Blessing for A Confessional Pastor

The only blessing I know is the first stanza of the Irish one.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
.

I suppose this could be modified.

May the road you’re on be narrow with few.
May the wagging tongues never be at your back.
My the Son’s face shine upon your countenance and the sacramental Spirit warm upon your life.
And until we meet again,
May the Father hold you in the nail scared hands of His Son.

Okay, so it’s a poor rip off. Blessing are like poems. Originals don’t come easy as Ringo Starr said. Maybe that’s why when I have been blessed in the ministry it’s from unexpected quarters at surprising times. I’ve never been blessed by an officer of Synod in my “chain of command.” I have been terribly discouraged almost to the point of feeling accursed when reading the pages of the Lutheran Witness. So often the articles are about what people are doing for Jesus that I come away with the feeling, “Why am I not doing more?” This is not my observation, but that of a brother pastor some 25 years ago who has since risen to such heights that I dare not credit him here for fear of discrediting him there in the eyes of the legions, dozens, handful, several, my wife, reading this.

A couple of months ago I certainly wasn’t looking for a blessing, and in fact may have been intent on cursing. I was giving “what for” to a layman. It concerned the sad state of repair of my office. In my defense, meager at best, this arose from a neighbor to the church stopping in for an impromptu sit down. So, I was saying to my layman, “What do you think a stranger to this church thinks when he comes into my office and sees the stained carpet, the threadbare chairs, and dingy curtains?” You should be hearing in response to each of my challenges “huh, huh, huh” because while not spoken they were there.

A less patient man, a less wise man, say one like me, would have risen to the challenge and rebutted instantly. This man thought and said after a pause: “I think he would think I’m in a conservative Lutheran pastor’s office.”  I, having regained my composure and my theology, said, “That’s right; we’re substance over form. It’s the liberals and those who wish to be in-step with the world who emphasize form first substance maybe.” How blessed I was by this gentle corrective.

So fast forward to a massive workday at church. We billed it as a once every 500-years’ cleaning. There were lots of people working and sweating in what passes for fall in Texas but is midsummer in the Midwest. Since coming to this congregation, I have repented – with a onetime exception– of doing the physical work on workdays. Therefore, I was doing my normal Saturday work.

Since I had done a funeral on my day off, I decided I would leave midday on Saturday. (Cue the shocked scream here.) On my way out, I saw this same layman in the grime, sweat, and fatigue of clearing a lot. I remarked out of guilt, “I feel like I’m deserting under fire.” He, in total sincerity and with gravity, asked, “What? Are you going to stop preaching?” I replied that he was blessed among men because he was such a blessing to me at that moment.

So here is a genuine blessing for a Confessional Lutheran pastor: May you be blessed with laity like this. I take no credit for teaching this man this confessional Lutheran theology, but I will take all of it I can get.

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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