An extraordinary ordination

Yesterday I had the privilege of ordaining my son into the office of the holy ministry. His district president granted me permission to do so, and I served as officiant and preacher for this unique service about church. I am so thankful for the nearly two hundred friends, family, members and clergy who gathered to worship on Sunday afternoon.

I didn't know what to expect as the service began. What I mean is, I didn't know how I'd feel. At my children's baptisms, confirmations and most recently my son's wedding, I had some emotional moments when I got a little choked up and had to pause, take a breath and collect myself before continuing. I had my message prepared, but as I looked at the pastors who had come to be a part of the service, I knew I had to say something about each one of them. Each one played an important part in my son pursuing full-time church work. My brother-in-law who introduced me to my wife over thirty years ago was with us. My son’s father-in-law who had four children, two of whom are pastors and one of whom is now my son's wife was in attendance with his entire family. The campus pastor from Florida State was there, as well as vicars from our congregation who encouraged my son along the way. A retired pastor from our congregation represented all the members who prayed for and encouraged him along the way. A living biography! I also reflected upon the nature of his “labor,” the preaching of the gospel, but also reminded him to be himself, and especially to call his mama. After my amen, I gave him a big hug, and that is one of the best ways I can think of to end a sermon. There were a couple of moment when I started to feel emotions swelling up, but nothing overwhelming.

The powerful moment was when I placed my hands on his head and ordained him to the office of the holy ministry. What a moment, what a privilege, and what an awareness of our prayers being answered. Our Lord sending out another worker into his harvest!

After each pastor in attendance blessed him with words of scripture and encouragement, we prayed of the Lord's Prayer together. In that moment, the collective voices of the saints in heaven must have joined us here on earth, for our petitions have never thundered like that before! Yes, we were indeed surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses.

And then I got to place the red stole around his shoulders. Representing the yoke of Christ, it is indeed light and easy to bear, for His words are living, active, powerful, healing and forgiving. He finished up the service with prayers and a blessing, and it was time to relax, celebrate and get to work. After all, the harvest is great and the laborers are few.

I may never do another ordination, so I am thankful for the chance to do this one. I am thankful for the musicians, the worshipers, my colleagues who attended, the friend who made him a set of stoles, the many, many hands who prepared the reception afterwards and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit on this extraordinary day!

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Time to Go

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Dr. Andrew Bartelt was the preacher at the morning worship service for the conferring of theological diplomas at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis on Friday, May 17. Working from Isaiah 2:2-5, he recalled the typical welcome offered to an incoming class, “We’re so glad you’re here” and added these words for the graduates: “But we  can’t wait for you to go.” Just as Isaiah gained insight into God’s holiness and grace and was sent out (Isaiah 6), so the students have immersed themselves in His Word, and are now on their way.

While we are so thankful for those men and women who commit to academic preparation for full time church work as pastors and deaconesses, it’s a special time of celebration when they are ready to go and begin that work. As good as seminary life and education is, it means so much more when you’re out there. The Greek and Hebrew words, the history of Old and New Testament people, and the basic teachings of the faith come to life in the day to day routines, struggles and celebrations of the church. New lives cry out as others are commended to graves. Couples come together and others go their separate ways. Our lives are blessed one day and severely challenged the next. Each one who goes out will discover that the black and white lessons learned in the classroom are lived out in full color in the church’s life and ministry.

My son Adam and his wife Sarah, pastor and deaconess, have finished their education and will now begin their work. But there is a cycle they will repeat often. Their experiences will send them back to what they’ve learned, and what they learn will send them back out again in ministry. As natural as breathing in and out, we are drawn to our Lord’s promises, and then go back out into the world.

Thank you Dr. Bartelt, for your insights, images and message to this year’s graduates and families. Thank you Concordia Seminary for being both a place to prepare, and a place from which to go on the adventure of a lifetime that is full time ministry.

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Call Day (part 4:back home)


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After an eleven-hour travel day, we are back home. We were blessed with a much less eventful day for our return. Now, a little time to reflect upon Adam and Sarah’s Call Service at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. 

The worship program was available online earlier this week, and I was amazed to see two of my favorite hymns being sung, “Awake My Heart with Gladness” and “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds.” Set those hymns in a chapel full of Lutherans with a great organ, choir and brass ensemble, and you feel like the worship of heaven has touched that spot on earth for just a moment, reminding you of the eternal praises being sung around the throne of God.

It’s nice being near the beginning of the alphabet, for Adam’s name was soon announced, followed by “Associate pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Dallas, TX.” Just where they thought and hoped they would be assigned.

Pastor. A title never associated with my son Adam’s name before, but one which would always speak to God’s grace, direction and blessing in his life. With humility, amazing communication skills, musical talent, a great sense of humor and a willingness to serve, he will be a blessing to many as he serves the church. He and Sarah embody great hope for the church as they begin their ministry together. I am so very proud and blessed.

You know, we didn’t used to be a family of pastors. But the faithfulness of my mom and dad and my wife’s parents became an avenue for God to lead me, my son, my brother Jim, and my brother-in-law Jeff into the pastoral ministry. On Sarah’s side, her dad and two brothers are pastors, and she is now a deaconess. Our family is now replete with full-time church workers.

Pretty cool.

Eight ways to get your pastor to visit you

Pastors (at least I do) spend a good deal of time visiting with people. A visit might take place in someone’s home, a coffee shop, a hospital, or at the church. If you’re hospitalized, homebound, or recent guest at worship service, you can usually count on a visit.

But what if you don’t fit into any of those categories? If you’re healthy and regularly attend worship, chances are the pastor won’t be stopping by. So how do you get the pastor to visit you? Here are a few tried and true (and intentionally humorous) strategies for receiving a call from me to set up a visit.

Have a baby. I love to come see the little ones! A litter of puppies works almost as well.

Buy a home. I’ll come out to bless it.

Get engaged. We’ll get together for premarital counseling.

Open a restaurant. I’ll stop by for lunch. A coffee shop works, too.

Mention your desire to make a significant donation.

Allude to your desire to teach Sunday School.

Decide it’s time to get serious about those evil spirits wreaking havoc in your house.

Got a tiki bar? I’ve got a blessing for that, too.

Yes, you too can be a good member and still get a visit from your pastor!