Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pastor Otten Memories

Christian News, May 13, 2013

It has recently come to my attention that Pastor Otten is coming to the conclusion of his official service to Trinity in New Haven as their pastor.  It sounds a bit like he is retiring, however, to use the term "retire" in reference to Pastor Otten seems foreign in nature.  When the Prophet Moses' service to God's people came to its conclusion the Scriptures describe him as a man whose "eye was not dim nor vigor abated".  More than anyone else I know, Pastor Otten is a man who shares such a description.  For my entire life (all 56 plus years) he has been a tireless soldier in the army of our King--working as God gave him strength to know "nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

My earliest memory of my godfather, the man I know as "Uncle Herman" was very early in my life.  I recall the arrival of a sedan on a warm evening out front of our home in Spencerport, NY.  Herman had come to visit and to introduce Grace to my parents. 

"Uncle Herman" had served as a vicar at St. Matthew in Rochester, NY where my mother was a member.  He came to know my Dad too, who was a member at St. John in Hamlin, NY at the time my parents were dating.  I am told there were a good number of athletic contests in which the "vicar' participated along with the Lutheran Youth in the area. 

As a youngster, like many other Lutheran youngsters, the importance and influence of godparents was severely underestimated.  "Uncle Herman" may not have been geographically involved, but his influence was evident just the same.  My library today still contains any number of volumes he endowed upon me over the years, some which found continued use in the schooling of my children and now my grandchildren.  "Little Visits with God", "More Little Visits with God", "Christ of the Gospels", "The Church of the Ages", "The Dead Sea Scrolls", are all treasured volumes along with many others, not just because of the subject of each book, but even more so because of the personal notations contained in each one.  "The Lutheran Hymnal" which was his gift to me at my Baptism is tattered and worn, but treasured even more so for the hours of blessings it has brought over the years.

Other memories also abound of time with "Uncle Herman" and his family.  Our children all remember visits to New Haven as well as visits to Texas by the Otten clan.  The girls especially recall when on one of their family vacations the Ottens came to visit us in East Texas.  "Uncle Herman" speaking at the Free Conference at Grace in Brenham or preaching at my installation as Pastor at Grace some 20 years ago were memorable events for me and for my family.  However, no more memorable than his preaching at my 20th anniversary year in the ministry...or at my ordination.  I can still recall his words in that ordination sermon from the pulpit at St. Paul in Hilton, NY, "Matt, always remember that you are a dying man preaching to dying people".  That was his commentary on John 3:30--"He must increase and I must decrease."  That advice has served me well in my own ministry and was always a godly context for my own preaching to God's holy people.

It is certain that we along with many others could go on with memories of our interaction with Pastor Otten that would keep you all day, but perhaps it is best to conclude with the real heart of the matter.  For "Uncle Herman", myself, and many others it is always about Jesus Christ our Savior....because we are dying people and Jesus is our only hope and salvation.  Whatever we accomplish in this life is by the grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, for in Him we can do all things because He strengthens us.  One hymn writer has penned words quite fitting for this day's occasion: "Change and decay in all around I see, O, Thou who changest not abide with me."  Today there is a milestone of change observed for Pastor Otten, his family, and the congregation of Trinity in New Haven.  Jesus Christ, however, is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His mercy endures forever and it is in Him we place our trust and hope, because He was crucified for our offenses and raised for our justification. 

As you contemplate where God leads next, we pray His blessings upon you now and always; "And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of The Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."  Colossians 3:17

Pastor Matthew Jacobs
Grace Lutheran Church,
Brenham, Texas

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