And He Gave Gifts to Men

“When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men. He gave the Apostles, the Prophets, the Evangelists, the Pastors & Teachers” (Ephesians 4:8, 11).

The whole Synod rejoiced this past week at the calling of over 100 men from our Seminaries in St. Louis and Fort Wayne, including four men who will be ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry within our Indiana District this summer. Christ be praised, indeed, for these gifts that He has given to and for His Church on earth! And God bless each of them in this noble task to which they have now been called, even as they complete their final weeks of seminary studies.

Along with this good and positive news, it is sobering to consider that over fifty congregations that solemnly requested a seminary candidate had to be told, “We don’t have a pastor for you.” That disappointment weighs upon our hearts, and so we join with those congregations in doing what the Lord has admonished and encouraged His disciples to do, “pray[ing] earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (St. Matthew 9:38). The truth is that more pastors will be needed in the future, and we must ever rely upon our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus to continue opening His hand and giving His good gifts to men.

The Council of Presidents discussed these things with the seminary faculties, giving attention to what we might do as a Synod to train more men for the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments of Christ Jesus. In the course of our conversation, one individual posed a rhetorical question as an important reminder of what is most essential: “Who is it that provides pastors for the Church?” To be sure, the Lord works through means, and one of the fundamental purposes of the Synod is the preparation of pastors for the congregations of our fellowship. Yet, all of our very best efforts would be for nothing, were it not the case that our dear Lord in His mercy gives gifts to men.

LaRena and I are very pleased that our eldest son, Zachary, is about to begin seminary studies with Greek this summer. As she noted, it is only right that we should tithe at least one of our ten begotten children to the work of the ministry (in addition to our son-in-law, Rev. Sam Wirgau). In doing so, we trust that the Lord will do with Zach as He will, to the praise of His glorious grace and for the blessing and benefit of His people.

Meanwhile, at all times and in all places, let us give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for those gifts He has already given to His Church on earth, including our fathers in the faith who have gone before us, as well as the pastors and teachers serving the Church even now in these gray and latter days. Indeed, as one of our Collects puts it so well, the Lord has never failed to raise up faithful pastors and teachers for His Church, and it is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should offer Him our thanks and praise for each and every one of those very dear men of God.

Over this past weekend, I had the privilege of officiating the rite of “Farewell & Godspeed” for Rev. Don Stock, retiring from active service after twenty years as the associate pastor at St. Paul, Munster, and then celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Rev. Erich Fickel as the pastor of St. Paul, Chesterton. These two men are examples of the many pastors whom the Lord has given to love and serve His people with His Gospel. My sincere thanks to both of them, and to all those men who shepherd the sheep of the Good Shepherd in the congregations of our Indiana District and throughout our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. God grant to each and every one of them true joy and peace and satisfaction in their blessed labors of love, and so also sustain them, their families, and all those under their care, in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.