I've spent some time this week--and let's face it, for the past two-and-a-half years--brooding over what I consider my exile. It's been 31 months and 8 days now since I was last a parish pastor, and in some ways it feels like forever. It's obvious to me, and likely becoming obvious to anyone who has experience one of my Bible studies in the past two years, that I'm becoming somewhat stale theologically. It's not that I'm not still theologically apt and apt to teach, but rather that I'm not as . . . vibrant, as new, as fresh, something like that . . . when it comes to preaching and teaching. It's only natural. I just don't have the time to delve as deeply into the Word and the theology right now as I did as a parish pastor, when I could spend the morning praying and reading and working on sermon study as I prepared for visits and activities in the afternoon.
I've been getting back into it a little more in the past few weeks. I've been back into my Book of Concord more frequently, and I've been reading some of the newer books CPH has been releasing. I've started reading Wieting's The Benefits of Weekly Communion, and next on my list are Just's Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service and Kleinig's Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. I've also been hitting some of the better blogs, like Pastor Petersen's Cyberstones and Deaconess Carder's Quincunque vult.
I guess, if I allow myself to be negative, the past two-and-a-half years could be considered a waste of time. I mean, the Lord has given me these gifts and set me apart to use them, and here I am, running a community center. I'm not serving a congregation as its pastor. I'm not out visiting the sick. I'm not shepherding a youth group.
But at the same time, I've been serving the greater Church. I've preached at 9 different congregations in three states since my exile began. I've done two funerals, three Baptisms, and presided at five Confirmations. I've preached over thirty times, which is more than I preached the two years and three months I was in Ohio as a parish pastor. If I can avoid looking at this negatively, I can consider this my Patmos. Granted, the Lord isn't giving my any grand new visions on the end times. However, he is allowing my to serve the Church at-large. I'll be preaching the next three weeks for a pastor who is taking his youth to the Higher Things gathering in Scranton and then taking vacation time. I'm able to help with a confessional group down here in the deep south. I'm doing more than I thought possible, even if it's not what I'd planned to be doing.
So if this is my Patmos, at least the Lord is giving me opportunities to keep serving, just as He did for the Apostle.