16 December 2012
Overflowing joy today...
Years ago, a friend (who has since become Orthodox) said to me that the sad thing in Lutheranism was that a man could labor for years strengthening a parish in orthodox Lutheranism and the next guy could come in and wreck everything you'd sought to strengthen. I know it CAN happen (and not just in Lutheranism!), but a well-catechized parish seeks out a man who will feed it God's precious Word and who will administer the Sacraments in accordance with that Word and our Church's Confessions. And that is exactly what St. Paul's did: they sought a faithful pastor, prayed for one from the Lord, and today rejoiced to receive him from the hand of our Lord Jesus.
Carlo gave us Bach's Prelude in Eb Major to start off. Then a powerful singing of "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" as the clergy processed in behind the processional cross and torches. There were a ton of them, including District President Scharr, LCMS Board of Directors vice-chair Michael Kumm, and Daniel Preus, one of our Synod vice-presidents.
After confessing our sins and being absolved by Pr. Gleason, the choir led the congregation in the Introit and despite some last minute absences hurriedly filled (thank you, Stephanie!), the bells rang out their joy at a new pastor with a piece "Jubilate!"between the Old Testament and Epistle readings.
Cross and torches and lectionary were processed to center of the nave and the Gospel was read in the midst of the nave: which for the John 20 Gospel is especially fitting. "And he stood in their midst."
The hymn of the day was "As Surely as I Live" and we sang ALL the stanzas with gusto.
Pr. Ball's brother, Pr. Joshua Ball, delivered a fine homily in which he stressed the incarnation, the communication of attributes, the institution of the office of the Holy Ministry. He tied together the impending Christmas feast with the joy of Christ's resurrection and what His death accomplished and His ministry delivers. "God in the flesh" was his constant refrain.
The installation, conducted by President Scharr, was long and solemn; so many brothers to wish their blessings upon St. Paul's new pastor. That concluded with Luther's "To God the Holy Spirit, Let Us Pray."
It was a particular joy to hear Pastor Ball lead the intercessions and assume his place as celebrant at the Lord's Altar, and to watch the reverent and careful manner in which he presided. Every action proclaiming the profound mystery that he was handling. The timpani rumbled with the singing of the Sanctus. The gift of the Lord's Body and Blood was distributed amid loud singing of "O Lord, We Praise Thee," "Let All Mortal Flesh," "Preach You the Word," and "Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit."
There was a time of silence after the Nunc Dimittis as with great reverence the reliquae were consumed at the altar. After the benediction, the congregation sang a hearty "O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe!" and then Carlo burst into the St. Anne Fugue. Altogether, the whole liturgy was the Congregation's loud "Amen!"and "Deo gratias!" to the gift that the Lord bestowed this day: a pastor for His people in Hamel.