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Bio:  Moving from the Old World to the New, Muhlenberg established the shape of Lutheran parishes for America during a 45-year ministry in Pennsylvania. Born at Einbeck, Germany, in 1711, he came to the American colonies in 1742. A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first American Lutheran synod, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, founded in 1748. He valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist) and was also the guiding force in preparing the first American Lutheran liturgy (also in 1748). Muhlenberg is remembered as a church leader, a journalist, a liturgist, and—above all—a pastorto the congregation in his charge. He died in 1787, leaving behind a large extended family and a lasting heritage: American Lutheranism.

During the American War of Independence, Muhlenberg’s home in Trappe was full of fugitives; he wrote in his journal: ‘The name of Muhlenberg is greatly disliked and abused by the British and Hessian officers in Philadelphia, and they threaten prison, tortures, and death, so soon as they can lay hands upon me.’

Pastor Muhlenberg’s  sons were  leaders in American public life. His son John Peter Gabriel left his pastorate in Woodstock, Virginia and became a general under Washington and later in life served as congressman and senator from Pennsylvania.  He announced his intention to serve in the Continental Army and the cause of political freedom from the pulpit when he took off his preaching robe to reveal his uniform saying there is a time to pray and a time to fight.  One of Pennsylvania’s statues in Statuary Hall in the U. S. Capitol depicts this moment .  It might be legend but it illustrates that we are called to serve as citizens in the two kingdoms, the temporal, that is, our nation and the eternal, the reign of God in Jesus Christ. John’s brother, Frederick Augustus Conrad,  also a Lutheran pastor became a member of the Continental Congress and became the first speaker of the House of Representatives in the new nation under the new Constitution.

(Sources:  Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Philip Pfatteicher,  Diary Review: Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Pastor Muhlenberg wrote an extensive journal which is a record of his pastoral ministry but also the times and his heart.  His journals are in three volumes. In this selection, we see his ministry, times and his heart:

1748. November 5.I am worn out from much reading; I am incapacitated for study; I cannot even manage my own household because I must be away most of the time. The Reverend Fathers called me for only three years on trial, but the dear God has doubled the three years and upheld me all this time with forbearance. I write this not out of any discontent of slothfulness, but out of the feeling of spiritual and physical incapacity and a yearning desire to achieve a little more quietude where I could gather my thoughts better, spend more time with my wife and children, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

When the Lord called Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul), He told him  that He would show him how much he must suffer for Christ’s Name (Acts 9: 16).  Pr. Muhlenberg knew the role of the pastor.  It is not about “your best life” now, but the Lord’s eternal life now and to the kingdom come in the preaching and teaching of the Word of Christ. Someone decided that October is pastor appreciation month.  It is appropriate with today’s commemoration and the Feast of the Reformation, October 31 when a pastor said before King and Church:  Here I stand, I can do no other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  Pr. Muhlenberg was a captive to no man but to the Word of God, so are also all true and faithful pastors. Give thanks to the Lord for your pastor and thank him!

In Martin Luther’s sermon of the conversion of St. Paul (25 January) preached on the role of the pastor.  It was Ananias who baptized Paul.  The Lord revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus but it was in Baptism Paul was converted (see Romans 6: 1 etc).  The Lord had a called pastor in Damascus to so preach and  baptize.  Read Luther’s keen understanding of the role of all pastors as you think on your pastor:

Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (vs. 6)

Although he speaks with Paul directly from heaven above, God does not intend to put away the pastoral office or establish something extraordinary for him. Indeed, he might have spoken to him directly and revealed what he wanted him to do, but instead he directs him to go to the parish pastor in the city where he would hear and learn what he was supposed to do. Our Lord God does not purpose some special thing for each individual person, but gives to the whole world—one person like the next—his baptism and gospel. Through these means we are to learn how to be saved, and have no need to wait for God to reveal some new thing from heaven, or send angel.  For it is his will that we go to hear the Gospel preached by the pastor;  there we will find him, and in no other way…

Our Lord God did not mandate anything extraordinary for Paul to do, for he, after all, had heard the physical voice of Christ, the Lord, and he was to become a foremost preacher. Instead he is told to go into the city and to hear Ananias. So, get up and go! he says. Nothing special beyond this is done, no further instruction there along the road, no baptism, just the directive to go where his Word and baptism are to be had. And Paul willingly complies with the Lord’s directive, although he does not yet know where and by whom this will all happen…

Ananias to Saul: “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way as thou tamest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (“vs. 17)

That is something we must really note well, so that we esteem the preaching office as we ought.  Paul receives his sight, his insight and the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of Ananias, so that he knows who Christ is, understands the power of baptism, and forthwith emerges as a changed man.“

Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd  of Your people, we give You thanks for Your servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of the flock entrusted to his care. So they may follow his example and the teaching of his holy life, give strength to pastors today who shepherd Your flock so that, by Your grace,Your people may grow into the fullness of life intended for them in paradise; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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