This morning I preached for what will likely be the last time at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Mandeville, Louisiana. It's not that I've done anything wrong or that they've lost interest in me or in the Word. Rather, they have gotten themselves their own pastor. So for the last time (again, probably, though I won't say that again), I crossed the Causeway on an early Sunday morning, watching the sailboats get an early start as I drove to the church. This is a wonderful congregation, full of love for the pastors who have served them--both their Called pastors and the pastors who have come from near and far to serve them during their vacancy. This congregation has always been wonderful toward me when I've been there, showing me a great deal of love, paying attention to and participating in the Bible studies I've prepared, hungering and thirsting for the Lord's Supper and for the preaching of the Word. I am going to miss serving them, but I am very happy that they have their pastor. Vacancies are never easy on a congregation. Members disappear. The sick and shut-in don't always get visited by a vacancy pastor who is too often busy with his own congregation or his own work. And while the congregation has an identity on its own, a pastor helps a congregation to form and maintain that identity. So anyway, I preached this morning and administered the sacraments, and that is always a privilege and pleasure.
And then, this afternoon, I was able to participate in the Installation of the new pastor. Since my . . . departure from my previous parish, installations are always rather bittersweet for me. Installations are a time of hope, of potential. A pastor comes to a congregation who has just said to him, "We could choose from all the pastors in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and its sister bodies, and we wanted you." There's no baggage. The pastor has a clean slate and optimism for what he and the congregation can do together. On the other hand, it's not easy as a man not serving as a parish pastor to hear the vows a pastor makes before God concerning his work in that place and the vows the congregation makes concerning the pastor, and avoid thinking about how it all fell apart and how it's been three and a half years since I lived those vows in a congregation as their pastor.
I have hope that I will again be a parish pastor someday. Confidence in that thought is not so easy to come by, but seeing this congregation and this pastor united is a pointed reminder that God is good and that His will shall be done. He's the one who Called me to the Office of the Holy Ministry, and in His time (regardless of the princes of this world), He will return me to parish ministry. So I'll wait and say, "Thy will be done" . . . even if sometimes I'd rather have my will be done.
I probably won't get back to Redeemer very often. It's hard to justify making the two hour trip when there are congregations just as faithful and a lot closer to where I live. But Redeemer in Mandeville will always have a special place in my heart.