A Pastor’s Lament

I recently found out that after 6 1/2 years of offering Holy Communion every Sunday with the Chalice, one of my former congregations has voted to restore the older practice, which was Communion on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, and using individual cups again. What a shame. Nothing can be done, of course, since I have been entrusted with a different congregation. But it is almost enough to make a grown man weep.  Luther’s words in his lectures on Galatians hit home this week when I came across them:

Here you should learn that pious preachers have this lot in life. In addition to the persecution that they have to endure from the wicked and ungrateful world and the hard labor that they experience in planting churches, they are forced to see the quick overthrow of what they had taught for so long in its purity, at the hands of the fanatics, who thereupon lord itover them and get the upper hand. This causes more anguish for godly ministers than any persecution by tyrants. Therefore let anyone who is reluctant to bear such contempt and reproach not become a minister of the Gospel; or if he is one, let him turn over his ministry to someone else. As you see, we today are despised and troubled–outwardly by tyrants, inwardly by those whom we have liberated with the Gospel, as well as by false brethren. But this is our comfort and glory: being called by God, we have a promise of eternal life, and we look for that reward which “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9). For when Christ, the chief Shepherd, is manifested we shall obtain the unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4); and even in this world He will not let us starve.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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20 Responses to A Pastor’s Lament

  1. Paul,
    Should I assume this took place during the interim?

  2. Bad Ice says:

    betcha a beer the baptism font is back in the corner.

  3. dmj says:

    The Sunday after I left a previous parish, the Chalice, introduced not long after my arrival there, was shelved. It has not been used since. Nothing I can do about it either. Sad.

  4. Rev. Shane R. Cota says:

    That shows you long some people resent good things and just wait for a chance to get rid of them. Your passage from Luther was interesting. I’m seriously pondering his advice in this statment: “Therefore let anyone who is reluctant to bear such contempt and reproach not become a minister of the Gospel; or if he is one, let him turn over his ministry to someone else.” I’m about ready to heed the advice of the last part.

  5. Rev. Fr. John W. Berg says:

    Though not at all on the scale of what you suffered my former parish took the beautifully carved Italian corpus (5 ft.) of our Lord that my parents donated off of the cross and into a closet so that the chancel cross would be Protestantly proper, bare.

    Anyway, I offer this to you and to Fr. Cota. Elector John wished Dr. Luther’s advice on what to do because the Emperor forbade the Lutherans from preaching in pulpits in Augsburg when they were gathered there for the presentation of the Augustana. Luther concluded in this May 15, 1530 letter,

    “If this (convincing the emperor otherwise) accomplishes nothing, then one has to let force prevail over right. We have done what we ought to do, and are excused” (AE 49, 299).

    You are excused.

  6. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Bad Ice–I actually never did move the font.

    Fr. Berg, thank you for your words of comfort. It is very sad to hear what they did at your former parish. What an insult. It gives the sense that it is “our church” and we will do what we want with it.

    Bryce, yes–during the interim.

    Shane, I hear ya. However, I am bearing it well. It was not for lack of teaching, let me tell you (lest some one come on and try to say that I was heavy handed). I taught for six years about the blessings of weekly communion. Apparently their ears were not open to it.

    I’m sure I made many mistakes, and maybe the next guy will correct those. Having weekly communion was no mistake though.

  7. Dear Paul:

    I guess they showed you.

    Maybe they see denying themselves the body and blood of Christ every other week as a form of fasting. By any chance, does the Electronic Edition of LSB have Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More”? It would seem to be the most appropriate song to sing to Jesus under the circs.

    I do think this kind of thing (which is rampant in the LCMS) is part of the “mark of Cain” we inherited from the very beginning of the LCMS itself – the idea that the sheep oversee the shepherd. This leads to the “this is our church, who do you think you are?” attitude. The pastor is almost always an “outsider” and unless people respect his office, they will invariably resist any change – no matter how salutary.

    Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom. And while his problems were not caused by voters assemblies, the devil found a way to use the powers that be of that day and age to try to silence his golden Gospel-proclaiming mouth.

    Jesus has always made enemies. Some things never change.

  8. Armin Wenz says:

    I agree with Larry.
    There are things which should not be decided by the parish since they are decided by Scripture and our Confessions.
    It is not that they make themselves Lord over their assigned pastor, but they make themselves Lord over the very authroities the Lutheran Church is built upon.
    Wieting’s book should be distributed in all Lutheran parishes around the world. Some will wake up. We can’t expect them all to wake up, though.

  9. Paul:

    That is a low blow!

    You said it would almost make a grown man weep. Thankfully so. I likely would have said: “It would make a grown man declare ‘Anathema sit.'”

    Larry’s right about “the mark of Cain” that the LCMS has regarding sheep ruling the shepherd. That mark seems especially to be the indelible character of the Midwestern parishes of the Synod, though it is found in all regions.

    I am sure that your new parish will hear your thorough and guiding statements about weekly offering of the Sacrament of the Altar. May they recognize the authority that your words carry, so that Christ’s words stand true for them: “He who hears you, hears Me.”

    LTZ

  10. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”
    – Numbers 21:5 (ESV)

    So the Jews grumbled about [Jesus], because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
    – John 6:41 (ESV)

  11. Paul,
    This isn’t the first instance that I know of when, during an interim, a congregation has moved to change from every week to every other week communion. I am of the mind, and I think all good interim pastors should be of the mind, that no “major” changes like this should be made during an interim. The interim pastor is there in order to “bridge the gap.” An important ministry but not one for changes to be made.

  12. Bad Ice says:

    Bryce,

    I agree. Does the same thought go for contemporary worship?
    i.e. if the congregation has contemporary worship once a month should the vacancy pastor just roll with it?

  13. Chad Myers says:

    Why isn’t there a norm for this? Why, when I go from one LCMS church to another, do I get different practices?

    I’m honestly asking this, I’m not trying to poke eyes. LCMS has standardized on other things in the liturgy, why not this particular thing?

  14. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Chad–it’s a good question, and one that deserves an adequate answer. Our polity ensures the autonomy of the local congregation, meaning that the Synod cannot legislate or mandate anything for the local parish. They can only encourage them to do certain things. This is true even of good practices like weekly communion. It is left up to the individual pastor to guide and lead his parish through teaching and prayer to a better practice. It makes things dififcult for pastors who want to implement these good practices, because the burden of proof falls on him.

    It is not necessarily a bad thing that we are encouraged to teach and exhort but it is sad that a congregation can just decide, on a whim, to discontinue a practice, indeed, to go against the Confessions of our Church! It is ludicrous, and one of the downfalls of not having some sort of episcopal polity, or at least a council who can say: “In this region, these churches shall do this or that.” A church order, among other things, ought to say make these sorts of recommendations to local parishes.

  15. Bad Ice says:

    To give insight to my own question.

    1. The pastor does not have time to teach.

    2. Who knows if the called pastor will undo the change(?)..adding to even more confusion.

    3. If the pastor can’t roll with it he should not accept the vacancy.

  16. Chad Myers says:

    @Rev. Paul:

    I see, that explains it a lot, thanks!

    There are obviously lots of Pastors who share your view point. Is there a way you could form an order within the LCMS?

    It seems that it would be confusing for a practicing LCMS Lutheran who happens to be traveling or moves to another town, to not know what to expect (within reason) at the neighborhood church. However, if there were a (I’m just making this up) LCMS Church (Order of the Eucharist) or something, then he/she might know what to expect.

    But then you might get fragmentation and “us vs. them” within the LCMS and that would obviously be bad.

    Indeed there is no simple answer to this except some sort of voluntary order within the Synod and that only comes with education and understanding among brothers. And I’m guessing this is exactly what you’re trying to do, so… keep on keeping on!

  17. Brockman says:

    Remain steadfast. Keep teaching. Bow your head silently in sighing and prayer. Repeat daily.

  18. I just typed this out last night for a future blog post. Wasn’t expecting to use it quite this soon:

    From the preface to Luther’s Small Catechism:

    For a person not to prize highly the Sacrament is tantamount to saying that he has no sin, no flesh, no devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell. That is to say, he believes in none of these although he is overwhelmed by them and is the devil’s possession twice over. On the other hand, he needs no grace, life, paradise, kingdom of heaven, Christ, God, or any good thing. Surely, if he recognized how much evil is in him and how much he needs all the good things he lacks, he would not neglect the Sacrament, which gives help against such evil and bestows so much goodness. He will not need to be forced by law to the Sacrament but will himself come running in a hurry to the Lord’s Table, constrained within himself and pressing you to give him the Sacrament.

  19. Bad Ice,
    Sorry, didn’t see your question up there to me. A short (and not explained) answer in my opinion would be: yes.

  20. The vacancy pastor should probably just maintain the status quo. If the congregation has odd worship practices (and many do) a vacancy is probably not the best time to address it. Pulling out the weeds during a vacancy will likely uproot the good crops at the same time. A vacancy is already stressful and a congregation may well be vulnerable at this time.

    By the same token, if a pastor could not in good conscience lead such a service (and I would count myself in that category) – he should not accept that particular vacancy pastorate rather than accept it and then make changes.

    I would say that the only exception would be practices that violate scripture (such as the use of elements other than bread and wine for communion), these should be changed immediately.

    Just my two cents…

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