Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Many pastors think that they have “somewhat” figured out pastoral ministry. That’s what vicarage is for– to introduce the future shepherd to the rhythm of parish life from worship planning to budgeting, catechesis to congregational events. Teachers have their student teaching experiences, while DCE’s and Deaconesses serve their internships. The impression that is given– or that we even give ourselves– is that we have a general idea about our particular service in Christ’s Church. Whether that is accurate or not depends much upon the circumstances we are facing.
2020 has sent all professional church workers back to the school of “hard knocks.” We have seemingly had to re-learn a new rhythm to school days or Sundays. The content of our preaching and teaching has not changed, but all of the experiences that we have learned from over many years of service have been largely set aside as we figure out new ways to care for those we serve. Pastors in their 60’s have been forced to learn technology that they would prefer to ignore. Teachers who love the daily interaction with students have been confined to looking at computer screens. DCE’s and Deaconesses have been called to adapt to parish life with no physical Sunday School or Vacation Bible School and limited visitation. Welcome to your COVID-19 Vicarage, Student Teaching, or Internship experience. So the last few months allowed you the time to learn and adapt to service in this new reality. This means that as we get ready for August and a new year of school, confirmation, Bible studies, youth activities, and worship planning, our church workers have once again figured it all out… right?
No, sadly, servants in Christ’s Church never really master ministry. We are fraught with weaknesses, with uncertainties and at times with difficult external circumstances, like a global pandemic. However, our sufficiency comes not from ourselves and our experience, but from God. It is He alone who makes us competent as He covers over all of our sins with Christ’s righteousness. Think of it! Every dumb idea, every failed implementation, every angry reaction, every time of doubt, every glory-seeking endeavor from the servants in the Missouri District, the Missouri Synod, and all Christendom have been taken away and replaced with Christ and His righteousness. The pressure is not on you to figure it all out! You have been called to be serve – to be ministers of a new covenant of the Spirit, that gives life. There will be bumps in the fall confirmation program. There will still be hiccups in the church A/V department. But your sufficiency is in Christ, for you are His baptized and forgiven child!
Prayer – Merciful Lord, for the benefit of Your people You call faithful men and women to serve in a variety of offices in Your Church. Grant that Your Holy Spirit lead and guide them as they serve among us according to Your gracious will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan