Who needs you?

Like most pastors, I am beginning to look ahead to Epiphany and its season.  While I am attempting to show the world that Christmas is not over (not for another ten days) by continuing to say “Merry Christmas” to folks and I know and friends I meet, and while the Christmas Season has become my daily routine of prayer and meditation, my administrative time is not filled with visions of sugar plumbs – if ever it was – but of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

I am familiarizing myself again with the Magi, Cana, and the mystery of the Transfiguration.  I am organizing the readings, the missallettes, and the ornaments of Epiphany.  I am tossing around the question of whether I hold the feast on Jan. 6th (Thursday) or transfer it to the following Sunday. (Probably the later since I think its too late to prepare the congregation for a adhoc (though it ought not be adhoc) service on Jan. 6th.)

In addition, I am thinking on how to resurrect among the Lutherans here the practice of the Christians having their homes blessed during the season of Epiphany.  I’ve talked about it to the adult Bible class and I’ve even blessed a few homes of new members as they joined the congregation and of a few long standing members who have moved to a new home.  But how do I introduce it to people in such a way that they know that they don’t have to have it done, but that I am willing – even eager – to do it?

As I ponder this I began to write up an explanation in Sunday’s bulletin about it.  I wrote something to the effect that we have our homes blessed annually during Epiphany (on Epiphany is even better) to pray for Christ’s blessing on our families, homes, and possessions.  We pray for peace in the house, for faith, hope, and love.  As I wrote, the question popped in my head, “Why would they want me to do this?”  Don’t they already pray for all this? Don’t they bless their homes daily with prayer and the reading of Scripture?  Yes.  So why would they bother to call pastor to make an appointment for him to come and bless their home? Especially when it’s never been done before.

No reason.  It just seemed another unneeded rite to bolster churchliness, giving pastor yet another straw to grasp at to build up his sense of indispensability.  No reason to have vested pastor show up with a book of prayers and fumble uncomfortably around the home while we stand by and think, “This is nice; unnecessary, but nice.”  The dad of the family – or the mom – could easily do this. Why should I, the pastor, bother with trying to get into people’s homes to give them a blessing they probably don’t care about anyway? Why should I go through all the angst of writing up reasons trying to cajole and encourage people to participate in something neither they nor their fathers nor their grandfathers did (though perhaps their great-grandfathers did).

Then it occurred to me: Because that’s my duty.  My duty is to bless.  For to this I was called.  For this I was sent.  I bless the people of God with His Word from birth to death and all the stops in between.  I bring them His Word – not just a sermon or a meditation or even “just” the Bible – but the Word made flesh that dwells with us.  I pray intercessory prayers for them as my Lord has taught me to do.  I stand between them and unbelief, perhaps even between them and the devil.  I cast out their demons and fill them with the Holy Spirit through my ministrations, as the Lord has decreed and ordered.

This isn’t a “high view” of the office, it’s the biblical view.  For as the Father sent the Son, so the Son sent His ministers, His stewards.

Not only so, but it occurred to me that I am not – bear with me Walther – sent or called to a congregation as such.  Congregations change. Faces appear and disappear.  People come and go. To whom am I sent?  By whom am I called?  Some remain but some are gone.  But the altar remains.  The Word remains. The font remains.  I am installed at a station, a font, pulpit, an altar.  I am sent to a place, not a finite congregation but to a place where people live.  The church/synod structure is the after-thought, not the reason or catalyst, even if it is the means.  Just as the bread and wine are not the reason or the catalyst of the Lord’s body and blood, even if they are the means.

Should all the official book-registered members of my congregation disappear tomorrow, would I pack up and leave, or would I minister daily where I have been sent to those in need of Christ and His blood?  Yes, yes, I am replaceable – infinitely so (hence the title of the post).  But my replaceability (with a better and more suited pastor) ought not, cannot not, must not impede my performance of what it is I have been sent to do: to bless with the Word made flesh.

And so, I will offer to bless the homes of Christians during Epiphany (and anytime they should want it).  Not because my blessing carries more weight than that of another, but because I have been called to give a blessing, to be a blessing.  Some of those Christians I and the world refer to as “members”; some not. But all of them are those for whom the Christ was born. All of them are those to whom the Christ is made manifest. All of them are those to whom I have been sent. Else I would not go.