Dear St. Luke Family,

            Our time at Concordia Seminary is drawing to a close. I am thrilled to be graduating this week and looking forward to starting my first call in July as Associate Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. These past four years at seminary have been a life-changing time of growth for our entire family, and I treasure the time I have been able to study, learn, and grow here. I would like to share three major things I’m taking with me from the seminary.

God Provides

One thing we have experienced as a family during this journey is God’s amazing provision. No matter what the circumstances, God has always provided for our family, and sometimes in unexpected ways. Seminary is expensive. Tuition. Textbooks. Housing. St. Louis cost of living. Not having time to work full-time. Having a family for whom to provide. Cars (the kind you can afford on a seminary budget) break down. We came to seminary straight from college, so things didn’t change too much for us. But some of our friends left their roots, sold most of their belongings, and sold their house (or worse, are still hoping it will sell).

And yet, despite the risks and fears shared by the families here, it’s amazing to see everyone who’s still here on the other end. We’ve all had tough times, even scary times. But we also have stories. Stories of how God provided. Even those who aren’t still here have those stories. God comes through in small, everyday ways. And sometimes he comes through in big, unexpected ways. Both kinds of stories abound here. It’s part of the seminary experience: learning that God works through many and various means to provide.  

For us personally, God has used St. Luke in a big way to do that. St. Luke has been incredibly generous to us financially. St. Luke members have flooded us with well-wishes, prayers, and blessings. We’ve had a church home that loves us and supports us. And beyond the ways in which St. Luke provided for us during seminary, we look back fondly on our upbringing at St. Luke. You taught us church, you taught us about being faithful, you taught us about Jesus. It’s St. Luke that first taught us God provides. Daily bread. Forgiveness. Eternal life. All these are overwhelming ways in which we’ve experienced God’s provision. St. Luke has blessed us with a vision of what the church looks like from God’s perspective: a beautiful, glorious, loving, powerful, gospel-filled community.

The Holy Spirit Is Active in His Church

            Being at seminary has given us another glimpse of a beautiful aspect of His church. We became part of a wonderful seminary community.  The people here are amazing. I can honestly say that even if I was not going to be a pastor, it is an honor to know the men and women that make up the community here. Fellow Christians, the Church is getting over 80 amazing new pastors this year. And there are more to come in the next years. These are men I am proud to serve with and men to whom I would trust with the spiritual well-being of my kids. I am humbled to be numbered among them. I rejoice as an LCMS member and Christian that the future of the church looks so bright. The Holy Spirit is active. This seminary is an institution with professors who care deeply about the future of the church and the pastors they are training for it. These are brilliant men teaching younger men about Jesus. It’s not just in the classroom either. Discipleship is in the air, all over campus, every day.

            But we’ve also gotten to meet others: administrators, other churches, parishioners, volunteers, other pastors. Ann Arbor. Milwaukee. St. Louis. Flint. New Orleans. Phoenix. Wisconsin Rapids. We’ve been blessed to get a greater glimpse (and yet still so small) of the church body that makes up the LCMS. It’s diverse with fellow Christians learning how to be disciples in many different contexts and walks of life. And we’re all following Jesus. The Holy Spirit is active in his church! Extraordinary, everyday people. The Holy Spirit is active in his church, doing extraordinary things in ordinary, everyday people and ways.

It’s All About Following Jesus

            The Holy Spirit works in extraordinary ways through ordinary people in different contexts—but that doesn’t mean we follow Jesus into familiar places. Call Day was April 26th. Call Day is wonderful and terrifying. If you aren’t familiar with it, in the Fall of the final year of seminary, you go through a placement process. You talk with Placement Counselors about what your passions are, what you’re good at, the context you want to serve in. You dream big. You could end up serving anywhere! They warn you: “You could be surprised on Call Day!”

You get interviews. You meet great people. You imagine serving with them. You theorize plans to move there. What could our life look like in 6 months? They warn you: “You could be surprised on Call Day!”

Things slow down. Imaginations run wild. The “higher-ups” are meeting, the Holy Spirit is working. Where could we be in 3 months? They warn you: “You could be surprised on Call Day!”

Being ordinary people through whom the Holy Spirit works in extraordinary ways doesn’t mean we follow Jesus into familiar places.

Call Day: you go in blind. You could go somewhere you know well. You could go somewhere you’ve never heard of. Everyone’s dressed up. Nerves, excitement, professionalism. Millions of people streaming the service online (okay, maybe not millions). They call your name, name a church, Somewhere, America. There’s nothing like Call Day.

            We were surprised on Call Day. Wisconsin Rapids, WI wasn’t even on our radar. It was the middle of the night and hours after we first heard of Immanuel Lutheran in Wisconsin Rapids that we finally had an opportunity to go online and see where we would be going. Call Day was scary and surprising. But we couldn’t be more thrilled to follow Jesus and see what’s he’s up to in Wisconsin Rapids. There, a wonderful community of saints is already following Jesus, learning how to be disciples, and living faithfully. We can’t wait to find out how we will get to serve in that corner of the Kingdom.

            Being ordinary people through whom the Holy Spirit works in extraordinary ways doesn’t mean we follow Jesus into familiar places. In fact, as Christians, we as ordinary people aren’t really that ordinary. The church is an extraordinary community in an ordinary world. Sure, we have our faults and we’re a community full of sinners. But the Holy Spirit is active. He works through his ordinary people to do extraordinary things that look odd to other people because we’re following Jesus.

Churches spend a lot of money to train future pastors. Families uproot and change careers to go to seminary. Parishioners work ordinary jobs for holy purposes, bringing resurrection hope into every corner of a world that longs to hear it. The Holy Spirit is working and Jesus is reigning. Jesus is Lord of Creation, and his Resurrection Kingdom is invading every corner of this world. And we get to follow him and see how he does it.

            St. Luke, thanks for the incredible things you’ve taught us and the generous ways you’ve blessed us. Keep following Jesus. The Holy Spirit is active. God provides. And we have a resurrection hope. Though we now serve in different corners, we are honored to be serving in the same Kingdom.

Jonathan Petzold and Family

Jonathon Petzold will be ordained here at St. Luke on Sunday, June 5 at 4 p.m.
If you have a facebook you can RSVP to the service here.