October is sometimes identified as “Pastor Appreciation Month.” It’s very hard for me to be the center of such attention. I truly seek to have the focus remain on Jesus, the “Thumb” in my thumbs up illustration of relationship priorities. Jesus should be the one receiving our highest words of appreciation. In that light, I really liked the words written by Pastor Matyas in the LCMS District newsletter, “Michigan in Touch.” He writes, “Seeing you listen to the Word of God and gladly keeping it, hearing your sigh of relief after receiving the Sacrament for your forgiveness, praying with you for the needs of all people, that makes my joy complete. That makes me feel appreciated. The job itself, when it’s working right, is its own reward. After all, you don’t go to church because of me, you go to church because of Jesus. And if I can serve Him by serving you, that’s all the thanks I need.”
I echo those words of Pastor Matyas and add a practical illustration. This week I had the privilege of helping a couple that was struggling with some relationship issues. I guided them to the free forgiveness we have in Jesus. They eagerly listened as I described the love of Jesus for the church as a model for their relationship as husband and wife. It was a delight for me to see the sense of freedom, comfort and hope that washed over them as they received the gifts of Jesus. They went away having encountered the AWESOME wonder of Jesus and His perfect love. They were renewed and energized for life in His way. All I did was speak the Word of Jesus. He did everything else. Seeing the power of the Holy Spirit directing this couple to Jesus and His love made me feel truly appreciated.
Sure, I’ve appreciated other gifts for “pastor appreciation month.” I remember how delighted I was to receive the gift of a romantic night away with my beloved wife. That showed me appreciation as the giver recognized the importance of my teaching about God’s way for relationship priorities. Still, the way I’ve felt MOST appreciated was when I was able to turn eyes and hearts to the joy of Jesus. All praise to Jesus!