Vicar Jason Kiefer
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
John received his vision on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea towards the end of his life. He saw a glimpse of heaven, the end times, and what was to come for eternity. The Revelation given to him concludes with the victory of Satan and death. All that exists will go away, to be replaced with a glorious and perfect new creation, a recreation. After the old heaven and earth pass away, God brings forth a new heaven and earth, with the Holy City of New Jerusalem descended from the clouds. A new Christmas happens as Jesus comes to physically be with His people a second time. There will be no more tears and crying, no more pain and death. Faithful Christians will rise and be given new life.
On a far smaller scale, Good Shepherd is beginning a new chapter. Pastor Babbitts will begin anew as he takes his call to Prince of Peace in Hamburg, and I, as a shepherd in training, will begin serving your flock. Don Meagher will also be working to complete his deacon training. The Holy Spirit is guiding new under- shepherds to help our church family.. Many others will continue to serve in their current leadership roles to provide stability to the congregation.
This coming year we look for stability, maintaining our presence in, to and for the community. We wish to always gather for the Word and Sacrament, who is Jesus Christ. But God does not call us to be static. His will is for us to be shining lights who bring His love and peace to those who do not yet know Him. During our time together we shall grow in our own understanding and strength, maturing into ambassadors in His service. To that end the New Jersey District desires to give us support in many and various ways. With God’s blessing, the Holy Spirit will empower us to follow in Christ’s footsteps.
We shall not receive these gifts for personal satisfaction. Yes, God will give us comfort in His love, but love is to be shared. With our newfound knowledge we shall ponder God’s direction in our hearts. By His grace we can impact our neighbors. Maybe some people will check us out, maybe some will join our church. Maybe some will come back, former members or people generally to the Faith. We pray for God’s will to be done as He grows His family. But do not be discouraged, for we shall never be lost to Him. He will provide. All this rests with Him, not by our human desires.
Let us ever cling to Jesus; He shall bring us home. Do not stress when things seem hopeless. The movie Dunkirk depicts the heroic evacuation of the trapped British soldiers in France. Rescuing the people from France saved the army, and allowed them to fight the German Nazis at a more opportune time. A blind man was greeting the beleaguered men when they got back to England, tell them all, “Well done.” as he gave them blankets. One solder said, “All we did is survive.” The old man replied, “That’s enough.” We are still here, receiving God’s gifts. May He bless us with others to share our love.
I am a second year seminarian in the Specific Pastor Ministry (SMP) program through Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. I have been a vicar for a year, with another year to ordination. Prior to this, I was commissioned as a District Lay Deacon in 2012. I have done my training and service at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hackettstown. While at Gethsemane I have done many things, including Head Elder, Sunday school teacher, acolyte trainer and current VBS director. I have my last District Board of Directors meeting this January, as I transition out of my lay role there.
I grew up in North Dakota, which explains my accent. My parents were married, and I was baptized in my father’s Catholic faith. I grew up in the town with my mother’s family, and when my brother was born two years later, the family joined her Lutheran church. I also have a sister eight years my junior. With an active extended family (many roles amongst them), I always participated in Sunday school and youth group, being a leader there. I stayed active in college with campus ministry and continued church involvement.
I initially enrolled in Civil Engineering at North Dakota State, but due to my church involvement, transferred to Concordia University-St. Paul for the Director of Christian Education program. However, after many years of college I got worn out and left, returning to NDSU for a University Studies degree. When visiting a classmate from CSP, I came to New Jersey for a visit, and in the group of youth leader friends, I met my future wife Sharon. I moved east and we were married in 2003. I never got back to college to pursue church work, but once settled I entered the district Lay Ministry program and became a deacon. Now I am back at grad school to become a pastor.
Sharon has been with Johnson & Johnson for 15 years as a data analyst. Yes, she is a math geek. Her corporate job has allowed me to be a stay-at-home dad. Our daughter, Allison was born in 2010. She is a 7th grader at Clinton Township Middle School where she plays volleyball and is in the school play. Sharon is the Financial Secretary and youth leader at Hackettstown. Allison is an acolyte and in youth group and confirmation. I am being supervised during my vicarage by Gethsemane’s pastor, Tim Drawbaugh.
SMP pastors usually are trained in their vacant home congregations. I am blessed to be with Good Shepherd for this coming year during my final vicarage year.
LCMS Specific Ministry Pastors (SMP) What Are They?
Concordia Seminary’s Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program is a four-year state of the art distance education program that prepares men for specific pastoral ministries in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Students receive academic training in the setting where they will continue to serve following ordination. While taking classes through Concordia Seminary, they work with local pastor-mentors who support them in the program with day-to- day guidance, encouragement and prayer.
The SMP curriculum incorporates the concurrent practice of ministry and pastoral formation, leading to certification as a specific ministry pastor. The SMP Program consists of 16 courses taught in an online learning community, including a one week required on- campus intensive course per year.