Tag Archives: pastor

+Pastor Ted+

My predecessor here at Messiah died in Christ this morning.  Pastor Gundlach (as we formal Fort Wayne types would call him) or Pastor Ted as his flock called him, served here at Messiah for 21 years, from 1978-1999.  Prior to that, he served congregations in Oshkosh, Janesville, and briefly in Watertown.  Prior to that, he was a Lutheran high school teacher for several years.

The first time I met Ted I think was when they stopped by our house (formerly their house) to drop off a bottle of wine and welcome us to Messiah and to Kenosha.  He and Jane were kind and generous to the upstart pastor who (thought he) knew everything.

Pastor Ted with his first confirmation class at Messiah in 1979.

The next time I saw Ted was at my installation.  I will never forget it.  We were vesting in what was then the youth room, and I had just put on my chasuble.  Red brocade, very liturgical, very very colorful.  Ted walked in, took one look at me, and said, “Oh my.”  Oh my, indeed.

They weren’t members of Messiah anymore, but Ted and his wife, Jane, lived in Racine not to far away.  Jane still does.  Over the last twelve years or so, I have increasingly come to respect Ted and his faithfulness as a pastor here at Messiah.  Twenty-one years is a long time of service.  I’m sure he did things I wouldn’t do.  I’m sure I’ve done things he wouldn’t do.  But he always, always, respected me as the pastor and offered nothing but support and encouragement along the way.  He was and is a model for how an elder pastor can remain in a community and continue to be of service to the parish he loves, and others, even after retirement.

Among the many things that I learned from him over the years, probably the one that has been the most helpful to me has been one he didn’t even know he was doing.  It was such a part of his nature.  He didn’t get bent about titles and overwrought about terminology.  When I first arrived at Messiah, it bugged me that people called him “Pastor Ted”.  I thought that was disrespectful of the Office.  But over the years, I’ve learned that it doesn’t really matter what you’re called.  The question is whether people will receive you as their pastor, and allow you to bring Christ’s mercy to them in their time of need.  People letting you into their lives is a rare gift.  Sometimes it’s more than you want to know.  But it doesn’t matter much what they call you.  That is for certain.

Some time ago Pastor Ted was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, Parkinson’s has to be one of the most painful and just plain ugly diseases on earth.  I’ve seen many with it, including my former Professor Kurt Marquart, and Dr. Ron Feuerhahn.  Near the end, Ted was a shadow of his former self.  It seemed like this big man was wasting away into nothing right in front of us.  I can only imagine how hard the last six months have been for Ted’s family.

But through feeding tubes and tracheostomies, the “death rattle” in his lungs, lost hearing aids and long nights, through pain and what I can only describe as a lingering death, through it all, Ted confessed Christ and the resurrection of the dead.  He brought comfort as much as He received it.  And He always received it.  I don’t know how many pastors were visiting him.  I wouldn’t blame his family if they got tired of the pastor parade.  But Ted was always kind, somehow, even when he was barely with us at all.

The last time I saw him, Wednesday, he was pretty much unresponsive from my observation.  Maybe there was an eye blink or a little look.  I’m not sure.  We talked about some of the things that had happened in his lifetime, wept, prayed and sang.  Our song for the week here at Christ Lutheran Academy was quite apropos.  It’s what I sang to Pastor Ted, Jane, Sarah, and Daniel.  It’s worth passing along here:

Evening and morning,Sunset and dawning,
Wealth, peace, and gladness,
Comfort in sadness:These are Thy works;
all the glory be Thine!
Times without number,Awake or in slumber,
Thine eye observes us,
From danger preserves us,
Causing Thy mercy upon us to shine.

Father, O hear me,Pardon and spare me;
Calm all my terrors,
Blot out my errors
That by Thine eyes they may no more be scanned.
Order my goings,Direct all my doings;
As it may please Thee,    Retain or release me;
All I commit to Thy fatherly hand.

Ills that still grieve me
Soon are to leave me;
Though billows tower,
And winds gain power,
After the storm the fair sun shows its face.
Joys e’er increasing
And peace never ceasing:
These shall I treasure
And share in full measure
When in His mansions God grants me a place.

To God in heaven
All praise be given!
Come, let us offer
And gladly proffer
To the Creator the gifts He doth prize.
He well receiveth
A heart that believeth;
Hymns that adore Him
Are precious before Him
And to His throne like sweet incense arise. (LSB 726, Paul Gerhardt)

There are other things that I’d like to write about concerning Ted, but they will wait for another time.  Suffice it to say that he was a man who stood as a sinner before God, yet righteous for Jesus’ sake.  Anything that God has used me for here at Messiah may be credited squarely on his shoulders for all of his hard work over so many years.   I will miss him.  I’m sure you will, too.

-Pastor Todd Peperkorn

My memory of Pastor Ness

I spend a lot of time with children in my daily work as a pastor. A lot of that comes from our congregation’s joint school, Christ Lutheran Academy. We also have a pre-school, Little Lambs Learning Center, and I have first communion/confirmation instruction for 4-7th grade. Plus I do things on the side for Higher Things from time to time.

Lately, nearly every time I interact with these different groups of young people, I think about on of my former pastors. His name was Dale Ness, and he was my pastor from the time I was ten until I was about thirteen. I went to school at the one room school his congregation operated, and I am a Lutheran pastor today to a great extent because of him. There are others that were influential as well, but certainly he was the first.

Pastor Ness loved children. He had eight children himself, and so there house was a constant barrage of comings and goings, with children covering a range of infant through high school. Our school was small, and he was the main teacher (as well as pastor, but that’s another story).

My memories of Pastor Ness are pretty clear. We sang. We prayed. We did memory work. He drove a goofy old truck named Hiawatha. He loved us, and we feared and loved him. He was strict but somehow managed to portray a deep passion for the little ones entrusted to his care. He played with us in the playground, and he managed to model and instill the love of Christ into a little odd collection of sinners at Holy Cross Lutheran School.

He was far from perfect. He had a temper, he worked himself nearly to death, and he had real problems with burning himself out from too much work.

Tragically, the church was forced to close the school, and it nearly killed him. Not long after he resigned from the Holy Ministry, moved to Idaho from Missouri (where I grew up), and was killed in an accident while he was working on his car (maybe it was Hiawatha; I don’t know).

I think about him often as I go about my daily work as a pastor of a church with lots of children. I think about how much he shaped me as a person and as a pastor today. I pray someday that God would use me to bring the Gospel of hope to little ones just as he did.

The pastor and the congregation

It is very good, from time to time, to reflect as a Church about the nature of who we are in Christ, and of where and how God works in our midst, giving us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

For Lutherans, we are very familiar and comfortable with phrases like “Word and Sacrament,” “Means of Grace,” and the like. But what do they mean, and in what way do they relate to our common life together in Christ?

Simply put, God works through means to accomplish His will. His will is that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He accomplishes His Holy will by sending forth His Word to create and sustain faith when and where He pleases. This Holy Word comes to us in the Scriptures, in the preaching of the Gospel, Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. That is where God promises to be found, and where He promises to be at work for us and in us, bringing us to heaven to enjoy His divine favor forever.

This Word, which is Jesus Christ, does not simply come randomly or haphazardly. God has appointed (set apart, ordained) certain men into the Office of the Holy Ministry so that His Word would be faithfully proclaimed and given out according to His command and promise. Our Lutheran forefathers put it this way:

So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake (Augsburg Confession, Article V).

In other words, God set up the Holy Ministry in order that faith would spring forth, be nurtured and grown by His Holy Word.

So what does this have to do with us, the saints at Messiah Lutheran Church? What it has to do with us is that it shapes our understanding of the relationship between the pastor and the congregation. Here are some of the more obvious ways:

  • The pastor is not the boss, CEO, employee, dictator, Pope, cheerleader, chief salesman, butcher, baker or candlestick maker. He’s the pastor. Probably the best and most biblical analogy is that of a steward. The pastor is the steward or caretaker for the mysteries of God (as St. Paul writes), and it is his responsibility to give out the gifts of God for the benefit of all. Another good analogy is that of shepherd. The pastor cares for the sheep, guards them, feeds them, and serves them.
  • In the same vein, the congregation or its members are not the boss, stockholders, slaves, cheerleaders, spectators, butchers, bakers or candlestick makers. The congregation is the congregation. The best and most biblical analogies are that of the Bride or of the Flock. As the Bride the congregation received from the Bridegroom (Christ) what He has to give, and returns thanksgiving and praise to him in word and deed. As the flock the congregation receives what the Good Shepherd (Christ) has to give, follows His lead, receives His protection, eats and drinks what He gives for their wellbeing.

Now understanding these two realities makes things both simpler and more complicated. It makes things simpler because it helps us to understand that the congregation and the pastor serve each other in different ways, not in an adversarial or competitive relationship, but in a relationship of mutual love. The pastor has an obligation to care for the congregation, and in return the congregation has an obligation to care for the pastor. When either one breaks down, the whole thing goes awry.

The bottom line, of course, is that Christ is Lord of the Church, and that we are all His heirs and children. Just as in a body different parts have different roles, so also in the Church, the Body of Christ, we each have different roles to play, all to His glory and for the benefit of our neighbor.

Yours in Christ,

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Pastor, Messiah Lutheran Church

[From the January 2008 Messiah's Messenger]