your pastor, your father

It is not out of line for Lutherans to call their pastors “Father.”

Now before you go all “But that’s Roman Catholic” and “I need a dark corner to rock back and forth in!” and “*faint*” please take a deep breath.

{Unless you’re sitting near a cow pasture and the wind is blowing your way. Then maybe don’t. Not that I would know anything about that.}

Our pastors are our spiritual fathers, the ones who rebuke us when we are in error and don’t want to admit it; who comfort us when we are teetering on the edge of despair; who laugh with us because sometimes–let’s be honest–we are downright hilarious; who pray and care for us as baptized children of God.

Thus we have two kinds of fathers presented in this commandment, fathers in blood and fathers in office, or those to whom belongs the care of the family, and those to whom belongs the care of the country. Besides these there are yet spiritual fathers; . . . For those only are called spiritual fathers who govern and guide us by the Word of God. – Large Catechism on the Fourth Commandment

So there you have it.

You can call you pastor “Father.” Or you can call him “Pastor.” Doesn’t matter to me. But can we agree that he really is a father to you?

It’s why I saw one pastor, shaking hands outside of church this winter, instinctively cover one of his elderly parishioners with his body when ice shattered apart and fell off the roof, dropping all around them.

It’s why one pastor knelt down at the Communion rail, eye to eye with my nieces and nephews, and reminded them of their Baptisms, of the promises that are theirs in Christ.

It’s why one pastor took the congregation’s favorite grandma for a ride on his motorcycle.

It’s why one pastor stayed by the body of the person he was burying, keeping watch; riding in the hearse with the casket to the grave; standing alongside as it was lowered into the ground.

It’s why pastors preach the Law and the Gospel, why they pray for you, why they desperately want you in Bible class to study and know the Word of God, why they make you sing hymns you don’t know, and why they love to pastor you, to care for your spiritual well-being as long as the Lord grants you life.

It’s why pastors aren’t out to get you. They’re simply doing what fathers do: They’re tending to their children.

Through all our toddler-esque temper tantrums, our teenage disregard for authority, our mid-life crises, and our end-of-life fears, the pastors pastor us, fathering the flock.

Why? Heck if I know. The good Dr. Luther either.

“Who would want to enter the ministry for the sake of money and assume the trouble of bothering with people by comforting or rebuking or excommunicating them? It is a very irksome office. I had rather learn a trade than for the sake of money incur the disfavor that befalls a preacher. For he has to be like an owl, which is picked on by all the other birds.” – Martin Luther

But they do.

And in this day and age, a father that sticks around, that raises his children in the faith, that speaks hard words just as easily as he does words of love, well, that’s really something.

See how easy that was?

No dark-corner-rocking necessary.


3 thoughts on “your pastor, your father

  1. There is a good book on all aspects of the ministry, beginning with the premise of this blog post, entitled Spiritual Fathers (subtitled “A Treatise on the Lutheran Doctrine of the Ministry, with Special Reference to Luther’s Large Catechism”), written by Rev. David Jay Webber, a sometime interviewee on Issues Etc. and a member of the ELS Doctrine Committee. It is published by Klotsche-Little Publishing company in Phoenix AZ, but is available for purchase from the Bethany Lutheran College Bookstore in Mankato, MN.

  2. Adriane, The link to this doesn’t work on the email list. But the error message responding to me telling you this from the email list does. See, here I am.

  3. I started reading with the idea of asking, “What about Matthew 23:9?” — but i think you’ve answered my question… 🙂

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