GOD’S WORKERS – THRIVING, MINISTERING, SURVIVING
A TRIBUTE TO DR. HUBERT TEMME AND REV. RICHARD ARNDT:
Friends, I have decided this month to have this column honor two fellow brothers who have served God’s people for a combined 110 years. By now you have heard that we will be honoring both men the morning of Sunday, November 15th (details can be found elsewhere on the website). I will always be grateful for what these men have shared through the years with untold thousands of people. No matter how much we at Faith have benefitted from the service and wisdom of these two men, what they have shared with our church around the world extends far beyond that.
I will confess to a bit of reluctance to write about this. Perhaps in the family of faith here at Faith, I am the natural person to write such a column. But I feel inadequate for the task, and for a couple of reasons. One is that, while a share a camaraderie with each of them as fellow brothers in the ministry, with my short time here, I still barely know either of them. And let’s be honest – even with my 25+ years in the ministry, it doesn’t scratch the surface of the wisdom these men have gained with their sixty and fifty years, respectively.
There is one thing we can all be certain of – and that is that these men are what they are, and have accomplished what they have accomplished ONLY by the grace of God. That is not to diminish, in any way, what they have done and shared. Rather, it is a commentary on how God chooses men for the Holy Ministry. Even as Jesus chose twelve extremely ordinary (and admittedly flawed) individuals to serve as His apostles, so also He chooses ordinary men – sinners – to heed the call of workers into His harvest field.
The first president of our church body (the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod) perhaps said it best: “God carries on His work through men with whom it sometimes seems as if one would go to the right and the other to the left and the third one would hold back, and yet the work progresses.” Indeed, aside from their membership here at Faith and a friendship between them and their spouses that has built up through the years because of their shared time here in New Port Richey, it could well be that, personality-wise, strengths-wise, ministry-focus-wise, and whatever else, they may actually have little in common.
One thing almost all of us here at Faith know – that Dr. Temme especially is REALLY only here by God’s eternal grace, having suffered some significant health issues that called into serious question whether he would ever see this day. But as most of you have seen, he is back in the pew, and especially after his back surgery, is as good as he has been for a long time.
But whatever brought us to this day, it truly is a celebration. For while I cannot know how many of the men who originally graduated with them are still left, I do know that there are times when all of us in the ministry feel more like survivors, and not just health-wise.
Using an example from my own ministry days, I spent my first year of seminary as a single student in a dormitory for single men. I cannot recount how many men were in that dorm that year. I can tell you that, of the men I do remember, very few of them are still in the ministry. One became (and remains) a missionary, much like Dr. Temme spent time as a missionary. Another became the chief of naval chaplains for our synod (a man who happened to be my roommate).
And if you were to have ranked those who were left in terms of how many of them would thrive in or at least still be in ministry, those who actually still are would have topped few if any ballots. I don’t say that to brag – in fact, I never forget that most of those fictional ballots probably would not have included my name. It is a true lesson in humility.
As for Pastor Arndt and Dr. Temme, the fact that one of them does carry the earned title of “Dr.” may indicate that, from the beginning, at least one of them would have rated highly on the “can’t miss” list – in fact, my hunch is they both were. But that is not what has made them God’s trusted and faithful workers through the years.
Paul had SO many words of encouragement for pastors, from his many words of counsel to the young pastor Timothy in two of his final letters, to his encouragement to the church leaders in Ephesus in Acts, chapter twenty. I will quote a couple of them here to show the tremendous privilege and burden they have borne for a combined 110 years:
“Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” [I Timothy 4:13–16, E.S.V.]
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober–minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” [II Timothy 4:2–5, E.S.V.]
Friends, these men are special, even if we have only received them in retirement. Their years of experience and wisdom are priceless. But all of it is from the Lord, who gives to them – and us – our faithfulness. May the Lord bless them in the years to come as He has in the years past. I close with a hymn verse from one of my all-time favorites.
God brought me to this time and place
Surrounded by His favor.
He guarded all my nights and days,
His kindness did not waver.
His peace as sentinel He gave
My spirit’s health and joy to save.
To this day He has blessed me.
[LW #456, vs. 1 – Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO]