“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3–7)
Fifteen years ago today I was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry at Concordia Theological Seminary. My first call was to serve as an admission counselor at CTS, my alma mater. My pastor at the time, Rev. Richard Radtke, ordained me. My dear friend and colleague, Scott Stiegemeyer, was ordained in the same service. Dr. Dean Wenthe, the new president at CTS, preached for the service.
Truth be told, that first call was odd as far as calls go. Who gets called to be an admission counselor? While my friends and fellow students debated it in the Commons over coffee or beer, I looked at the call document. My duties in that first call included preaching and teaching, although not as much as I would have liked. It involved a lot of time on the phone and on the road. We visited churches and schools all over the country, and encouraged men (both young and old), to consider studying to be a pastor. I was blessed to be at CTS during a remarkable time of growth. The new faculty brought on in those years would go on to serve the church in many wonderful ways. Some of those names include Dr. Lawrence Rast (or for a more entertaining link, click here), now the president of CTS, and Dr. Charles Gieschen, now the Academic Dean. There were many others.
But probably more than the faculty and staff friendships were the students. As a young pastor (I was 26) I was only a few years older than many of the men I worked with in those years. Some of them to this day remain dear friends and fellow laborers in the Office. Many of those young men (or young in the ministry) would go on to help with wonderful groups like Higher Things. Others would serve in parishes throughout the country, or would serve as military chaplains. Still others entered academia, either at one of our schools or at our church body’s publishing house. I am blessed to know all of them and count them as friends.
In 1999 Messiah Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, called me to be their pastor. Kathryn and I arrived, young and full of energy. Or at least full of something! This dear parish served me and my family for twelve years, as I learned what it means to be a parish pastor. They were blessed by all my “newbie” mistakes, as well as the enthusiasm of the young. We started a school together, Christ Lutheran Academy. I was able to serve near one of my other dear friends from seminary, Rev. John M. Berg at Lamb of God Lutheran Church. For many years we were the “Kenosha Synod.” When my fifth anniversary rolled around, my thesis advisor and friend, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, came and preached for it.
It was also in Kenosha that Kathryn and I had four children, and two others who died before being born. I suffered from major clinical depression while serving Messiah, and they stood by me through the darkest time in my life. I am literally alive today because of the love and care that so many in Kenosha lavished upon my family and I. They gave me time to heal, at great expense to the congregation. The tenth anniversary of my ordination actually took place right at the end of my disability time, when my friend and classmate, Rev. David Petersen, preached for it. HERE is a link to the sermon from that day. And here is probably about the nicest thing written about me, although it still reads like a eulogy. I’m not dead yet!.
I note here that on my 13th anniversary, I had lunch with my buddy, Stiegemeyer. I would have liked a good dose of Indian food today.
So it is that at the dawn of fifteen years of service, that God has turned a new chapter. Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, called me to serve as senior pastor, and I have served here since August 21st, 2011.
What will the new chapter bring? I don’t know. But what I do know is that God’s mercy continues to shine forth, putting people who love us and care for us in so many ways. I am not worthy of this office, but God has placed me in it, and so here I am. God be merciful to me, a sinner.
Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word. Use me as Your instrument – but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all. -Martin Luther’s Sacristry Prayer
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Todd A. Peperkorn