Today, I Give Thanks For Our Faithful Pastors—They Were Died For, Too!
By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. – 2 Corinthians 7:13
I remember watching The Exorcist when I was a kid and being frustrated. I didn’t like that God’s Word didn’t work like a magic incantation to cast out the demon in the poor girl. Why did His Word need to be repeated over and over? Why did it seem like speaking His Word from Scripture was like shooting BBs at the Incredible Hulk? Where was the rock from David’s sling to take down Goliath? That didn’t take stone after stone!
But I also felt the struggle of the priest. One of the biggest parts of the plot was how much that priest was struggling with his faith, long before having to step into the room to face off with the powerful demonic forces at work in the victim. As a child, I didn’t understand his struggle. It made no sense to me.
The biggest reason that was alien to me was my father. It was because of him and the men he had around him—many of whom were pastors—that God placed into my life to speak faithful words into my ears for years that caused me to be relatively unwavering in my faith in Jesus Christ. (Now, my faith in the church is another matter, as anyone who knows me can tell you.)
As I was reading through Scripture for work, I ran across the passage above from 2 Corinthians and thought about it—how blessed and rich are we who have faithful pastors who unerringly preach Jesus Christ crucified for our sins every week? And as much as those pastors can be bashful or shy away from praise or critique, my next thought was this…
When was the last time you sincerely thanked your faithful pastor for delivering the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into your ears every Sunday, in order that he might be refreshed by the faith given to his fellow believers through God’s Word? I’m talking about giving thanks with no strings attached—no specifics or analysis of his sermon(s). Just simply thanking him, out of your recognition that he stays out of the way of the delivery of God’s refreshing and life-giving Word of peace and forgiveness of a crucified and resurrected Jesus for you, every week.
These faithful servants of God bear burdens of which many parishioners are completely unconscious. I’ve joked for years with pastor friends about their “only one workday a week” employment. It’s funny, and they laugh, because it’s so stunningly inaccurate. But also because I think these faithful men are so easily taken for granted. The number of hours they dedicate to bringing Jesus’ forgiveness and comfort and freedom to people all around them is immeasurable.
They prepare for every Sunday morning to stand up in front of the congregation and say something that strengthens faith in Christ and doesn’t take away with one hand what he’s giving with the other (law-Gospel-law). Homebound visits, hospitals, contacting those members who haven’t attended much recently, meetings with other pastors, meetings with counsel members at the church, hymnody and music selection, private confession and absolution, and on and on… if they were punching a time clock, there would need to be some kind of state regulation requiring additional compensation for that much overtime!
And we haven’t even gotten to the burdens of knowing the actual specific sins of the sheep of their flock! I have been a head elder at a church before. There were things I had to know for that position in order to support the pastor. Know this: the knowledge the pastor bears is heavy.
I’m ever amazed that these faithful men don’t wither like the priest in The Exorcist. They are often cheerful, and humble. They don’t like to talk about their work. In my experience, they’re typically uncomfortable with gratitude from their flock—or anyone for that matter.
But don’t let that dissuade you. These are sinful men as well. They are deserving of our gratitude, but even more importantly our prayers. Pray for these good and faithful men. Give thanks to God for their faithfulness and hard work, that they be blessed with faith and peace and abundance of daily bread. Churches so often don’t recognize the work these men put into their office every week, instead treating them like replaceable cogs in a machine. Too many are underpaid and under-appreciated.
Christ came and died for your sins and theirs. They need your graciousness, you reflecting Christ to them, as much as any sinful neighbor you may know.
It is Christ Himself Who has died to save these men as well as the rest of the flock, which is me and you. You are rescued from sin, death and the devil, as well as him, that we may all be with Jesus in heaven, together forever.
For myself, let me say here a deep and heartfelt thank you to all you faithful pastors whom I am blessed to call my friends, as well as those of you I have not met. Even though I am not in your congregation, your faithfulness pours out of you even in common friendly gatherings. Your joy and cheerfulness in the face of my sin, your willingness to fight the wolves at the door with ferocity and tenacity, the love you show to those around you is not lost on me. May God for the sake of Christ greatly bless you and yours. May He pour His blessings into your cup with a liberal wrist, even to overflowing. You may not ask for it, ever… but your willingness to always help us sinners lying in the ditches of this vale of tears is utterly needed and, unfortunately, rarer than it should be.
Thank you. I thank God for you. May you be blessed with abundant peace and faith and joy, in Jesus Christ, even to life everlasting. Amen.