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Good Courage

July 31, 2020

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

As I read this morning’s Daily Texts, my mind wandered back to a December day nearly seventeen years ago when I was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. It was a wonderful day at First English Lutheran Church (Appleton, WI) gathered in worship with friends and family, sisters and brothers in Christ. During worship, I received this charge:

David, care for God’s people, bear their burdens,
and do not betray their confidence.
So discipline yourself in life and teaching that you preserve the truth,
giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope.
Witness faithfully in word and deed to all people.
Give and receive comfort as you serve within the church.
And be of good courage, for God has called you,
and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

I’ve spent the last seventeen years faithfully trying to live out these words. I like to think that I’ve succeeded from time to time. Mostly, I go back to the final words again and again: “Be of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” These words drip with gospel, reminding me that it’s not up to me. My work lives and moves within the Lord’s work, and the Lord’s work will not be thwarted.

2020 has been unlike any year during my pastoral ministry; of course, it’s been unlike any year during anyone’s pastoral ministry. I’m pretty sure I skipped the day in seminary when we learned about pandemics. So this year especially I give thanks for the Church, at Grace and beyond, this sturdy vessel that might take on water from time to time but will not sink.

I am also mindful of words spoken earlier in the ordination service: “All baptized Christians are called to share in Christ’s ministry of love and service in the world.” This work is not mine alone, nor only for the clergy. We are all in this together, seeking both to be faithful servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ and grateful recipients of his forgiveness when we fall short.

Anyway, I’m thankful for the particular ministry to which I am called. And I am grateful that God has called each of you to ministries of equal importance, whether you’re a pastor or not. Today, Church, I invite you to pray for your pastor. I’m usually too Norwegian to ask anything for myself but I need your prayers as much as anyone. And whoever your pastor is, I can assure you that they are praying for you today.

Keep going, Church. The world needs our faithful witness as much as ever, and God’s going to see us through.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of the Church, you call your people of all times and places to bear witness to the mysteries of grace. May live, clergy and laity, live out those promises today. Help us to hear and then speak the Word of truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Photo: My dad took this picture; I think Bishop Justman is speaking the Charge I noted above. December 14, 2003.

From → COVID-19

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