Wednesday, March 9, 2016
ACCEPTED INTO PASTORAL FORMATION
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way, He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith." (SMALL CATECHISM, explanation of the third article of the Apostles' Creed) That’s why our Lord Jesus calls and sends out pastors—to teach the faithful, reach the lost and care for all. People need Jesus’ salvation, life, love and forgiveness. So, He preaches it to them. He washes them in it and marks His cross on them. He fills their ears, heads and hearts full of absolution, forgiveness for their daily sin. He places His body and blood into their mouths to further sustain their faith and fill them with two hundred proof pardon. Jesus does this through the real hands of men He's called and ordained as servants of His Word just as He Himself took on our human nature when born of Mary. Being accepted into pastoral formation at Concordia Theological Seminary yesterday was very humbling for me. I’d received that call before, when applying for Concordia Seminary-St. Louis’s Master of Divinity program in the 1990s. I squandered that time of preparation by being too immature, verbose and impatient to the point of losing my temper often. Yet, our Lord Jesus is slow to anger, full of forgiveness and abounding in steadfast love. He’s nurtured me in that patience and love my whole life long and has worked in me to curb such spats. Thanks be to Him for putting family—especially my wife—and friends and pastors who have counseled and prayed for me over the years since my half-vicarage in Connecticut came to a blustery end. So, this fall I will begin taking classes at Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, classes taught by men who will help form me for Word and Sacrament ministry. Through these men, He’ll teach me anew how to apply His commands and promises to people’s real lives. After all, we live in a shattered and corrupted world tossed between cultural licentiousness and man-made legalism. Yes, people need Jesus—the Jesus who was conceived and born, died and rose, ascended and is returning for us. We endeavoring to preach Christ and Him crucified, will learn not to proclaim ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as His servants. After all, He has shined the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ for us and all the world to see and trust. In Him is that life that enlightens man, who can only hear the Gospel by someone preaching it to them. Now, as my wife, Amy, and I look ahead to seminary, many plans and questions greet us. How will we sustain ourselves financially and emotionally during this formation? How will we find housing? What friends will we meet who will support us over the next few years? How might we best adapt to make our transition to Fort Wayne a smooth and God-pleasing experience? And, along the way, how will our Lord continue using us to touch lives with His Gospel of salvation? I certainly desire a noble task. Jesus has given me this opportunity to train for service—rightly handling His Word. To Him who is able to accomplish all these things and uphold me in His grace be all glory and honor now and forever.