From the Pastor

Perhaps it rings in my head because of our small group studies on Martin Luther and the Reformation; a single word repeats itself incessantly: grace. My Christian upbringing introduced me to the word, certainly, but either the teaching was mistaken, misshapen, or I wasn’t able to grasp its full content. (Have I yet? Somewhat, but its full meaning? I’m not sure…)

I met grace in a pastor who was honest and humble enough to reveal his utter need for it. Prior to “Pastor Wally” I had only known priests who were “representatives of Christ” and therefore wholly holy (at least in my childlike estimation), and a pastor who was so tight lipped about any personal failings that you wouldn't know “all have sinned…”  applied to him. Pastor Wally was different. He had failings and faults that were readily
apparent. His family struggled; he revealed flaws unwittingly, and even confessed them openly. And he was utterly dependent on the grace of God, and never failed to announce it. Here was a child of God, a struggling follower of Christ, a saint/sinner all wrapped up in one, who understood grace and grasped it to its fullest, clinging tightly. Now, to some of you this may sound like a pastor that should have been shown the door. But to me, who had been raised thinking only the supremely holy could make it into heaven, and, as far as the ministry was concerned, only the perfect need apply, Pastor Wally was a breath of
fresh air. I discovered that even I could follow a calling that I had sensed since childhood but had never felt worthy to pursue. 

In Bible school we had a professor, Pastor Rismiller, who began our study in Romans each class by singing a verse or two of a song about grace. It’s not particularly easy to sing, and it took probably three weeks for all of us in class to catch onto the tune, but we sang it three times a week for 12 weeks thereafter. Its message was powerful. Please read it, and hug every word… And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? 

*Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace! Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race! ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, For, O my God, it found out me. 

Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me! Fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke – the dungeon flamed with light! My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. 

Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
No condemnation now I dread: Jesus, and all in Him, is mine! Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine, Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Reading those words again and again, I am marked by the fact I am also utterly dependent on the incredible gift of grace that the Father has granted to us. I pray
that’s not too troublesome for you – that you’ve got a sinner for a pastor. If that’s a problem for a church, any future call process might be either fraught with great difficulty or, frankly, if he/she says he/she doesn't struggle with sin they’ll end up with a liar, which only goes to prove the point!

Luther said “We are beggars: this is true.” Simul Justus et peccator. At one and the same time saints and sinners, and when it comes time for the confession and absolution your pastor kneels at the foot of the cross, utterly dependent on God’s free gift of grace. Thanks be to God!

Power to you!
Pastor Pat

*Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me! Tune: Thomas Campbell; Text: Charles Wesley ©Public Domain

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