By Rich Heinz
O LORD God dear Father in heaven, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from us, along with all malice. Make us kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. .”
Pastor Kenobi was so proud of his new toy. He remained preoccupied with it for much of the week. Yes, it was quite excessive, but his wife surprised him with a trip to Best Buy. He could stop the playful jokes of coveting with his many pastor friends on Facebook; now he had his own . . . iPad!
For two weeks, Pastor used this gift to prepare and write his sermons, take notes in meetings, and have on hand as his portable office and personal computer at a conference. And then, it happened!
One busy Wednesday, he preached from the gadget at Evening Prayer. Rushing to the parsonage for a moment, he returned for a class, and then to a meeting, where he remembered leaving his treasure in the front pew. But going to retrieve it, he discovered the iPad was missing. As someone once said, “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Theft! In the church! From the pastor! How dare they?! Who are they?! A flood of anger, disappointment, and hurt swelled inside him. Repenting of his own carelessness in leaving the device alone (even if in a church), Pastor Kenobi still resented the mysterious thief. While he said he forgave the transgressor, the wound was still fresh.
Was this hypocrisy? Forgiving others is the pastor’s job. It is his vocation. It should be easy if it’s what the man does! I know, right!?
So, as someone else once said, “What does this mean?”
When the pastor is in that pulpit preaching, he is proclaiming Law and Gospel to the individual underneath those vestments, too. The man in that Office still needs to repent of his own sinful feelings and condition as much as everyone else. He needs to find another pastor to hear his confessions and bring him Holy Absolution.
While grumbling about the theft, the Lord used another pastor to call Kenobi to repent and pray for the thief. While feeling sorry for himself, he realized once again how incredibly blessed he was. The Lord was refreshing him on the themes of contentment and coveting. The Holy Spirit convicted Kenobi of his burst of materialism, and his ill feelings about “those who trespass against us.” Having brought him to repentance, our Savior dished out His freeing forgiveness in His Gospel and Sacrament, bringing renewal and heaping forgiveness to pour forth from the forgiven pastor.
So reflect upon this the next time you look at your pastor and think he has it all together. Remember that each time he grants you Absolution in the stead of Christ, he needs the same Absolution. Don’t be afraid to go to your pastor about your struggle to forgive. He will understand you more than you realize. Forgiving others when they have sinned against us personally is not always easy–not even for pastors! But what a great treasure it is–far greater than some several-hundred-dollar iPad–to receive Jesus’ forgiveness and be His vessel in pouring it out on others!
Read through the Fifth Petition in your Small Catechism. Rejoice and be glad! Even though you are not worthy, Jesus graciously gives you all you truly need. And in His grace, the Lord Jesus causes not just your pastor, but YOU to stand coram Deo, before God, forgiven and renewed, as His instrument of forgiving others!
Rev. Rich Heinz is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lowell, Indiana, as well as the worship coordinator for Higher Things.
This article was originally published in the spring 2011 issue of Higher Things Magazine.