Monday, December 11, 2006

On making a statement...

During seminary orientation nearly four years ago former dean, Rev. Rockemann, joked that we had four years to be heritics. What my classmates and I laughed at then, is quickly becoming a reality.

As I look back at my time here at Concordia Seminary, I marvel at the growth which has taken place. While sitting in class, I am amazed at continued maturation of my classmates, especially upon their return from vicarage. That being said, there has always remained a sense that we still have time to "rock the boat." Most of the time this happens over a healthy conversation during lunch, which springs from our reading or class discussion. Even while the baseketball team warms up for practice, you can hear the theological inquiry taking place with the "swish" of the net in the background.

On Dec. 1st, however, theological theories were forced into practical application as all the candidates from both seminaries filled out their SET (Self Evaluation Tool), and sent them to the Council of Presidents. It was time to voice our convictions, to make a statement, to answer 36 questions that would be looked at by the District Presidents during the placement process.

The temptation to shape my answers in a way that might influence potential readers showed its ugly face. Thankfully, I was reminded of Isaiah's words, "Here am I, send me." So, I simply answered as clearly as I could, letting them know "Where I am." What a healthy challenge it was to state forthrightly what I believe, teach, and confess, and hope to practice in some congregation in the name of Christ.

May the Lord bless and keep all my classmates, and those candidates at Fort Wayne who are looking forward to call day in April. May we be given a spirit of boldness, and the confidence to answer questions openly during this process. May our faithful heavenly Father guide and direct the placement process, and those involved.

Until that time, I look forward to continued learning from reading, classroom discussions, and conversations with my classmates.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Gentlemen, start your engines!

While enjoying some free time during my month between vicarage and the beginning of classes, I have been asked one question repeatedly: "Are you ready to hit the books again?" Of course I look forward to that day when I am ordained and installed as a pastor. And while I would love to retire at the age of 27 (is it possible to retire before even beginning your career?) and spend the rest of my life traveling with Jamie and our soon-to-be-born daughter, I am ready to hit the books.

More than one person, after asking me this question, has answered it for me, telling me how I feel about the fourth year at the seminary. It usually goes something like this: "After tasting the real world, I'm sure you're dreading your fourth year." Others have joked that the fourth year is nice because I will be given more latitude by my professors, and not expected to work hard. Do you see a common theme here?

I ask you to pray for me, as I hope to avoid the temptation to treat this opportunity to be shaped and molded for future ministry like a holding cell, or purgatory. I learned many things while on vicarage, one of them being the importance of the fourth year. There is a congregation that will call me as its pastor in less than a year. Those people will trust that I have taken advantage of my opportunities at the seminaray. There are also many people who financially support seminary students. Imagine if they heard a fourth-year student talking about doing a minimum amount of work.

I have much to learn, and hope that I might maintain an attitude that is conducive to it. I hope to learn from my professors, from the thoughts of the many authors I will be reading, and from my classmates. Now that I have tasted a bit of reality, I realize the value of having one more year to learn from those who have gone before us. Indeed, I have much to learn, and look forward to such opportunities.

While Jamie and I will have our first child in early October, I pray that I might balance my vocations of husband, father, and student in a God pleasing way.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

3 Down, 1 To Go!

It's official, assuming the reports arrive at the vicarage office without complication, I have passed my final evaluation.

The room was darkened upon entry, and the inquisition began with a sight translation of the German edition of the Book of Concord, and then moved to the Indian Hymnal. The beads of sweat started to pour down as I sat, nervously awaiting what promised to be a most intense interrogation.

And if you believe this, you didn't read my previous post. My final evaluation was just the continuation of a positive experience. My supervising pastor, Pastor Blomenberg, along with Pastors Bloch and Rodriguez, sat down and went over their report. They shared with me their answers, and elaborated on them, affirming me and giving me constructive advice in the process. Then I shared with them my report. There were no surprises, as we have had an open relationship throughout the year. If there were issues we hadn't talked about by now, none of us would be doing our jobs.

We had lunch at the Chinese Buffet with the entire church staff, and they presented Jamie and I with a picture of the church, framed, matted, and signed by all. It was a great day, but we will wait to say our "goodbyes" for another two weeks. It's official, three years down, one year to look forward to!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The best of times, the worst of times...

Today I visited three shut-ins in Columbus, probably the last time I will see them on this side of the kingdom of glory. Earlier in the day I had seen the newly released schedule of rotations for the responsibilities the curcuit pastors share (Lutheran Home services, daily radio devotions, etc.). My name was nowhere to be found. I continue to be reminded that I am now in the last month of my vicarage year. I can think of only one phrase to describe this: bitter-sweet.

Recently, I have frequetnly been asked two seemingly opposed questions: "Are you sad about leaving?" and "Are you excited to go back to St. Louis?" As I try to answer these questions honestly, I am convinced that the answer to both questions is the same: "Yes."

It will be hard to leave Seymour. Jamie and I have been blessed to live in a gorgeous, historic, home. We have made friends here at the church, and in the community. The community of Seymour would be a great place to raise a child, with strong Lutheran schools, and much support. There are more holes of golf (54) per capita in Seymour than anywhere else in the state (I think). Jamie was able to coach swimming, and I was able to coach baseball. These are all positive aspects of our year in Hoosier land, and I haven't even mentioned any of the reasons directly associated with my vicarage.

What can I say, I couldn't have asked for a better vicarage placement. While there are no perfect congregations, Immanuel has been a huge blessing to bothe Jamie and I. My supervisor is an outstanding mentor, and model for pastoral ministry. All three pastors are great to learn from, and we get along great. This is truly a healthy team ministry. The support staff is, well, EXTREMELY supportive. I have built lasting relationships with individuals through teaching Bible class, confirmation instruction, a Washington D.C. trip, a Louisiana trip, hospital visits, and shut-in calls. I have been with people in their most happy moments (birth of a child), and at the most difficult (death of a spouse). YES, it will be hard to leave Seymour-Bitter.

I am, however, excited to go back to St. Louis. Jamie and I found out last week that we have a place to live, and a job to go with it. I have tickets to three Cardinals games in the new Busch Stadium. Jamie will get to see many of the youth she served at Peace for two years. We will see MANY awesome friends we made at the seminary and other places. We have family there. I will be playing baseball again, not just coaching it.

There are also many things to look forward to associated with the fourth year of the seminary. I will go through the call process, and in late April, "Lord willing," I will find out where I will serve as pastor following my graduation and ordination. Graduation, and ordination--two more things to look forward to. I will be an intramural captain with a great friend. I will be able to play pick-up baskeball again in the afternoon, rather than at 6 a.m. I will have access to a weight room. But the greatest source of excitement is:


Suffice it to say, the only honest answer to both of these, seemingly opposed, questions is, "Yes." Those of you from Seymour who might read this, Jamie and I will miss you. Those of you from St. Louis, we are looking forward to breaking bread with you soon.

In the end, I shouldn't be surprised by these seemingly opposed realities. After all, we Lutherans delight in paradox.

Monday, June 26, 2006

What's in a name anyway?

After aproximately three years of reading the blogs of others, I was recently motivated to join the world of "internet musings," where the numerous minds of many ruminate. While spending more time as of late reading some of these ruminations, I have been both dismayed by dreadful declarations, and encouraged by excellent efforts to expose truth. Indeed, there is much variety in this never-ending world of the blog--from the family update, to the scholarly review.

A few months ago, I was translating Matthew 26 for a sermon I was scheduled to preach. I was taken back when I came across my name right there in the greek text. Now, while I was growing up there was a plaque hanging on a wall at home for each member of the family, which displayed the meaning of our names. One plaque read Gregory: Watchful One. Aside from knowing that I was named after both of my grandfathers (Gregory being my paternal grandfather, and Ruben, my maternal), and joking about Gregory the Great (Pope from 590-604), I had no other knwowledge as to the history of my given name.

When Jesus told Peter, James, and John to "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation," he actually told them to "Gregoreo." I never knew I had a biblical name. Actually, my name isn't even a proper noun, it's a verb--how about that!

1 Corinthians 16:13 reads, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." This is part of the exhortation Paul gives to the congregatin at Corinth in his letter. It is also the benchmark for the posts and discussion on this blog.

Undoubtedly, I will post about my family, my faith, the Church, baseball, and many other topics. There will be serious posts, and commical posts. There will also be posts which will have seemed commical at the time they were composed. It is my prayer that the thoughts posted, and the words used to express them, would not, however, bring glory to my name, but to the only one whose name deserves worship and praise-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Until that day, when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, I will simply keep watch, and attempt to post something worthwhile.

Enjoy, and please feel free to post your comments.