Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Honor to whom honor is due...

Last week we hosted our annual banquet to thank and honor the folk who serve the saints at Trinity Church. As a vocational pastor, the church sends me two "thank-notes" each month (in the form of paychecks.) In this regard my cup runneth over. But we have a growing cadre of servants who are either upaid or indadequately paid for their faithful labors. And so, once a year it is our joy and privilege to honor such and thank them for their service. Here are a few pictures from our celebration and my "thanks" to the elders at Trinity Church.

To the Elders of Trinity Church:
Brothers, you are no-hirelings. Week after week you demonstrate your god-given desire and ability to lay down your lives for the sheep. When the attacks have come, from within and without, you have carefully identified the danger, approximated the location of the sheep and cheerfully interposed your persons between the wolves and the sheep.

Brothers, you are faithful imitations of the Great Shepherd. The real test of a shepherd’s heart is not how he cares for the ninety-nine sheep who are munching contentedly on the grass to which they have been led. No, the real test is what the shepherd does with the wandering sheep. Some wandering in rebellion (picture here a sheep in dark glasses with a leather jacket, collar upturned.) Some wandering in ignorance (picture here a cross-eyed sheep with the brim of a baseball cap a tad askew, chasing a butterfly near the edge of a cliff.) Regardless, you have, again and again, left the ninety-nine and gently but firmly pursued the one; coaxing and chiding, nudging and exhorting them back to the safety of the fold.

Brothers, like Christ, you have led the sheep to green pastures and beside the still waters. When providence has taken your sheep through the valley of the shadow of death, you have walked with them through the same, and ministering to them nothing less than the very presence of Christ as you did. Weekly, you have spread a table for those in your care in the presence of a world yet hostile to the Gospel our of Savior Jesus Christ, and have fed your flock with the bread of heaven and the cup of blessing. You have been God’s means to shower the sheep with goodness and cover them with mercy.

Brothers, as you have sat in session you have been one and many. Supernaturally united in purpose and submission to the Great Shepherd, and decidedly different in your takes, views, solutions and counsel. And all delightfully so, because you have contended with grace, disagreed with charity and deferred with humility. At times, I have loved and appreciated you the most when you were arguing against my position (how do you do that?)

Brothers, if the Holy Spirit is “another Advocate” then you have been, in your service to the saints, “another-‘nother advocate” as you represented the cares and concerns of your parishes to the session. Even when you disagreed with your parishoners in principle, you represented them and their views with passion and clarity. And witnessing your advocacy, I have grown in my understanding of Christ and his Spirit’s advocacy on our behalf. Thank you.

Brothers, you have shepherded as examples to the flock. You have not driven the sheep to love their wives, honor their parents and disciple their children, you have led them to these obediences. You have not driven the sheep to love God, His Word and His sacraments. Rather you have led, by example in the very same. As your pastor, I have learned, and am learning much from your humble examples. Again, thank you.

Christ has promised to reward all who spend themselves in his joyful service. May the LORD return blessings to you thirty, sixty even a hundredfold for your faithful labors on behalf of the flock.

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