During the mid-‘90s, a vacationing midwestern family, the Oberdecks, stopped at Wall Drug in South Dakota. If you’ve never been to Wall Drug, it’s a sprawling series of gift shops all under one roof and occupying a full city block in the little Badlands town of Wall. You can buy about any sort of souvenir at Wall Drug.
Dr. John Oberdeck scanned through the store and settled on one item: a long, wooden shepherd’s staff. It caught his attention and he figured that at some point he could make use of it. He was a professor at Concordia Seminary St. Louis and he thought that the staff might make a good teaching illustration.
That opportunity came when my father asked Dr. Oberdeck to preach for his installation at a new church in 1996. During the sermon, Dr. Oberdeck pulled out the Wall Drug shepherd’s staff and used it as his sermon illustration. He gave it to my dad as a gift and then for many years it hung on the wall of his office.
Fourteen years later, after I had begun pursuing pastoral ministry, I decided to attend Concordia University Wisconsin. By that time, Dr. Oberdeck was serving in CUW’s theology department. I remember taking a challenging class in Christian doctrine with him. I still return to the content from that course as I teach the faith!
On July 22, 2012, I was ordained into the office of the ministry. On that day, Dr. Oberdeck’s Wall Drug shepherd’s staff was re-gifted to me by my dad. He inscribed two Bible verses down the length of the staff, words from the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:28 & 32:
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. … And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Paul’s words continue to remind us what it means to serve as pastors and leaders in our Lord’s church. The Church is the Lord’s flock for which He, our Good Shepherd, laid down His life. He calls pastors and laity alike to care for the church of God through our words and our service to our fellow members of the Lord’s flock.
Several years later (2015), another veteran pastor from Wisconsin, Dr. Hal Senkbeil, introduced me to a different way to look at shepherding through a story by Christian author Evelyn Underhill. In her essay, “The Teacher’s Vocation,” Underhill uses a sheep dog to illustrate what it means to care for the church of God:
“That dog was the docile and faithful agent of another mind. He used his whole intelligence and initiative, but always in obedience to his master’s directive will ... The little mountain sheep he had to deal with were amazingly tiresome, as expert in doubling and twisting and going the wrong way as any naughty little boy. The dog went steadily on with it; and his tail never ceased to wag. … His relation to the shepherd was the center of his life; and because of that, he enjoyed doing his job with the sheep, he did not bother about the trouble, nor get discouraged with the apparent results. ... He was the agent of the shepherd, working for a scheme which was not his own and the whole of which he could not grasp; and it was just that which was the source of the delightedness, the eagerness, and also the discipline with which he worked. But he would not have kept that peculiar and intimate relation unless he had sat down and looked at the shepherd a great deal."
How do sheep dogs operate? With one eye on the Shepherd and the other on the sheep. They listen both for the Shepherd’s commands and they listen for the cues of the sheep.
Serving in our Lord’s church is no different! Like faithful sheep dogs in our Lord’s service, may the Lord keep each of us focused both on Him, our Good Shepherd, and on caring for the needs of His flock around us.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Kory Janneke
Posted on May 04, 2022 3:24 PM
As I announced this past Sunday, I have decided to accept the Divine Call that was extended to me to serve as the pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Conway, Arkansas. Contemplating and either returning or accepting a pastoral call like this is always a weighty thing to go through, both for the pastor and his family and for the pastor’s current congregation as well as the calling congregation.
After five weeks of prayerfully reflecting on this call, the Lord gave me and Heidi both peace and confidence about accepting this opportunity. At the same time, that means the difficult task of bidding farewell to the wonderful folks of our congregation here in Warrens. It has been a privilege and a joy to get to know the members of St. Matthew over the past several years, both long-term members and those who have joined our church family in recent years or months. I am grateful that God gave me the opportunity to serve as your pastor and to be a part of both many joys and sorrows in our life together over the past three years. I look forward to continuing to serve as your pastor through the remainder of the Lenten season and into the Easter season.
My final Sunday here at St. Matthew will be May 8. I will continue to lead our Bible studies and catechism class until the beginning of May. I am glad that I can still be the officiant for Confirmation Sunday on May 1 when seven young ladies of the congregation will be confirmed in Christ. It has also been a privilege to be their teacher over the past two years!
This will be a big transition for the congregation, but I am confident that the Lord will provide all that is needful and guide St. Matthew forward in the months and years to come! I ask that you commit this pastoral transition to your personal prayers, even as we will be including it in our public prayers in worship. Please pray for our Circuit Visitor, Rev. Don Stein, and our District President, Rev. John Wille, along with our congregational leaders. In the coming weeks, they will be working together to address the upcoming vacancy.
While times of change bring their own challenges, there are some opportunities in transitional seasons as well. Here are a few that come to mind: as already mentioned, please begin praying for our congregation, our future pastor, for me and my family, and for our sister congregation in Arkansas. During this upcoming vacancy I also urge you to continue supporting our congregation through your financial stewardship of God’s gifts. Each member can help St. Matthew to be in a solid financial standing as you prepare to call and welcome a future pastor. Also, there will be additional opportunities to volunteer at church during this vacancy. I have some ideas for several potential volunteer roles. Please visit with me if you would like to discuss this or be involved in some way.
Finally, I encourage you to bear in mind that this time is also an opportunity to entrust the future, and particularly the future of this congregation, to our good and gracious Lord. With that in mind, I’ll close with the comforting message that God has for us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Kory Janneke
Posted on March 27, 2022 7:28 AM
Including today (March 2, 2022 – Ash Wednesday), we’ve now entered a period of 95 days in which Christians focus on the two most important events in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation.
The season of Lent (which simply means “Spring”) is 40 days in length (not including Sundays). The 40 days of this season recall the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness and enduring spiritual battle against the devil (Luke 4:1-13). Other periods of 40 days or years in Bible times, include the 40 years that the Israelites spent in the wilderness in between Egypt and the Promised Land, and the 40 days that Goliath taunted Israel’s army. These were times of spiritual testing for God’s people.
Lent is a time for repentance and refinement in our Christian faith, which the Lord does through His Word and Holy Spirit. For many Christians, Lent is a time of spiritual discipline, especially fasting in remembrance of our Lord’s fasting in the wilderness. If you are fasting from anything this Lent, remember to do so in order to focus even more on Jesus, prayer, and Scripture.
The time of Lent mirrors our lives on this earth, a place of struggle, suffering, and sorrow. On this Ash Wednesday, a tragic and unjustified war is raging in Ukraine. Thousands of people are dying on both sides of the battle. As we see these heartbreaking events unfolding, we see such a glaring reminder of the need for every human heart to know and live according to the peace that only Jesus Christ brings through His life, death, and resurrection …
Lent is only a temporary season, though, just as we also trust that the sorrow and suffering of this life is temporary and will eventually be no more. As dark as life can be, the light of Easter IS coming!
The season of Easter (April 17-June 4, 2022) reminds God’s people year after year of why we have hope: our Lord Jesus lives and reigns over death, over the curse of sin, and over the scope of history.
Even as we enter Lent and renew our sights on Jesus’ suffering and death, we see beyond them to Jesus’ resurrection and victory.
Even as our world erupts in crisis and bloodshed, we pray for and seek to provide concrete support to those who are suffering, while also looking beyond this present darkness to the everlasting Easter which which we will experience when Jesus returns.
“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
Posted on March 02, 2022 10:46 AM
The Old Testament can be a daunting read. There are so many strange names and places and events. How do you fit it all together? Why does God seem so severe in the Old Testament? Why couldn’t the Israelites get their act together?
We need a key to help us unlock the Old Testament. Thankfully, Jesus gives us one! Jesus says in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” In other words, many Jewish people in Jesus’ time believed that the Scriptures showed them the path to eternal life by living according to God’s Law. Jesus is saying, “You’re missing something. Ultimately, the Old Testament Scriptures are all about Me!”
That’s the key to reading the Old Testament: look for Jesus! No, the Old Testament doesn’t directly describe Jesus’ ministry and His death and resurrection in the same way as the books of the New Testament. However, the Old Testament is filled with prophecies about Jesus, and oftentimes, the writers of the New Testament are telling us how Jesus fulfilled these ancient prophecies. For example, in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost Sunday, he preaches from the Old Testament books of Joel and the Psalms, showing how Jesus is the Risen Savior foretold by the Old Testament (see Acts 2). Peter was doing what Jesus taught him to do. Jesus taught His disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). All of the major parts of the Old Testament prophesy about and foreshadow the coming of Jesus and the deliverance He brings us.
In Old Testament times, God provided forgiveness for His people’s sins through the sacrifice of animal offerings. In the New Testament, we hear the Good News that all those sacrifices were foreshadowing the one sacrifice for all sins of all time: Jesus Himself on the cross. In the Old Testament, we see that God provided numerous prophets and priests and kings to speak His Word to Israel, to offer sacrifices on their behalf, and to reign over them. In the New Testament, we see that Jesus Himself is our Prophet, Priest, and King. He is the One whom those Old Testament offices were pointing toward. He is the Word of God. He is the Offering for our sin. He is the King who brings us into His kingdom of grace.
There are other practical things you can do to gain a better understanding of the Old Testament. Using a reliable study Bible such as the Lutheran Study Bible or the Today’s Light Bible from Concordia Publishing House can help you navigate the various books and themes and historical backgrounds of the Old Testament.
Our Sunday morning Bible study will now be focusing on one of the most prominent books in the Old Testament, the book referenced more than any other in the New Testament: the book of Isaiah. As we read Isaiah’s words together, we’ll not only be seeking a better understanding of life in Old Testament times, but we’ll especially be looking for Jesus! I invite you to join us as we discover all the ways that Old Testament prophets like Isaiah show us our Savior.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Kory Janneke
Posted on February 02, 2022 3:14 PM