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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What's Love Got to Do with the Ministry?

Here's a piece I penned for Higher Things magazine encouraging youth to enter church professions.

There was a funny commercial on television around Valentine’s Day last year. A man was sitting at the kitchen table while his wife stood with her back to him at the counter. She said, “Dear, is this the year that you bought me that diamond necklace I’ve always dreamt about?”

With a look of terror on his face, eyes like saucers because he’d forgotten all about Valentine’s Day, the man said, “No, Honey.”

“Well, then did you make reservations at the ritzy French restaurant?”

“Uh, no.”

“Surely you bought a dozen roses. You have roses for me don’t you?”

“Actually, no I don’t.”

Getting a bit desperate, but hoping for the best, the woman says, “Then I know you got me a sweet card. You did. Didn’t you?”

The guy hesitates and says, “Well… no I didn’t get you a card either dear. But I did think about it.”

And with that, she swings around and throws her arms around him kissing his face and neck. “Oh, I just knew it. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Screen fades to black and the announcer intones, “Sometimes it’s the thought that counts. But in the real world buy your sweetheart….” So on and so forth. He goes on to promote whatever product the commercial is trying to sell.

The point is that even though we repeat these shallow little platitudes to each other such as “It’s the thought that counts,” we all know that’s baloney. Thoughts are great but they are not enough. Not for a relationship based on love.

But what is love? For many, it seems that love is just a feeling that comes and goes. With God, however, love is never mere sentiment. Love involves action. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

The Bible does not say God loved the world so that He had a warm feeling or thought a happy thought about us. Love is more than a warm fuzzy. It is action. I’m glad that when God loved the world, He didn’t just think about it. He got to work. He got dirty. He scuffed his shoes. He broke a sweat. He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins.

The church is the hands and feet and mouth of God in the world today. God makes His love known to sinners most explicitly through preaching and the sacraments. He also makes His love known very tangibly through works of mercy.

There is no question that people are obsessed with love. They want to feel loved. And they – at their best – want to show love to others. But real love can be hard to find. For love is never selfish. It is always patient and giving and kind, just like St. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13. Where can people know that they are more than ascended apes, the results of random natural forces? How can they hear that their lives have meaning? What can be done to help people understand who God is and what He has done for us?

I want to encourage all of you to consider and pray about dedicating your lives to full-time service in the church as pastors and deaconesses. There are certainly many ways to demonstrate God’s love to people. But there is a special need for young men to consider pastoral ministry and young women to think about becoming deaconesses.

God uses pastors to pronounce his declaration of pardon through preaching and holy absolution. The angels erupt into rejoicing each time a sinner is baptized into Christ. And it is a mighty privilege to wait on God’s people at the table where His own body and blood are served for the forgiveness of our sins. Being a pastor is hard and dangerous work but God will use you to alter lives for time and eternity.

While the pastor serves in his unique calling, the deaconesses of our church demonstrate God’s mercy to people who are weak or hurting. They tend the sick and aged. They nurture children. They relate to the women of the parish and help tend the material needs of people. All of this is God’s action revealing His love as more than just a feeling.

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is blessed with a very fine university system which prepares students to be instruments of God’s love as professional church workers. Go to to find out more about what our educational institutions offer. God is in the business of loving humanity through Word and Sacrament and through works of mercy. And the colleges and seminaries of your church are here to offer you the finest training for these noble tasks.

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1 comment:

VirginiaLutherans said...


It is a fine article, and is quite well written. When I finished it, it almost sounded like a mini-sermon (not surprising since you were in a parish less than a year ago). The thought occured to me, though, that there wasn't a single note about a fallen world in need to hear the Word of God. Now I know it isn't popular for such things to be included in essentially recruiting speeches, but what instills urgency more; people in need of some TLC, or people literally dying for all eternity at a fantastic rate? (Technically the same thing...) The latter has always instilled terror and sadness in me, and more of a sense of urgency and the need for unabashed Truth than the former. I think there is room for both in articles promoting attending the Seminaries. Just my two cents.

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