You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
Our new pastor was installed on Sunday, June 7, 2015. It was a day of amazing joy. It brought to a close a chapter in our church that was filled with a lot of different emotions. It’s been just a little over six months since Pastor Matt left for a new call in Rhode Island. One of the last things we did together was celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the Mount of Beatitudes. It was a beautiful and fitting goodbye. This Sunday, Pastor Jeff was installed as our new pastor. The first thing he did as our new pastor was feed us the Lord’s Supper. So that showed us Pastor Jeff’s priorities, right in line with our own. God always chooses the right pastors for His people.
The installation was a beautiful ceremony embedded within a Divine Service. Each pastor who attended the installation put his hand on Pastor Jeff and gave him some words of advice or encouragement, most from Scripture. My favorite piece of advice: “do not be afraid to be Lutheran!” I don’t think that Pastor Jeff will have a problem with that, but it does take courage. We had 20 pastors attend Pastor Jeff’s installation, so this took awhile, all the while Pastor Jeff is kneeling. The installing pastor, our circuit visitor, quipped this is why we need to install young men like Pastor Jeff–they’re the only ones who can tolerate kneeling for so long! After that, the pastors laid hands on Pastor Jeff, there was a prayer, and he is our pastor.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10
We put on the altar our Christmas parament, which says Great Joy. It is white, and we needed red for an installation service, but we added some red on the top and sides to make it right. Having a new pastor is part of our Great Joy, but really our Great Joy is having our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Him and His crucifixion and resurrection, a pastor is meaningless. But a pastor means something because he delivers Christ, our Great Joy, through the Word and Sacraments.
This is the difference between joy and happiness: happiness is fleeting, but real joy never leaves you, even when things aren’t going your way, even when your pastor takes another call. Real joy comes not from having any earthly gains; it comes only from God. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. My pastors bring me joy because they bring me Christ. Sometimes they bring me happiness too, because they’re kind and caring and tell good jokes. Real joy is not in who my pastor is, though, it’s in his faithfulness to the Word of God and the Lutheran confessions. If he is faithful, he brings me Great Joy no matter who he is and no matter if he occasionally disappoints me. Similarly, my church community brings me happiness because of their love and support, but there is always an undercurrent of joy in our relationships because we are walking in Christ together. We are blessed that God brought us a new pastor, one who will serve our Lord faithfully and with courage.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12