Place your Trust in God

Beloved Advent

If there is one thing a retiring pastor wants for the flock he loves it is that they will place their trust in God as the transition of pastors begins. He prays that by holding fast to God’s Word and cherishing and preserving a right understanding and use of the Sacraments, the congregation will never need to worry about its future.

But worry we do. Trust is a rare commodity today. A recent article in the WSJ claims that societal trust is on the decline. Among millennials, the article claims, 88% do not trust the media, and 75% of them do not trust the government. I don’t think that our older generations are too far behind in those numbers. Is this one of the reasons why the Christian Church is suffering? Can we be trusted?

Can we trust our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to provide us with a pastor who is faithful in Word and Sacrament, meeting the qualifications that the Apostle Paul lays out in I Timothy 3:2-8: “Now an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, apt to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect…He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

We live in a changing world and our Missouri Synod is much like a besieged city on a hill. She has many breaches in her walls. The enemies are many: The culture religion of America (reformed and “enthusiast” theology– you need to know the meaning of those words); secularism (anything goes); anti-clericalism (what is the good of all that learning?); formalism (“playing” high church with overdone religious pomp and ceremony); apathy (why work so hard and sacrifice so much to gain so little?).

Yet God has given us some very good reasons to trust. First, we have a congregation that deeply cares about the preservation and promotion of God’s pure Word and holy Sacraments. Advent has been challenged various ways in the past by assaults upon her walls and she has not given way to the devil’s devices and schemes. We also have faithful leadership, a great call committee, a faithful assistant pastor and a soon-to-be faithful vacancy pastor. They are alert watchmen on the walls, ready and willing to sound the alarm at the approach of danger. We have a circuit visitor and a district president that are both aware and supportive of our Lutheran convictions. Above all, we have a gracious God who does not forget His promises or abandon His sheep.

Although we hope and pray that we might have good reasons to trust in others, the other side of that coin of trust is trustworthiness. For a congregation to be preserved and protected, it is also necessary to be trustworthy Christians. What that means is more than just coming faithfully to church and keeping the offerings going so the church does not fall into financial trouble. It is that the people of God make it possible for their pastor to be a faithful pastor.

If a pastor must be above reproach, then you should preserve and promote his reputation. Invite your friends and acquaintances to come to church and welcome your pastor into your life. If he is only supposed to have one wife, help his wife to be accepted as a real person and make her church life as happy as possible. If he is to have his children in submission and full of respect, then don’t be judgmental towards them. (Pastor’s kids often get held to a different standard and it can easily make them rebel against the faith). If he should be gentle, be gentle with him.
If he is not to be a lover of money, don’t make him a pauper. Show him your trustworthiness by the way you hold your faith dear in your hearts. Support him and encourage him as though he were your son or brother so that he will trust you.

Advent, you are a precious people and I will always hold you dear to my heart. You have trusted me along with the One who has sent me. Be alert to the world and always be prepared to rush into any breach of the church’s fortress wall, but also rest secure knowing that God will give you someone who will be a faithful shepherd.

Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Your Pastor,

John W. Fiene

P.S. I will be leaving on Sabbatical January 1 and be back with you on March 15th. God bless your Christmas and I look forward to celebrating the holy days of Easter with you all.