What a week! It was a good one. I am most appreciative of my dear wife for being a “trooper” for a week with the three youngest while I served as pastor for the week at Camp Io-Dis-E-Ca near Solon, IA. She will be getting some much deserved time to herself soon.
It felt great to come to church this morning, fully prepared, sermon in hand, and conduct the liturgy with more mental energy than I have had for a while. It also was nice to finally be done with my cough and raspy voice that plagued me for about four weeks straight.
Among the many good things that happened last week while at Camp, perhaps one of the best was coming back a little less cynical than I was a week ago. I think I will always be a bit of a cynic to some degree–it’s my personality.
Where it becomes dangerous, and detrimental to the Ministry of the Word I think, is when it takes over one’s whole outlook towards the Church. One can begin to get the feeling that nothing he does is worthwhile, that everything short of writing a sermon and doing the liturgy is just pointless, if even that.
I wouldn’t call it depression, though it could certainly lead to that. It’s just one of those things where you have to realize that the impact that you are having on people is more cumulative. This newsletter, or that Bible study, or that visit by itself might not have a huge impact on a person or group of people. However, over time those things have a cumulative effect.
It’s like eating. The meal that I ate on April 5, 1994 wasn’t memorable. I probably could have skipped it and would have been okay. But what if I had skipped meals for a whole week? That would have had quite a different outcome indeed!
Take raising children, for example: I could take the attitude that bathing the kids really is just pointless. It’s just futile. They just go and get dirty again. So, what’s the point? And it’s true, skipping a bath here and there probably wouldn’t matter in the long run. But what if we just decided not to bathe them at all? That would have severe long-term problems.
Bottom line: a pastor cannot get too hung up on the importance or seeming unimportance of this or that activity or task. It is not always given to us to see the fruits of our labor. It’s not like when I worked as a male rouger for Oetting’s Detasseling Co. in NE, where you go to a field that is terribly uneven on the top and when you are done you can look across and see no unevenness. The Church is not like that at all. Sometimes it seems as if your labor has only made things worse! That can be discouraging. It can make you cynical. It can make you think: what’s the point?
Being at the camp this week helped me to let go of some of that. I saw kids being impacted by the Word. I saw counselors growing and learning from the Word. I grew and learned from the Word, and from the example of a fellow pastor. I was approached more than once with very good questions from counselors to campers to servant-event folks. It gave me an overwhelming sense that what we are doing does matter. The Word works. That’s the motto of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation. It’s a good one to live by.
On a different note, I also attended part of the Iowa District East Convention. It was good in many respects. Rev. Brian Saunders, long time friend and acquaintance, was narrowly elected District President. Rev. Dr. Matt Rueger was elected 1st V.P. I don’t know the guy who was elected 2nd V.P. I’m glad I went though.
Now it is time to get to work again (at least for a couple of weeks…until vacation!) Preach the Word!