My Dear Shepherds,
I’m thankful for pastors. I’m honored to be counted among you and love your company. I’m thankful for our unique bond; brothers and sisters in Christ, yes, but also as a band of God’s own shepherds keeping watch over our flocks. I love to hear about your churches, to learn what you’re preaching and what you’re reading.
I love laughing with pastors. Who else has the kinds of stories we have, some we can only tell among ourselves? I love our camaraderie around our common duties. Others speak flippantly about marryin’ and buryin’ but we know the weight of pronouncing “husband and wife,” or of marking the passage of a saint into the house of the Lord forever. We know, too, the unsettling duty of funerals for the lost. We have stories of babies and board meetings and bullies.
I’m thankful for you who preach—who lift a text there in your study, turning it in your hands, learning its weight and worth, and then standing in front of the saints, all of us so utterly ordinary, and delivering the Word of God.
I’m thankful for pastors who have borne the battle in the heat of the day, who have been wounded deeply yet not lost their love for Christ or his people. Jesus called those blessed who are insulted, persecuted, and falsely accused, and so some of you have been treated this year. I bless you in Jesus’ name.
I’m thankful for pastors who feel greatly rewarded when they can open their Bibles to teach a young believer or to fortify an old one, who relish the holy privilege of introducing someone to Jesus. I’m thankful for pastors who make friends at coffee shops or health clubs, like Jesus eating gladly with tax collectors and sinners.
I’m thankful for pastors who pray, bowing unseen but by God, to beseech him to part some flood or quiet a storm, for a sermon that lies tangled on the desk, for parishioners who seem too sick in heart or body to get well; pastors whose prayers are fists against the gates of hell and who wield God’s promises as the sword of the Lord; for pastors whose prayers lay open their own souls and who lose track of time when they’re with Jesus.
I’m thankful for pastors in small places who have stood aching with self-doubt in some large auditorium and then gone home realizing, as R. S. Thomas wrote, “I was a vicar of large things in a small parish.” I’m thankful, too, for big church pastors who are humble and who put more stock in the quality of their sheep than the size of their flock, who know that they are not mere managers of an organization but are entrusted with the household of God.
I’m thankful for pastors too young to have ever worn a suit to church and don’t know their way around a hymnal like I do, yet who love Jesus, his people, and the Scriptures. I love the feel of them standing on my shoulders. I’m thankful for old pastors who, despite waning strength and war stories, are like stalwart old Caleb, willing still to face giants, if need be, in order to settle their people safely home.
So thank you, dear shepherds, for your company and your work in the Lord. Remember Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good …” (Does he know what he’s asking?!) “… for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Be ye glad!