Eighteen Years Ago: A Personal Reflection
Readers of this blog know that I rarely talk about personal matters. But I'm making an exception today. For you see, eighteen year ago on this day, June 3, on Pentecost Sunday, I was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, as pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, in Waverly, Iowa. How fondly I remember processing in to the loud and beautiful four-part harmony singing of "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" as the farmers and their families filled the church with their powerful singing.
It was a beautiful Pentecost Sunday, at this wonderful rural congregation, twelve miles northeast of Waverly, Iowa, about an hour south of Minnesota. The corn was already more than knee-high. I was privileged to be ordained in a full Divine Service and for the first time, to celebrate the Blessed and Most Venerable Sacrament of the Altar [did you know that's how it is described in the Lutheran Confessions?].
It was an extremely meaningful day, made more so by the attendance of my father, who preached my ordination sermon, my father-in-law, who served as lector (both of whom were pastors, now both in heaven). I was ordained by Dr. Alvin Barry, then president of the Iowa District East, and then, only two years later, Dr. Barry was elected president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and took me along with him to Saint Louis, where I served as his assistant until his death in 2001. I then served as assistant to Dr. Robert Kuhn, who took office immediately upon President Barry's death. From August-November 2001, I was interim director of Concordia Historical Institute, and in November I came to Concordia Publishing House, where I served as Interim President/CEO for about five years, and now presently I'm serving as Publisher and Executive Director of the Editorial Department.
It's been a remarkable eighteen years, preceded by a wonderful seminary education at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, where I received my M.Div. and got my start in publishing as an assistant to Dr. Robert Preus during my last year of seminary. I began working with him on the Lutheran Confessional Dogmatics project. After my graduation, I served at the seminary full-time, for two more years, first as a systematics department assistant, then as a Guest Instructor in Systematic Theology.
During that time I worked closely with Dr. Kurt Marquart and Dr. David Scaer on their volumes for the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series. Upon arriving in the parish, I continued serving as managing editor for the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics project, and was one of the LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, along with Rev. John Pless, Rev. Joel Brondos, Rev. Erling Teigen and Dr. Preus. We also began the annual review of Luther studies: Luther Digest. I'm pleased that both journals continue and have flourished.
During my first year of the ministry, I received invaluable counsel and guidance from my closest neighbor in the ministry, Gary Arp, pastor of the church in the town of Waverly, he was also our circuit counselor, and is now district president of Iowa District East. The good people of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Waverly, treated a young
pastor and his family with such kindness and love as together we took
strength, comfort and joy in the gifts of Christ given through Word and
I have had so many wonderful experiences and the best part of them has
always been the people I've been privileged to get to know here in the
United States and around the world. I learned so much during my time in Iowa and each new opportunity has presented many new things to learn, new experiences, and the joy of working with truly talented and wonderful servants of Christ, cherished friends and colleagues. It's always the people that one remembers the best. I have already stored up a treasure of memories and experiences. So many people have been so helpful to me and have provided me with so much support, wisdom and advice.
And through it all, my dear wife Lynn has been totally supportive and a source of never-ending joy and encouragement. She is an amazing person, truly. [You think I'm just gushing on as husband's do? Just ask anyone who knows her!] I hope every pastor's wife is as wonderful as my Lynn. My three children, one of whom we brought to Waverly as a newborn (Paul), another born there (John) and our daughter Mary (born here in Saint Louis) has been a source of wonder, amazement and joy through these years, teaching me so much about myself and about life.
I've learned so much, and continue to learn. The seminary gave me a strong grounding and taught me how to learn and grow in theology. My STM coursework and additional graduate classes I've taken have all been deeply enriching. I love to learn and grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. Over the years, I've learned that I learn the most from sitting with the fathers and reading their sermons and writings.
I pray that my Lord Jesus Christ will continue to give me strength to serve Him, according to the grace that He so richly supplies. Soli Deo gloria!