Penny and I are in Chicago. I took the weekend off in order to spend time with Penny. It isn't easy for me to take a weekend off. No, the Board of Elders don't forbid me from taking time off. Just the opposite. The Elders at St. Paul's are a very supportive, caring group of men who encourage me to be sure to take care of myself which includes taking time off.
It is hard to take time off because I greatly enjoy leading worship and preaching the Word. I feel very close to the Lord when I am immersed in the Word and leading worship. I also feel very close to the members of the congregation and the people in worship. That Word of God, the Sacrament, the study of the Bible, the sharing of relationships - all are a part of being the body of Christ. And God has charged me with the spiritual care of the people at St. Paul's, Troy (even as He did at Harvel, Ferrin, Altamont and others). As the undershepherd, I find that leading my people in worship is probably the closed to the heavenly praise that we can get here on earth. I remember one member that said she loved the part of the communion service that spoke about joining with "the angels, the archangels and all the company of heaven." It filled her comfort to know that she was at that moment joining with those in heaven. I have never forgot that. And I feel the same way.
As much as I love leading worship, I also love spending this time with my wife. Penny is precious to me. We have been together for 38 years now. I asked her to be my girlfriend at a Valentine's Day dance at Eisenhower High School in Decatur, IL on Feb. 16, 1979. She has been my love ever since, though the love we share has grown, changed, morphed and become what it is today. I love her with all my heart. This time that we spend together is special to us. We long for these days together when my attention is not drawn away by the needs of the sheep. Quite often we travel by train for two reasons: 1) we love it, and it is one of my favorite things in this world, and 2) it gives us time just for the two of us without having to worry about driving, navigating and watching out for the other guy on the road. Yes we do have another long trip planned for the summer. We are going to the LWML convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
So you see, I take this time away, not because I don't love my congregation but precisely because I do love them. This is healthy for me and for my relationship with Penny. We grow stronger together and because of the strength of the love we have for each other, we are able to share that love in the way the Lord wants us to - in the ministry of Word and Sacrament.
Yes, these are thoughts from Chicago. The early service is about to begin at St. Paul's, Troy. The bell is about to ring. Rev. Thomas will feed the flock. And Penny and I will continue growing together even as they do.
8 years ago on February 15, 2009, I was installed as pastor at Troy. I have rejoiced and continue to rejoice ever since. I look forward to a long, loving relationship. Even as I continue to look forward to a long, loving relationship with my wife.
I am truly blessed by my Lord.