Beloved members of this Christian Congregation,
When I was installed as your pastor in April 2002, this congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary. As now I retire after nigh fifty years of service in the public ministry (1964-2014), some parting thoughts.
We can only begin with the confession that a review of the past reveals many sins and weaknesses of both pastor and congregation for which repentance is called for, and for which we seek cleansing in the blood of our Savior. Yet by His grace we continue to believe and confess that “the Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”
(2 Timothy 3:15f).
…We thank the Lord of the Church for His continued blessings among us—chief of which would be the propagation of His pure gospel…
Yes, we thank the Lord of the Church for His continued blessings among us—chief of which would be the propagation of His pure gospel (“go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them…”), as well as its preservation from false teaching (“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”) (Matthew 28:18-20).
These blessings are never to be taken for granted! At the beginning of the 21st century, attacks against the Bible as God’s divinely inspired, pure, and unadulterated Word have continued apace and even accelerated. How woeful that even within the church which identifies itself with the name of the great Reformer, politically-correct approval is more and more found for such anti-biblical teachings as evolution, the practice of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, “easy” divorce, women clergy, and others.
Ultimately, what are sixty-two years of the existence of a Christian congregation or fifty years of a pastor’s ministry but mere blips on the screen of eternity?
Behind this all is the selling out of the doctrine of the divinely inspired, verbal inspiration of the Bible. Not surprisingly, tied to that is the fact that science—whose role is not to discover how, and how long ago, the world came into existence, but rather to investigate, explore, and utilize God’s marvelous creation for the good of mankind—has become a veritable god not only for atheists, secularists, and humanists but for much of society, and that due largely to the influence of god-less government-run (read: Common-Core-like “Next Generation Science Standards”) schools. Saddest of all, many in the nominally Christian and even Lutheran communities have allowed the theories and postulates of science and human “wisdom” to trump biblical truths/values/morals.
It’s against such a backdrop that we say it is truly a blessing of Almighty God that this Christian congregation—together with its sister churches in the Church of the Lutheran Confession—continues to stand four-square on the Word of God in all its truth and purity!
God forbid that such a stance is proffered as a feather in our own cap. Rather, it has well been said: “Having the Word of God in its truth and purity is not a boast, but a cause of rejoicing.” Thus we rejoice that God has brought it about that we still trust in Him and His Word as the repository of His only-saving gospel.
As was said at the outset, individually and collectively we exist for the sole reason of proclaiming and preserving to ourselves and our posterity the gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again for the justification and reconciliation of the whole world. “(Christ) was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ….” (2 Corinthians 5:19f).
Ultimately, what are sixty-two years of the existence of a Christian congregation or fifty years of a pastor’s ministry but mere blips on the screen of eternity? Yet in the grand scheme of things those years are significant as far as our respective lives are concerned. God who predestinated us to be His own “from eternity to eternity” has done His gracious work in our individual lives. It is He who has brought us to saving faith in His Savior-Son and kept us in it that one day soon we might dwell with Him in the eternal mansions Jesus won for us. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…to the praise of the glory of His grace….In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will….” (Ephesians 1:4ff).
Now we go forward confidently in our respective callings, not boasting but rejoicing in the holy fact that God’s Word remains among us in its truth and purity. Our joint prayer is that we continue to be Christ’s ambassadors, witnessing by word and deed to the Good News of fallen mankind’s justification and reconciliation with God through Him.
Beloved members of God’s family, may God’s love, peace, and joy be with you ‘til we meet again—either here or on that glorious day when the Savior takes us one by one from this vale of tears to our heavenly home.