One of my favorite Collects begins with the affirmation that our Lord in His mercy has never failed to provide faithful pastors and teachers for His Church on earth. That is an excellent confession of faith in the great Good Shepherd of the Sheep, who cares for His own and well provides them by way of those undershepherds whom He calls and sends in His Name and stead. It echoes the conviction of Martin Chemnitz concerning his appreciation and respect for the early church fathers, whom the Lord raised up in their day and age to confess His Holy Name and to defend His people against false doctrine and every assault and accusation of the old evil foe.
These thoughts have been much on my mind recently, as we are presently in the midst of a series of installations within our Indiana District, and as we anticipate Call Services at our seminaries this coming week (Tuesday the 25th at Fort Wayne, and Wednesday the 26th at St. Louis). Please remember these brothers in Christ as they embark upon new fields of labor, or as they enter upon the Office of the Holy Ministry in the coming months. I also bear in heart and mind those dear congregations that continue to wait upon the Lord for the faithful pastor and teacher they need, as they work through the Call process and must sometimes grapple with a series of declinations. Remember those parishes in your prayers and intercessions, that the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers into His harvest, and that His sheep not be left without a shepherd to feed them.
We do have before us, over the next couple of weeks, the Sunday of Easter commonly known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” whether that be this coming Sunday (in the historic lectionary) or the following Sunday (in the three-year series). We rejoice and give thanks that our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, not only laid down His life for His Sheep, but also took it up again, that they might have abundant Life in Him, both body and soul, both now and ever after. It is that same Good Shepherd, crucified and risen from the dead, who likewise calls men into the Office of the Holy Ministry and bids them to “feed My lambs” and “tend My sheep” (St. John 21:15-17). And as He raised up and restored Simon Peter through repentance and faith in His forgiveness of sins, that he should be such a pastor of the flock, so does He strengthen and sustain His pastors to this day, that they might serve faithfully to the glory of His Name and for the well-being of His Church.
“Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit on Your servant now, we pray; let him prove a faithful shepherd, that no lamb be led astray. Your pure teaching to proclaim, to extol Your holy Name, and to feed Your lambs, dear Savior, make his aim and sole endeavor” (LSB #681, stanza 1).