This past Sunday, I was privileged and blessed to have the wonderful congregation I serve show me their appreciation by providing a wonderful luncheon in my honor after Bible Study. In addition to the fabulous spread of delicious food and desserts, my wife and I received numerous cards and gifts from so many. As we have been in the past, we were again simply blown away by the love and generosity shown to us. It is no overstatement to say that I have to be one of the most blessed pastors in the world to be serving among such a wonderful, generous, and faithful group of God's children. I thank God daily for the opportunity to serve His Church in this place and, even though serving in His Kingdom can sometimes be painful and perplexing, the blessings I experience here far outweigh the struggles and suffering.
And here's why I say that: It's not because of the love shown toward my family and me and it's not because of the generous gifts given to us. Those things are wonderful, to be sure, and more appreciated than words could possibly describe. But, there's much more to it than that. There is here in this place a genuine love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and a sincere hunger for the Gifts He delivers through His Holy Word and Sacraments.
I heard a brother pastor say recently that he discourages the congregation he serves from celebrating Pastor Appreciation Day. I understand where he's coming from. He doesn't want the people he serves to be focused on him. It is not him whom they should appreciate, but the One in whose stead and by whose command he serves them. This is most certainly true.
At the same time, however, there is nothing wrong with God's children showing their pastor appreciation for doing that which he is called and ordained to do among them. In doing so, what they're really doing is showing their appreciation for Jesus. No, I'm not claiming that the pastor is Jesus - far from it, believe me! But, he is Jesus' representative in that place; an undershepherd of the Good Shepherd. And, when the pastor serves in the stead and by the command of His Lord Jesus Christ, he is not only bringing Jesus to the people, but "being" Jesus to them. This is especially true in the Divine Service, when the pastor stands in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) and speaks in the first person singular to God's children: "I forgive you all your sins . . . This is My Body, My Blood," etc., because Jesus is actually speaking through him.
All of this is to say that I am quite confident that the love and generosity I am blessed to receive from those I serve is motivated by the sincere love these beloved have for their Lord and Savior. It is pure joy to be serving among such faithful people and I am thankful to have the opportunity. I love them every bit as much as they love me, and both their love for me and my love for them is rooted in our mutual love for the One who humbled Himself unto death - even death on a cross!