The last Sunday in August, my brother, Pastor Tim Mueller of New Minden, IL, preached for the ordination of his son, Jacob, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Emma, Missouri. Another brother, Pastor Bill Mueller of Fort Wayne, IN, was also there. As part of his sermon, Tim pulled out a slip of paper that our mother had sent him to give to Jacob, in part because Jacob and his grandfather (also a pastor, now sainted) had shared the same birthday, February 6. 

This was not just any slip of paper. It was the back side of a hospital menu sheet from July 1970. Our mother had carried this slip, encased in plastic, in her wallet for 42 years. Now she wanted Jacob, her grandson, the newly minted pastor, to have it. The only thing of any value on the slip was, in our father’s hand, a scripture reference – 1 Timothy 1:15. That was it. That was the precious thing she carried for 42 years.

Why? July 1970 was a terrible month. Dad was in intensive care with what they believed was some kind of bacterial infection of the heart. That particular day he appeared to be at death’s door. When he gave the slip to my mother, he couldn’t speak, but she knew that Dad meant it for the text of his funeral sermon. 

By God’s grace (and much to the amazement of his doctors) he recovered that time and God gave us 26 more years with him. When we did celebrate the life of Christ in his life at his funeral in 1996, 1 Timothy 1:15 was the text. But Mom still carried the slip for all these 42 years. And now she wanted Jacob to have it, because it was the text that typified my father’s ministry for more than 50 years. She was unable to come for the ordination, but she sent it with her prayers that it would be the same for Jacob. 

What does it say? “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). That’s the ministry – one sinner bringing to other sinners the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in Jesus. May that be the center of every pastor’s service with God’s people, including, especially, mine!

 + Herbert Mueller
First Vice President, LCMS