In Praise of Pastors’ Wives

Last week I served in the chapel service for Higher Things in Fort Collins, Colorado, and watched all of the other pastors assist with Holy Communion. At this Higher Things event there were somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred pastors present. It is one of the more unusual blessings, that HT has so many pastors able to come, teach, preach, assist with services in various ways, and in a phrase, to be there.

The sacrifice isn’t really theirs, however. It is their wives (and children) who most often make the sacrifice.

Between serving in three districts, working in admissions, and graduating from both a seminary and a Concordia prep school (Go Seward Bulldogs!), I know a lot of pastors, and with that, a lot of pastor’s wives. Now my lens is clearly shaded toward that most awesome of all pastor’s wives, namely, my own wife. She has been by my side for twenty-one years, and almost all of those years have been while I was serving as a parish pastor. She is beautiful, passionate in all things, and is awesome. I have, however, seen these “patterns of awesomeness” repeated many, many times over the years, by lots of pastor’s wives. Here are just a few character traits that come to mind today. We could talk about each one, but the list will start to give you the picture:

  • Faithfulness.
  • Sacrificial.
  • Persistence.
  • Honesty.
  • Flexibility.
  • Love.
  • Encouraging.
  • Empathy.
  • Courage.
  • Kindness.

We pastors are not always the wisest when it comes to how we use our time and energy. There are many times when my wife and family seem to get the left-overs. But through it all, God is merciful, the pastor’s family somehow stays together, and there is still food on the table and a bed to sleep on at night. And so much more. The only way I am able to serve the people whom God has entrusted to me is because my wife is by my side.

St. Paul says that an overseer must be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2), and Solomon asks the question, “An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (Prov. 31:10). As I looked out over the thousand young people, pastors, chaperones and others in Fort Collins, it reminded me once again that the Ministry of the Word is never about one person. My wife isn’t a co-pastor or minister in some kind of cheesy way. She is much more than that. She is the one who serves, who loves, and who does all these things without anyone even seeing it, for the most part. That makes it all the more amazing.

Yes, I know pastor’s wives are sinners. Yes, I know sometimes they are a burden, just like everyone can be at some point or another. But generally speaking, husbands will serve their wife and family better by holding one another up, and by covering one another’s sins. I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible, even.

So there you go, Wives of Awesomeness. You know who you are. This pastor salutes you, as do your husbands, and the whole church. And if anyone ever makes light of the burdens you bear and the sacrifices you make, send them to me. We will straighten them out real quick.

The Bread That Does Not Run Out

Wednesday of Higher Things, (July 27, 2016)

1 Kings 17:8-16

TITLE: “The Bread That Does Not Run Out”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Do you know what it is to be hungry? I don’t mean I’m so hungry I could eat a fourth donut. Have you lived at a time when you did not know where your next meal comes from, or even if there will be one? Many in our world know the life of this widow from Zarephath. Many know what it means to tighten the belt one more notch, to give food to their children but not to themselves. For us Americans, It is far more likely that we will die from overeating than it is from starvation.

But here she is before you. This woman, this widow and her son. Her husband is dead. She is preparing her last meal for her and her son. She might as well be condemned. Can you feel her sadness and despair? Two sticks. That’s what she’s missing. Just two sticks. Put them together, start the fire and her life will burn out with her son and with the bread.

This is your life, if your life is only made up of what you can cobble together for yourself. You may not be starving, but you do long for a life that is full and abundant. You long for the daily bread that you need to live, but know that even with all you have, it will never be enough. No matter how much you consume, someday the apple will be like ash in your mouth. Some day, you will die, for that is the way of life under the curse of sin.

But for the widow, Elijah gives hope. “Do not fear,” he says in the words of the angels. The bread that the Lord makes for Elijah and the widow and her son will not run out. It is as if he prays the Psalm for her, “You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Ps. 145:16) The widow and her son live. God gives hope to the hopeless. This bread that will not run out is life for them, real life.

Do you see yourself in this widow and her son? You are not here, in God’s house, because you look great, feel great, or have your life all perfect and tidy., You are not here because you were born into the right family or have the appropriate color of skin, whatever that may be. You are not here because you live in the right town, or the right part of the country, or the right country at all. There is nothing in you that makers you worthy to receive the mercies of God from His hand.

No, you are here because God feeds you with the bread of life, the bread that lasts for all the ages to come. You are here because Jesus Christ opens His hands to you and shows you the wounds, indeed bears the wounds of the cross for you for all time. You are here because Jesus Christ hungers and thirsts for you, that you would receive His righteousness as only He can give.

And according to the Word of the Lord, it is His own body that you eat and His own blood that you drink. And because of that, it is not just that you receive life. A life apart from God is no life at all. No, in receiving His own flesh and blood, the bread of life, you receive the life of God Himself. The hymn says “Thou hast desired Thy life for man” (LSB 834:1), and it is true. God put two sticks together on the cross so that you would live from that bread which never runs out.

God desires that you would live in Him and He in you. That is your hope, that is your future, that is the very bread you eat.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

Thoughts After Orientation

For those of you who don’t know, this summer I began to study for the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching degree at the Aquinas Institute of Theology. This is a decision that was a long time in coming, and helps to fulfill a longtime dream of mine to get back into the classroom not as a teacher, but as a student. We just finished our three day Orientation class here in St. Louis, and I am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home. I thought it might be worthwhile to put down some of my initial thoughts about the experience, and establish a sort of baseline of my experience here, and where it will lead.

Frankly, it’s hard to begin on how to summarize my thoughts. After drinking from a firehouse for three days, I am a bit, uh, sated. However, I’ll give it my best shot.

THE PLACES

St. Louis

For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in St. Charles, Missouri, which is just across the river from St. Louis. It is a special treat for me to have a reason to go home, especially since none of my family live here anymore. Between this and my work on the Board of Regents at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I should be in St. Louis about half a dozen times a year.

A few of the cohort check out Ted Drewes on Chippewa

 

Quite simply, I love St. Louis. It has always been one of my favorite cities, and not just because I grew up here. The sights, the sounds, the food, the drinks, the sports (Go Cards!), all of them are a part of my DNA, and I am thrilled to have an excuse to be here for a time. Except for the humidity. There is no good reason for humidity. Ugh.

Aquinas Institute of Theology

Aquinas is a Dominican (Roman Catholic) school. They train pastors, and offer several other degrees, but in many ways are best known for their DMIN program, which has been in existence for about 35 years. The campus is entirely housed in a converted adding machine factory, and is right next to St. Louis University, with whom they often collaborate. Somehow, the managed to pull off making a building that’s basically a big box into something that is intimate, professional, and Ecclesial. We can learn from them, because they have done it right. I’ll talk more about it in the future, I’m sure, but suffice it to say right now that I really like the space and how it is used.

The Chapel at Aquinas, with Fr. Dan’s backside.

The Motherhouse

image
My room at the Motherhouse.

Most of the students spent the week at the CSJ Motherhouse. This is a retreat house that is run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. I don’t really know anything about the space or the order at this time. I think they said there were seventeen nuns that live on campus. It is a beautiful old building, probably dating from the 1920s or so. They were kind, hospitable, and the meals were fantastic. What more can you ask for?

THE PROGRAM

The DMIN Program is rigorous. I can see that already. It uses a cohort system, so the eleven of us that began the program together will take all of our classes together, work on projects together, listen to and critique each other’s sermons, and kind of do everything together. At this point I am glad to say that I like everyone, and I pray they feel the same way!

Our first professor is named Fr. Greg Heille, O.P. He is a kind man, both meticulous and articulate. I expect he will get us on the right path, and help to blow out the dust of academic writing that many of us are felling.

One of my big concerns coming into this program was whether I will be able to be true to my confession as a Lutheran. At this point I would say certainly yes, and that in many ways they welcome it.

Fr. Greg Heille teaches on the Good Samaritan

THE PEOPLE

The real joy of the week was the people. There are eleven of us in this cohort, and it is diverse, much more so that one might even expect. We can be divided up in many different ways. 10 Catholics, 1 Pentecostal and 1 Lutheran. Or 10 men and 1 woman (which, FYI, is one of the Catholics). Or two members of religious orders and 9 who were not. Or 8 North Americans, 1 Canadian, and 2 Nigerians. Or 5 parish priests, 2 pastors, 1 hospital chaplain, 1 permanent deacon, 1 lay ecclesial minister, and 1 Pastoral Associate for Adult Faith Formation.

But despite the various differences, it is actually our commonalities that are more interesting. All eleven have a deep desire to proclaim the Gospel (although what is the “Gospel” for each remains to be seen). Each person in their own way, sees preaching as a craft that can be learned, worked on, and improved, while at the same time, recognizing that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work through each. My impression thus far is that there is a fairly broad view in terms of the them-political spectrum, at least in Roman Catholic terms. But my familiarity with modern day Rome is quite limited, and I’m sure I’ll spend a great deal of time learning.

It is certainly fair to say that we are still getting to know each other. I am very much looking forward to that process, and think it may be the best part of the whole thing. I did not expect that.

THE LUTHERAN IN THE MOSTLY CATHOLIC ROOM

This is really the interesting and in some ways funny part of the whole thing. I am a Lutheran through and through. That is very much my DNA. But it would also be fair to say that I find that I have a much closer affinity to modern Rome than I do to modern Protestantism, or even more with Rome than with some groups that call themselves Lutheran. There are many Lutherans, even of my same confession (The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod) that would find themselves much closer in terms of practice with the Baptist or Evangelical than with a Roman Catholic. But I am clearly not one of them.A part of what this means is that it was both amusing and gratifying to see that by and large, this little band of Roman Catholics had about as many caricatures of me as I did (do?) of them. Crucifixes, consubstantiation, the authority of the Scriptures, the place of tradition, the Sacraments in general, private confession, vestments, we covered all kinds of Lutheran practices or caricatures. In the same way, I was asking questions throughout orientation about everything from the Monstrance to what it means to be a part of a religious order, to concelebration, to all kinds of peculiar terms that I’ve never even heard of. And I’m probably on the much more educated end of things when it comes to knowing about Catholicism!

The chapel at the Motherhouse.

But what the experience highlighted for me is that we really are separated brothers and sisters in Christ. I could not go to the Eucharist with them, nor would they let me if I tried. This is good and right. It means that words matter, that we have much work to do, and that maybe, just maybe, we can actually learn from each other.

Anyway, these are my initial thoughts on the orientation time. There’s a lot more to say, but I expect it will take time to digest before I can put it into words.

In the meantime, thank you, everyone, for your patience and kindness! We’ll see you next time.image

And go, Cohort of 2016!

Lent 4 – Sermon: “My Two Sons” – Luke 15 1-3, 11-32

Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.

Lent 4c, (March 6, 2016)

Luke 15:11-32

TITLE: “My Two Sons”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter fifteen.

Once upon a time there was a man who had two sons. They were both good and bad, each in their own way. Now the younger son was all fire, full of vim and vigor. When he wanted something, he wanted it now! He didn’t want to wait, and he certainly didn’t want his father or anyone else telling him what he could or couldn’t do. The older son, however, he was ice. He was willing to work, to wait in the shadows and in the quiet, because he knew that sooner or later, he, too, would get what he wanted.

Now the father, he loved both his sons. But each of them seem to have forgotten what it meant to be a son. What is a father to do? Neither happy, both working, but things were about to change. “Father,” said the younger son, “I wish you were dead! I want my inheritance now! Why do I have to wait for you to die when I could be living the good life while I’m young? Give my my inheritance, and I will be gone from this foul place and you will never see me again.”

What was the father to do? If he refused, his younger son would hate him all the more, but if he said yes, then his son would take the money and run.

The father gave in to his younger son, and gave him his inheritance. The son went off to a far away land, and wasted it all on living the so-called “high life”. But money is never enough, and soon enough this younger son didn’t even have that. He found himself lost in a faraway land, with no money, no possessions, no family, no home. His only companion were the pigs, and there was no Wilbur in the lot of them. Disgusting.

Eventually he came to his senses. Eventually he recognized that his father may still have some feelings for him. Perhaps he could negotiate a position in his old household? At least he would not be sleeping with the pigs.

As this younger son was on his way home, the father saw him afar off, and in a way that was very undignified, he want down through he fields to meet his lost son. It seems the love of the father had never stopped, after all. When the son came to him, he said, “Father, I have been a jerk to both God and to you. I am not worthy to be called your son.” At this point the father could not contain himself anymore. He took off his robe and put it over the son’s rags. “Dress up my son like he belongs here!” he called to his servants. “Kill the fatted calf, get out the best china, we’re throwing a party like this house has never seen before!”

But the older son was not happy with this situation. He was still cold as ice, but even ice can burn hot with anger and jealousy. Why should this reprobate, this unfaithful one be let back into the house! He’s made his bed. His life is set. I have remained in this wretched place, waiting for the day when I can do what I want with my friends. And so he remained outside, and would not go in to the party.

What is the father to do? He loves both his sons. But they have each forgotten his love and mercy in their own way. It is as if the words of the Lord from Isaiah 29 have come to life:

“…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV)

When the Father heard the complaint of the son, he said:

“…‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”” (Luke 15:31–32 ESV)

So the first question for you is this. Where do you see yourself in this story? Are you the younger son who sowed his oats in his youth and now comes back in repentance and faith? Are you the older son, ever faithful, ever measuring, ever watchful of the time when you will get what is rightfully yours? Or are you the merciful father, who only wants to love and be reconciled with his children?

There are ways in which we can see ourselves in this story in so many ways. Foolish, self-righteous, merciful, these words fit in so well with different parts of our lives. But remember how Luke started this whole thing off:

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”” (Luke 15:1–2 ESV)

What this parable is here to teach you is that this man, Jesus Christ the righteous, receives sinners and eats with them. That means you. He receives you, warts, sins and all. He sets you up at His holy table, and eats and feasts with you today on His own body and blood. This fellowship, this divine meal puts you in the place of honor. You. It is not because you deserve it somehow. It is because “this man receives sinners and eats with them.”

That, beloved, is the very essence of the Gospel. No matter your sin, Jesus receives you as His own. No matter how broken you are, Jesus receives you as His won. No matter what your past, Jesus receives you as His own. Shame and guilt, sorrow and regret, they all have consumed you in their own way. But Jesus receives you as His own.

I want this to sink into you for a time. Those words drip into your ears and cleanse your very soul. They are light and life and hope in a land of darkness. They are HIs words to you this day. God the Father loves you, sends you His Son, and now because of Him you have a place at the Table, not just for now, but for all eternity.

Come to the Table. It is set for you. Everything is ready. All is forgiven. You have a place here. God loves you and sends His only Son into the wilderness to seek you out. Trust in Him, the God of your salvation.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn