October is Pastor Appreciation Month. There are many good articles out there about how to appreciate your Pastor. One way that we can appreciate or support our Pastors is to remind them of their Ordination vows. At Ordination, the pastor is asked many questions concerning the Ministry. A few of those are:
1) Do you promise that you will perform the duties of your office in accordance with these Confessions, and that all your preaching and teaching and your administration of the Sacraments will be in conformity with Holy Scripture and these Confessions?
2) Will you faithfully instruct both young and old in the chief articles of Christian doctrine?
3) Will you forgive the sins of those who repent, and will you promise never to divulge the sins confessed to you?
4) Will you minister faithfully to the sick and dying?
5) Will you demonstrate to the Church a constant and ready ministry centered in the Gospel?
6) Will you admonish and encourage the people to a lively confidence in Christ and in holy living?
7) Finally, will you honor and adorn the Office of the Holy Ministry with a holy life?
8) Will you be diligent in the study of Holy Scripture and the Confessions?
9) Will you be constant in prayer for those under your pastoral care?
After asked these 9 questions, the pastor answers, “I will, the Lord helping me through the power and grace of His Holy Spirit.”
Feed my sheep and tend my lambs says our Lord Christ to St. Peter. How would Peter tend the lambs and feed the Sheep? Christ the Lord said to the Apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:22-23). The Pastor feeds the sheep by preaching the Gospel, absolving sin, and in the administration of the blessed Sacraments. This is the Pastor’s vocation. He is to tend to the lambs of Christ. Let him do it. Let your Pastor pray for you. Let your Pastor Preach the Law and the Gospel to and for you. Let your Pastor Baptize. Let your Pastor feed you the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Let your Pastor visit you when you are healthy and when you are ill. Let your Pastor live a holy life of prayer and devotion as an example for you. Let your Pastor be diligent in the study of Scripture, the Confessions, and the writings of the Lutheran Fathers for your sake.
After the Pastor is examined and questioned, the congregation is addressed with Hebrews 13 that says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” It is to your advantage that the Pastor fulfills his vocation as the guardian of your soul. When a church not only allows, but prays for and encourages her Pastor to keep his Ordination vows, it will go well for that church and there will be peace that surpasses all understanding. This is not to say that wickedness and evil will be removed completely from the life of the Church. However, it does mean that the Gospel will predominate and only in the proclamation of the Gospel is there forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation. A church is blessed indeed that appreciates her pastor so that she encourages him to spend his time keeping his ordination vows. Luther spoke about Pastor Appreciation saying, “Were I a preacher, what difference would it make to me if the world called me a devil, since I know that God calls me His angel? Let the world call me a deceiver as long as it pleases. God meanwhile calls me His faithful servant and steward; the angels call me their companion; the saints call me their brother; the believers call me their father; distressed souls call me their savior; the ignorant call me their light. And God says: Yes, it is so. The angels and all creatures agree with Him.”