Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
Pastor was one who ought never to have been ordained. He was the son of an affluent father, who, like some medieval aristocrat, wanted his son to go into the holy ministry. It was not that Pastor was incapable of presiding at the liturgy, preaching after a fashion, or doing the quotidian tasks associated with leading a congregation. It was that he was not spiritually or psychologically suited to the pastoral vocation. Why?
The man was not like those who come from a dynasty of pastors and labor faithfully, if not always enthusiastically, in the vocation to which they were pointed by fathers and grandfathers. He seemed to revel in wielding power rather than authority. His fairly frequent visits to our home included turning off our television, grabbing a succession of beer bottles from the refrigerator, and proceeding to brag about his father’s wealth.
Until pastor came to our congregation, I had planned to go to church colleges and to prepare for the holy ministry. After having such an up close experience of this pretentious fellow, I told my parents I wanted nothing to do with a church that allowed him to be a pastor. My father’s favorite adage applied: “I can tell in five minutes whether the preacher is sold on his product.” He wasn’t.
We pastors are sinners in need of a Savior. Indeed, if we do not approach the altar, the pulpit, and every pastoral task with a profound sense of unworthiness, we will be like Paul’s noisy gong and clanging cymbals. To be authorized to speak God’s Word and to administer His Sacraments is a humbling responsibility. If ordination to the holy ministry, wearing a clerical collar and robes, and being called “The Reverend” is done seeking affirmation, legitimacy, or power, woe to those who have to endure the insufferable strutting peacocks spreading their tail feathers with aplomb.
My parents endured as much as they could for as long as they could, not out of a sense of ownership of the parish, but recognizing that Pastor was just passing through. When he made a power play, as narcissists in both the clergy or the laity will finally do in a parish, the congregation said, “No, thank you.” It was a relief to be rid of him. The two men who followed him each had a part in nurturing my renewed call to the holy ministry.
When one’s experience of church is rooted in emotion rather than in God’s Word and Sacraments, one can easily be led away from the Truth. Indeed, what has been labeled “liberal pietism” (leftist ideas clothed in touchy-feely Jesus language), is destroying many churches.
Thank you, dear Father, for faithful pastors, who model exemplary ministry in daily life and work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put two pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.