Today is the 30th anniversary of ordination for one of my closest friends and colleagues here in South Bend, the Reverend Greg Fiechtner. He's been at St. Paul in South Bend since 1989, so he's been a local colleague of mine since my own ordination eleven years ago. He was there for that occasion, and I can't remember any special services or events at Emmaus that he hasn't attended in the years since. He's not only been a good and faithful colleague, but truly a good friend, as well. We've enjoyed going to conferences together, sometimes sharing a room in addition to the drive. We've also had opportunity to share meals and beer and even a couple of movies. I know that I can always count on Greg for good conversation, for a sympathetic ear, a good sense of humor, and to be patient with me even when I'm acting surly with the world around me. He's a good egg, any way you look at it.
St. Paul hosted a wonderful celebration of Greg's anniversary today, and I was pleased to attend, along with my son Nicholai and my dear colleague, Pastor Grobien. What a lovely time it was. I thoroughly enjoyed the nice program that the people of the congregation put together for their pastor. They clearly love him and appreciate him, and rightly so. I especially liked the slide show of Greg's life and ministry, which gave me a glimpse of my friend from his younger years. I've gotten to know him well over the past decade, and I was tickled to see the same personality and sense of humor shining through in the photos from long before I knew him. It is refreshing to see evidence of a real Lutheran who knows and loves the freedom of the Gospel and the goodness of God's First Article gifts. I am also humbled by the way that Greg rolls up his sleeves and really dives in to share the everyday life of his people.
I also have to say how pleased and impressed I was with the nice article the newspaper featured on Pastor Fiechtner this past week. Now that was a beautiful example of faithful witness in the public square! The straightforward, down-to-earth clarity with which he spoke of Christ and of His Gospel as the very heart and purpose of the pastoral office was refreshing. I've known Greg for a long time, and I love him as a brother in Christ and in office, but I have never been more proud to call him my friend and colleague than I was in reading his words from the heart concerning Jesus, who is the only real reason that any of us are pastors.
Among the other things included at Greg's anniversary celebration was the reading of a great letter from Dr. Weinrich, who is now teaching at the Luther Academy in Latvia. Greg and I both had Dr. Weinrich as one of our favorite seminary professors, which is perhaps one of the reasons that we also get along so well with each other. Dr. Weinrich's letter expressed the significance of the pastoral ministry, and the appropriateness of celebrating such an occasion as the anniversary of ordination to that holy office. I also give thanks to God for His gift of Pastor Fiechtner to His Church on earth, and I give thanks to Greg for being the friend and colleague that he is.