Rev. Duane Bamsch
There are far too many people who seem to think that their faithful pastors are shrinking violets or spineless buffoons who are unable (or even unwilling) to hear of your demons and sins. Perhaps you fear that we cannot handle the rawness and reality of your failings. It may help to remember that we pastors spend every single day in hand-to-hand combat with Satan himself and his demons. St. Paul even gives us a reminder: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).
There are no medals for the clergy. No “welcome home” parades after a difficult fight in enemy territory. Nor do we seek such things. Our deep wounds aren’t seen in slings or scars, crutches or prosthetics.
All too often we hear that a brother pastor has fallen to the lure of Satan, or that despair has taken another, or that persecution is about to overrun yet another faithful servant of Christ and his family. Even so, we readily and willingly gird ourselves with the full armor of God for another day of confronting the evil Satan that hurls your way.
We take up the most wondrous and most powerful weapon on earth—the very Body and Blood of Christ in our Communion Kit. This is the Bread of Life come down from heaven, which we eat so that we may not die, given for you for the forgiveness of sins, and armed thus we plunge into the gaping maw of death for another day of the care of souls.
In your moment of need, your pastor will not shun you. He will not shake his head at your sin and failure. He will not call your parents or friends and tattle on you. He will unflinchingly stand by your side even as the evil one drops his mightiest artillery on your position.
Your pastor will warn you of the dangers of unrepentance and unbelief, of turning to the gods of this world and betraying your baptism for fleeting pleasure. All the while he laments that eternity separates those who flee Christ their Savior in order to willfully shape gods of their own making. For this, he loses sleep and is stressed over the likelihood that those he loves and serves will attack him because they don’t want to hear the admonition of their Lord.
Yes, the pay is awful. There aren’t enough hours in the day. The phone never stops ringing. Pastors miss their children’s birthday parties or recitals. They receive absolutely devastating and gutting news far too often. They are cursed and despised, just as our Lord Christ was.
These are the consequences of your pastor taking up the cross, of having the Lord’s hands laid upon him so that he may deliver to you—the saints of God—what was once delivered to him: the very Bread of Life, which brings life, forgiveness, and salvation to all who believe.
He will have moments of rest and respite: a short vacation here, a getaway or retreat there. Three days with no cell coverage never seemed so wonderful! Yet, vacation is just that—a temporary sabbatical from the endless assaults of the evil one.
So, please pray for your pastor. When he seems to be a bit “off” or not quite on task, he may have gotten a terrible phone call, he may not have slept much after trying to finish a sermon that was delayed because of a hospital call that turned into the Commendation of the Dying, or he may even be worried sick over a parishioner who has left the faith.
At your youth group gatherings, remember your pastor in your prayers, too. When you see him during the week, or even on Sunday, ask him how you can pray for him and what kinds of prayers he needs. In between bringing you God’s good gifts of Word and Sacrament, he prays for you constantly; he will never say it, but he appreciates your prayers for him more than you will ever know.
Pastors, if you’re reading this, remember your baptism—in which death and Satan lost their grip on you. Hold high the Crucified Christ for those in your charge—He who is the Author of Life. Proclaim the life-giving Word of God—speak with the same voice that spoke from Mt. Sinai, the burning bush, and the Risen Christ. Give those who need and desire it the Medicine of Immortality—the very antidote to death. And take comfort in the knowledge that there are those who lift you up in their petitions and prayers.
As a brother pastor once prayed, so also you may pray for your own pastor: Holy Father, as Your Son and His blessed apostles cast out demons in Galilee and Judea and beyond by Your Holy Spirit, so remove from our pastor that demon called Despair by Your Word and Spirit, that he might not be tempted to unbelief but would be strengthened by the witness of Your Spirit through the mysteries You have provided, calling us little children and granting us the life and kingdom of Your eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rev. Duane Bamsch is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church and School in Terra Bella, California. He also serves the vice president of the Board of Directors for Higher Things.