income and the bills aren’t zeroing out. He knows the hurt that is left by an unfaithful spouse. He knows the guilt you carry when you are the unfaithful one. He knows when you that you stole one extra pen from the bank. He knows that you told one little white lie that only you and Him will ever know. He knows when you’ve faltered. He knows how hard you try to keep on going. He knows that your yoke is heavy. He knows that the weight you carry is crushing you. So He gives you real comfort and real rest in the midst of your real pain.

He gives you your baptism. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life- giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St Paul says in Titus, chapter three:“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” The real salvation that Jesus won for you on the cross is actually given to you in Your Baptism. You are given the yoke of Christ in those wonderful waters combined with the all-creating Word of God. The Word that creates faith… that creates life… even and especially amongst dead sinners.

He gives you His Words of forgiveness in the words spoken by your pastor. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What do you believe according to these Ordinatinowords?I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. There is a reason that this congregation has called three fellow sinners to stand in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus… so that you would know for certain that all of your sins are forgiven… those forgiven corporately or privately. In forgiveness, Christ, again, reminds you that His yoke is the one you wear.

He gives you the Supper. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.” Brothers and sisters, do not deny yourself the very gifts that Christ brings! For what do we receive at this table than the very real body and blood of Christ for our very real lives of sin, death, and trials? Here is where we receive the very yoke of Christ. Every promise is fulfilled to us in these Means of Grace… these yokes of Christ… which allow us to persevere until that day when we need no yoke and we bask in the blessings of our Savior for eternity with the innumerable saints of heaven. May God bring this to completion in the day of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

The Lord’s Prayer: What’s In A Name?

My father has a few eccentricities (as do we all). There are a couple that stand out in my mind. The first was is obsession about handshakes. An hour and a half is how long it took me to be able to give him 25 suitable handshakes in a row. Yeah, I know, I am a slow learner. However, he would always say, “You can tell a lot about man by his handshake. Where he’s been. How he’s been raised. His confidence. You tell a lot.” Remember, I said eccentricities. The second one that I remember was his obsession with names. “You can tell a lot about a person by their name.” He refused to call someone by their initials even when they asked him to do so. He refused to use nicknames even when they were common parlance. He also refused to use suffixes. “Your name is who you are. You should bear it with strength and honor.” Remember, I said eccentricities.

Needless to say, when it came time to name my children, I took it seriously. Yeah, I may have inherited some eccentricities also. As Christians, we believe that God has put His name on us in baptism. Luther puts it this way,

God’s name was given to us when we became Christians and were baptized, and so we are called children of God and have the sacraments, through which he incorporates us into himself with the result that everything that is God’s must serve for our use.

Thus it is a matter of grave necessity, about which we should be most concerned that God’s name receive due honor and be kept holy and sacred as the greatest treasure and most sacred thing that we have, and that, as good children, we pray that his name, which is in any case holy in heaven, may also be holy and be kept holy on earth in our midst and in all the world.

All of that means that I, as a father, need to be a whole lot more concerned with the name that God has given my children than the names that I have given them (another lesson learned from my father). We bear our heavenly Father’s name which changes our identity from sinner to righteous, from fallen to raised, from dead to alive. This name is far more important than anything that I could give my children. The name that the Lord gives and seals with the cross, the water, the body and blood, and the Word is a name that creates and eternity of life for them. I am but a steward as I, too, bear the same name as my children. May God continue to grant you the peace and comfort that comes from the one name that we bear.

Hallowed be Thy name.

What does this mean?

God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.

How is God’s name kept holy?

God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!

Thus Says the Lord

The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet (Jeremiah 25:8-9).

jeremiah_the_prophet

The great kingdom of Assyria had fallen. Josiah had been king of Israel. He was one of the last good kings of Israel before their fall in 586 B.C. After Israel had freed itself from Assyrian oppression, it began to flex its muscle in the region, and began to get a little of the power back that it had under David… a very tiny bit of the power. It was under Josiah’s reign that the Book of the Law was recovered. So many sweeping reforms were being made in order that Israel would once again begin living like God’s people. It seemed as though Israel’s state of affairs were looking up. However, the power vacancy left in the area by Assyria’s epic fall from power left many other countries to squabble over the scraps. Egypt and Babylon began flexing their long atrophied muscles as well, and they were bigger than Israel.

So when Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim took over the throne, even though Israel was more stable than before, things were tenuous at best. Not to mention Jehoiakim was not the man that his father was. He neither trusted in the Lord nor held to the reforms put in place by his father. He began to make deals with Egypt and Babylon, pitting one against the other, hoping to be on the right side when one of them wiped the other out. Very rarely does straddling a fence end up in a pleasant situation. And it didn’t work out for Israel either. With Babylon bearing down from the north and Egypt coming up from the south, Israel was, once again, in dire straights. And so the people of Israel did the only sensible thing they could think of, they turned away from the Lord in their time of need, and sought to find solace in the power of men. In the history of Israel, we find the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Throughout their whole history, turning their back on God would ALWAYS lead to slavery, exile, war, pain, death, and devastation… but maybe this time would be different.

It was into this situation that Jeremiah was placed. From the time he was about twelve, he was called to be a prophet of God. It was not easy being Jeremiah. There is a reason that many Biblical scholars call him “The Wailing Prophet”. The great majority of the book that bears his name involves Jeremiah railing against the people of Israel because they had once again forsaken their covenant with Yahweh their God. They did not trust in His words of promise. They did not trust in His power to save. They willingly chose to go their own way. So Jeremiah was privileged to tell them things like:

Therefore thus says the Lord: Ask among the nations, Who has heard the like of this? The virgin Israel has done a very horrible thing. Does the snow of Lebanon leave the crags of Sirion? Do the mountain waters run dry, the cold flowing streams? But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway, making their land a horror, a thing to be hissed at forever.

Everyone who passes by it is horrified and shakes his head. Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.

Or my personal favorite:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: “Cut down her trees; cast up a siege mound against Jerusalem. This is the city that must be punished; there is nothing but oppression within her. As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her evil; violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me. Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust, lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land.

Who wouldn’t love to preach those things all the time? What’s even worse? There were other false prophets who were preaching the exact opposite. They were telling Israel, “Don’t worry! Things are going to get better! The Lord still loves you! You are His people! Surely, He wont disown His own people! Surely, God didn’t say you would die. You won’t die. The day of victory awaits!” Needless to say, the people would much rather listen to the good news than the bad… even if the bad news was the truth. Just a couple chapters before this, the people had grown so tired of listening to Jeremiah’s prophecies of impending punishment that they actually threatened to kill him… for the second time… in 3 chapters. Today’s text has Jeremiah confronting one such false prophet, named Hananiah.

Jeremiah even wishes that He could proclaim what Hananiah says to be the truth. He wishes that God would bring back the exiles and stay His judgment on Israel. However, that is not the true Word of the Lord. The Lord does not say thus, if you will. The Word of the Lord is not always easy to hear. It is not always fun. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it kills. However, that does not mean that we cease to heed the Word of the Lord. Jeremiah knew that it is always far better to proclaim the words of God. So he did. And within a year later, Hananiah was dead, and the truth of Jeremiah’s prophecies were born out.

I wish I could tell you that Jeremiah’s life got easier. I wish I could tell you that he was somehow spared of earthly suffering. I wish I could tell you that the people of God repented and Jeremiah saw Israel return to greatness through faithfulness and dedication to the Lord. But that was not the case. It is likely that Jeremiah died in Egypt in exile. The kingdom of Israel fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The truth of Jeremiah’s prophecies were seen after it was too late to do anything about them. This is the problem with false prophets. Their promises sound soooooo good. However, there is no hope in their promises. There is no hope because they do not come from God Himself. When we start pitting the words of man against the words of God, we find nothing but despair, disillusionment, and destruction.

How often we have been a carbon copy of the people of Israel? How often do we listen to the prophets and sages of this world rather than letting the Word of God be our source of strength and truth? We allow the world to define terms. We allow the world to teach us and our children about money, sex, love, marriage, devotion, obedience, honor, and the list goes on. But the world works with vastly different definitions than the Word of God does. The world defines love as that which gives us what we need instead of acts of service to one another and self-denial. The world wants to define marriage as that commitment between two individuals that might last or might not, instead of a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman that mirrors the relationship that God has with His church. The world has a way of turning things inward and making them about us, when, in reality everything we have… everything we do is supposed to be about or in service to our Creator. Yet, we find ourselves balking at the fact that a worship service might go more than an hour, willfully neglecting His Word in order to make room for ball games, time with nature, or even just sleep.

jesus-on-the-cross1

And we see the consequences of our actions. We see the punishments for our sins today. Every time we look forward and see the cross on the altar. Every time we see the processional cross or the cross that we wear around our necks, we see the punishments for our sins. Yes, there are earthly consequences to our sins also. Our children will grow up not knowing the Lord. It only takes one generation to lose God’s Word in our midst. We incur turmoil and hurt because of our selfishness and the selfishness of others. Our pride and arrogance escalates conflict and tears apart relationships. But the true terror of our sins, the true eternal punishment of our ill-fated plans is seen in the cross of Christ. The punishment that was ours due to our honoring of false prophets is carried out on Christ… and His blessings are given to us.

Throughout the entire life of Israel, God was never far from their groaning. While they turned their back on God, God was never far from them. Throughout the life of Jeremiah and all of His people, He always promised to keep a remnant. He always promised that His Word would endure through His people. That remnant is realized in Jesus. He was the perfect Israel who obeyed God’s commands, lived the perfect life, and died as the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins and the sins of the world.

Today, we, once again, see the blessings of Christ given to us. We hear the Lord speak through His Word. We hear His promises and grace through the font and the altar. We see the blessings of Christ poured on and out to us. We receive the strength and the necessary faith to be part of God’s holy elect… His Israel. We receive the power to live as His people in faith and love toward God and one another. We live in service to our neighbors. We hear the Word of God and learn it gladly. We honor our parents. We lead sexually pure and decent lives. We explain everything in the kindest way and put the best construction on everything. We don’t covet. We don’t steal. Why? That’s not what God’s people do. When we sin, we often suffer earthly consequences. But the eternal weight of our sins were born by Christ. There is no need to fear for our salvation because it is complete in Christ. Thus says the Lord: “Come to me you who are weary and I will give you rest. Surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age. I am the way the truth and the life. I am the light of the world. I am your Good Shepherd. It is by grace you have been saved. You are My workmanship. You are a holy people and a royal priesthood. A people belonging to Me.” The Lord speaks with grace and favor, and we listen.

 

Ordination Nostalgia

This Sunday will mark the 6th anniversary of my ordination. Through the past 6 years, I have been challenged, I have failed, I have succeeded, and I have been blessed. While there are days when I want to throw all of my theology books out on the street corner and go work for a record store, I really, really, really like what I do. I am very thankful for a supportive wife, a caring congregation, and the continual strength that God gives me each day.

Ordinatino

I am (quite often) asked, “When did you know that you wanted to be a pastor?” This question is rather hard for me to answer. It is a question that was painful to think about during my college and seminary years, because it did not have an answer until the beautiful work of the Spirit was completed in calling me to the ministry in 2008. Let me explain.

When I graduated high school and enrolled in college, I did not want to be a pastor. I wanted to be a high school band director. However, the narrow escaping of the first semester of Music Theory led to major occupational discernment. If I could only pass the first semester of music theory with the intense help of my roommate, how in the world was I going to make it through the rest? So began one of the first of many existential crises.

As I debated my life and future, I examined the interests that I possessed. I liked to read. I liked to argue. Why not try theology? So I changed my major (just like roughly 75% of college students by the way), and I began to pursue a major in theology. I was also convinced by a few friends to join the Pre-Seminary Student Association (PSSA). This is where I was introduced to the painfulness of answering the above stated question. I heard story after story of members of the PSSA that involved most if not all of the following events:

1. They were the sons of pastors.
2. They had known their whole life that they were going to be a pastor.
3. When they were three-years old (the age that randomly occurs in every story), the clouds parted, a beam of light shown from heaven, and the voice of God told them that they were to be a pastor.

I had no higher calling. I did not know I wanted to be a pastor. I just knew that I wasn’t failing my classes, and the homework did not seem so awful. So I kept taking classes and I never came close to failing. I actually enjoyed what I was studying. The pages of Scripture were filled with people that had no want to be a prophet, apostle, teacher, pastor, king, judge, etc. Yet God worked through them. They became important/necessary cogs in the plan of God’s salvation of humankind. This gave me hope. If God could work through the likes of Abraham, David, Paul, Peter, et al., maybe I stood a chance. Yet, my answer to “When did you know you were going to be a pastor?” was still, at best, “I don’t know yet”.

This continued all the way through college and seminary. I took classes. I passed. I went on vicarage. I had a great experience. I passed. I came back for my fourth year of classes. I passed. Then, on Call Day of 2008. I heard the words. “John Patrick Niles. Missouri District. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Concordia, Missouri. Associate Pastor.” Then, I knew. The Holy Spirit had led a congregation to call me to be their pastor. God had acted in time to call another unprepared, unqualified, mess-of-a-sinner to stand in His stead for His saints. But there was still a question of authority.

Then, on June 29th, 2008, I kneeled before a circuit counselor and numerous other pastors. I took my vows. They placed their hands and blessings upon me. The pastoral yoke (figuratively seen in the stole and personally felt by the weight of the vows I had just taken) was placed upon me. A few weeks later, I was installed at St. Paul’s, and have been serving there for the last 6 years. I have epic moments of triumph. I have equally epic moments of failure. But I know that I am meant to be a pastor to these people at this time. That certainty comes from a beautiful marriage of Call Day and my ordination.

photo-2

For those that might read this and find themselves frustrated at the process of finding a vocation, frustrated in their current vocation, doubting where they are or where they are going, not sure of how God will use them in this life, take heart! If God can use an uncertain servant who failed music theory like me, He can and will use your talents, passions, and skills. Let the accounts of Scripture be your certainty.