When I began serving at my congregation in June of 2008, it was a very exciting time! In Seminary I was taught about the blessings of serving God’s people as well as the possible pitfalls. I remember one professor in particular who said, “Don’t be surprised when you go to your calls and you find a bunch of sinner/saints.” It’s all true, actually. In nearly five years of ministry, I have been blessed to be a part of a congregation which, for the most part, has been 99% really nice, faithful Lutherans who have a sincere desire to be a part of the Word and Sacrament ministry happening here. So what about the 1%? I guess the 1% serve as a reminder that we truly are in a “now and not yet” situation. Jesus live… the victory’s won… yet people are still fallen and broken sinners in need of the Law and the Gospel. For example: When my family and I arrived here, the yard was nothing but weeds and highly poisonous mushrooms and various other, little nasties. The first year we did pretty much nothing… it was enough to get settled in. After we survived the first winter and winter breakup came, we thought we would give that old yard a “go”. We went out and bought some grass seeds, sprinkled them on the ground, did a lot of watering, etc… Interestingly, at this time, various members starting weighing in on the subject. Most of them (let’s say 99%) said “Alright, Pastor! I’m glad to see you guys tackling that yard. Anything you do is an improvement!” Perhaps they were just putting the best construction on things, but God bless them for their encouraging words. Now… there was another, much smaller group of people (let’s say 1%) of them who kept saying “You are wasting your time and money… that yard is worthless. It never grows anything. You should give up.” Here is a mindset that prefers the dead yard over someone working in it. No suggestions, simply “it’s a goner… give up.” Interestingly, these were also the same people who didn’t believe it was a robust enough thing for a Pastor to faithfully preach, teach and administer the Sacraments. They didn’t want a gardener or a Shepherd… they wanted a Cheer Leader/CEO/ Game Show Host. No gardening, no guiding… just more people at any cost. Well, that’s not how I garden nor is it how I shepherd. So anyway… the first year I tended, planted, watered, trimmed off things that were blocking the light and preventing growth. After the first year, it was obvious that I made some changes. It was dirty, messy, a little bit of growth, but overall, a back-breaking experience. Then the winter came and seemed to bury everything from Spring, Summer and Fall. But after the next winter breakup, it was back to planting, watering, trimming, tending and caring. The place started to look less like a field with weeds and poison and a little more like what is was supposed to look like. This has gone on for several years and I imagine it will continue to go on as long as God will have me. Today, as I look at results of planting, watering and tending, I see that there has been much new life brought into the field here in Anchorage. There was a lot of tending, cutting, trimming and a lot of feeding, but thanks be to God, we can look and see a much more healthy place where once it had several unhealthy elements keeping it desolate. In this way, gardening and Pastoral ministry are often indistinguishable.