by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
It was a bright, crisp morning at the Graham and Gwen Koch sheep operation in Australia, just on the South Australia/Victoria border. This wonderful, humble Lutheran couple managed several thousand sheep on several thousand acres. Graham piled us into is “ute,” short for “utility vehicle” (we call it a “flatbed pick-up” in Iowa). As we neared the flock, a thousand skittish animals began bawling and fleeing, a sea of nervous wool.
But then the scene changed in an instant. Graham began calmly, even quietly, repeating, “Hey Bob. Hey Bob.” Suddenly the flock turned toward us at once, and within a minute or two, we were in a sea of calm but bleating sheep. They were so tightly packed around the truck that I might have walked across them. The sheep knew his voice (John 10:3). It was a magic moment of profound joy and New Testament insight. I’ll never, ever forget it. “But we Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will give thanks to You forever; from generation to generation we will recount Your praise” (Ps. 79:13).
Pastor means “shepherd.” A Lutheran pastor is an undershepherd, carrying out a task and office that belongs to Jesus, “the great shepherd of the sheep.” Jesus is the great pastoral example, the pastor par excellence. Yes, Jesus often speaks hard words when the Law is needed to bring repentance (Mark 8:33), but He does so in a context where “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Love marks the life of Jesus and His undershepherds (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:12). A pastor forgives (John 20:23; 2 Cor. 2:10). A pastor doles out the Lord’s words and gifts (2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Cor. 11:23).
A pastor teaches with patience and kindness (1 Tim. 3:3; 1 Tim. 4:12ff.). A pastor serves (John 12:13ff.). A pastor prays for his people (2 Tim. 1:3). A pastor goes (Matt. 28:19). A pastor cares (Acts 6:1ff.). A pastor sacrifices (2 Cor. 11:24ff.). A pastor is visible among his people (Mark 1:38). A pastor knows his people (John 10:14). A pastor sympathizes with his people and cares for and about his co-workers and parishioners (Rom. 16:116). A pastor cares for those for whom his people care (Luke 8:41). A pastor suffers patiently, sometimes even at the hands of his sheep (2 Tim. 1:8ff.). A pastor is visible in his community (1 Tim. 3:7). A pastor spares no effort to bring back the wayward and find the lost (2 Tim. 4:5). A pastor seeks sheep “outside the fold” (John 10:16). A pastor leads with capable zeal (Rom. 12:8). A pastor is aware of his own weaknesses and asks for forgiveness and patience (2 Cor. 12:7ff.).
All this is a tall order; in fact, it is impossible. How could we pastors, “maggot sacks” of sin and weakness that we are (Luther), ever be up to this imitation of Christ and His apostles? Of ourselves, we cannot. But Christ, who gives the Office of the Holy Ministry, provides the grace sufficient for the task at hand.
In short, a pastor loves his people.
Pastor Matthew Harrison
“Let’s go!” Mark 1:38