When our resurrected Lord appeared to the apostle, the Good Shepherd of the Church commanded St. Peter, “Feed My lambs.” When St. Paul knew he was visiting with the elders of the Ephesians Church for the last time, he instructed them: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28 ESV). Both of these passages, along with many others are commonly used at the installation of a pastor. These words remind both the pastor and the congregation that God is placing this man into this congregation in order to care for the members in His stead.
The ordinary work of a pastor revolves around the weekly celebration and reception of the Lord’s gifts by the Lord’s people. Pastoral care centers on the font, the pulpit, and the altar. God’s Word and God’s works are given to His people. These ordinary means of receiving our Good Shepherd’s care shape the life of the faithful. We gather in His Name every Sunday in remembrance of our Baptism. We meditate on His Word, which guides us through the mountains and valleys of this life. We confess our sins and our faith, we sing His praises, and we carry everything to Him in prayer.
But life is not always ordinary. Sometimes there is an illness or injury and pastoral care comes to us in the hospital as we await healing in God’s good time. At the death of a loved one, pastoral care might come first at the home, in the funeral parlor, or even over the phone before the consolation of our Resurrected Lord is given in the familiar liturgy of the funeral. These extra-ordinary forms of pastoral care flow out of the ordinary means of pastoral care received each Sunday.
It is no shame for Christians to seek pastoral care outside of the divine service. In fact, Luther says in the Large Catechism, “When I urge you to go to confession [private confession and absolution], I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christians.” We always live in the grace so freely given on Sunday morning. The forgiveness, mercy, and faith bestowed on Sunday morning during the divine service carry us through the week. And yet we can benefit from that grace being poured out upon us again and again throughout the week.
For those times when you need guidance from God’s Word, prayer for the day of trouble, or forgiveness for a sin that is weighing upon your conscience, it is right to seek the care of your Shepherd who works through His under-shepherds. It is difficult for many people to know when it is a good time to call their pastor. Anytime is okay. But to make it easier for you, after consulting with the elders, I have determined to set aside Wednesday evenings as a time I will make myself available for anyone who desires private absolution, prayer, or spiritual counsel.
Beginning at 7:00 pm, I will be in the front of the nave of the church. I will leave the center doors open. If you would like to come in for private pastoral care, enter and close the door behind you. (If the door is closed when you arrive, kindly wait in the narthex until whoever has arrived before you leaves.) I may be reading Scripture, praying, or singing, but do not feel as though you are interrupting me when you come in. As I will be praying for our congregation, you will not be interrupting, but joining the conversation with your own concerns. I will remain until approximately 8:30 or later if there is need to stay.
What is said at this time will be kept in the strictest confidence. Not only have I promised to feed Christ’s lambs to the best of my ability and with His help, but I have vowed never to divulge the sins confessed to me. I will endeavor to forget them myself.
Finally, let me be clear, this is not an imposition on me or my family. It is my responsibility to make myself available as your pastor. I am only discharging the duties of the office to which you have called me.