Every time the Verba are spoken by one of the Lord’s pastors over the bread and wine, heaven comes down to earth. Angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven sing before the Lamb who was slain but is alive forevermore. The saints in heaven and on earth join together in song and praise their Savior for His glorious condescension.
This reality is the same whether it’s happening at a small rural congregation with a dozen of the faithful who are there to receive the gifts or if it’s at a large cathedral in Europe that was built over the course of centuries and has all of its pews filled. The reality is the same. Heaven on earth.
Sometimes we are given an extra gift. It doesn’t make the reality more real. It doesn’t make the forgiveness of sins more certain than it would be somewhere else. But it is a significant gift. Sometimes you enter a place where because of many years of faithful teaching, the people know what’s going on. They’re certain of it. You can see it in their eyes when they sing. You can recognize it in their posture when they kneel so that you can pour life down their throats.
That’s why Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hamel, Illinois is a little slice of heaven. Over the past nineteen years, Pastor William Weedon has faithfully taught them the reality of what is going on each time they gather together. He has preached it forcefully. You haven’t really dived into the Scriptures until you’ve done it while sitting at his feet.
I was one of a small group of men who were blessed to sit at his feet as a vicar. My year was from 2005-2006. It was a wonderful and difficult year. Everything I know about being a pastor I learned from Pastor Weedon and from Saint Paul’s. I learned what it is for a congregation to love their pastor and for a pastor to love their congregation. I learned what can happen when a Pastor relentlessly and forcefully delivers Jesus to his people for thirteen years. I owe Pastor Weedon a debt I will never be able to repay, and I suspect his other vicars would write similar words.
Sixteen days ago, Pastor Weedon announced to Saint Paul’s that he had been called by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to be her director of worship and chaplain of the International Center. I suspected he would take it. I knew it was going to be a devastating blow to him, his family, and all my many loved ones at Saint Paul’s.
For two weeks, like many people, I was of two minds on Pastor Weedon’s decision. I wanted him to take the call. I wanted him to introduce thousands of congregations throughout the Synod to the appreciation of the Lord’s gifts he has cultivated at Saint Paul’s for almost twenty years. I also just wanted him to stay put and keep doing it there. Most importantly, I knew that he was free to choose the call he wanted to serve.
Two days ago, on Invocabit Sunday, Pastor Weedon announced that he had accepted the call. There were lots of tears. I’ve chatted with several of my friends at Saint Paul’s and they are united in their grief. They love their pastor and they’re going to miss him. I would too. I’m still getting used to the idea of a universe where Pastor Weedon is not the pastor of Saint Paul’s. Sometimes, I still don’t like that universe very much.
But God has called my friend to serve the Synod at large. Jesus is in charge, just as He has always been. It was Jesus and not Pastor Weedon who accomplished all that he did over those nineteen years at Saint Paul’s. Pastor Weedon was the Lord’s instrument. He was a wise and faithful instrument who knew to stay out of the way, but he was an instrument.
Pastor Weedon now has an opportunity to serve the whole Synod in the same humble and selfless way. In a way God is saying, “I’d like to introduce you to my friend William. For awhile he belonged to My flock in Hamel. Now I want to give him to all of you.”
God is giving the Synod a great gift. No, Pastor Weedon isn’t Jesus, and one of the best things about him is that he knows that. Pastor Weedon’s first words to me as a vicar still ring true today. “A pastor who does not pray for his people is completely useless.” Now Pastor Weedon is serving the whole Synod, and because of that, you can be sure that he’s praying for you. He’s probably doing it right now.
My plea is simple. Pray for him. Express your love for him. Thank him for the enormous sacrifice he is making. Thank his congregation for loving and supporting him all these years and making him into the man he is. Thank Jesus for sharing him with all of us.
There are some who have attacked, criticized, or made jokes about Pastor Weedon’s new call. To them I say, “Repent. God has done this, and He will work wonders through it.” Not all of us will benefit from Pastor Weedon’s new position in the same way. Some of you might be in congregations that appreciate the gifts that Christ won on the cross in a way very similar to what you’d find in Hamel. You and your pastor will be encouraged in that! For those of you who are not in such a congregation, I am sure that Pastor Weedon will seek to share with you what he shared with Saint Paul’s.
And, finally, to my beloved friend and mentor, William: Fear not. You’ve always known that “it’s a dangerous business going out your front door.”
Rev. Charles Lehmann
Vicar, Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL (August 2005-July 2006)
Associate Editor’s Note: Pastor Weedon has done great things for our Synod and it looks like he will continue to do so. We at BJS are thankful to God for him and wish him blessings at his new position and also ask our readers to keep him, his family, his former congregation, and those whom he will serve at the IC in your prayers. A special thank you to Pastor Lehmann for writing this article to be posted here.