Chained To The Altar
One of the best models for the pastor's ministry is blessed Anna who, "did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." (Luke 2:37) Or like St. Paul who was "an ambassador in chains," (Eph. 6:20) the pastor should consider himself chained to the altar. It is his office. Where he works. And whenever he does leave it is for the purpose of taking the gifts of the altar to those who cannot come to it. He makes, as it were, house calls on the sick, the infirm and the dying members of his parish. But even as he leaves there is a golden thread attached to him that always keeps him mindful of his work, and pulls him back to his rightful place in the universe.
What are the gifts of the altar? Abundant life and everlasting salvation which God locates here so that they can be found by all who desire them. Note that in Lutheran architecture the altar, and not the pulpit, is the focal point. That is because the pulpit serves to bring people to the altar. It is not an end in itself as Lutherans often think; but calls men to the altar where Jesus is located, and gives himself to us. The altar is, as it were, the clinic of the Great Physician. The place where the "medicine of immortality" is dispensed. The place where his very body and blood are given to
sin-sick men for the remission of sins, life, salvation, comfort, consolation, peace, sure confidence and the power to overcome every foe.
While the pastor does not take Holy Communion to the world, but only to his ailing members, he does take the holy gospel to any who would listen. In the church’s best tradition nothing is ever placed on the altar except the blessed bread and cup, and the gospel book which contained the assigned gospel lesson for each Sunday. That is what the pastor takes from the altar into the world. To hospitals, nursing homes, sick beds, jails, darkened homes, and any other place where the wages of sin are paid out.
Pastors are not community organizers or event planners but "servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." (1 Corinthians 4:1) May both pastor and congregation keep these things in mind, for the blessing of all.