He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant– not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2Co 3:6 NIV)
“Ministry of the new covenant”- what a name is this? Which ministry in the sense of service and office is worthy of this name amongst people in any society? This is not that service of the letter and the law, which was put on stone tables and before the eyes of people and made their burden, which they never really appropriated with delight nor followed with passionate love in daily lives. It rather is the ministry of the Spirit, because it gives the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. It takes away the lack of joy and also the deep mistrust towards God and fills the hearer with joy and confidence, with love and strength and faith. It transforms the hearer into a new person, reforming him into God’s likeness and builds the Church in this world. What a precious calling and most wonderful ministry, office and service it therefore is. Splendid and to be held in highest esteem and practiced with greatest diligence and persistence. Nobody is competent for this very high and treasured office. If somebody is competent it is because the Holy Spirit has made him so. And who is faithful and trustworthy in this service? Go to those people, who are striving to find eternal life even as they pursue their vocation in daily struggles of this life. Look at their endeavor and dedication. Look how joyful, enthusiastic and hardworking they go about their daily routines. Yet compare how difficult some pastors make out their unique vocation to be. Pastors need the comfort of the gospel just as others do if not even in more and richer measure, because their high and magnificent calling is too often dishonored by their own unfaithfulness and lack of responsibility. All congregants and every Christian is called to pray that their pastor will be comforted with the gospel that he has used to comfort others himself. A pastor can pass away in bliss and salvation – thank God for that. Yet without affliction and temptation? Hardly! In peace? In joy? Lord – have mercy over all pastors and ministers and servants of your holy new testament – this service of the Holy Spirit, the holy office of the ministry in preaching your gospel purely and administering your most precious sacraments according to your divine institution. Have mercy on them especially as in deaths dark vale they are confronted with the high expectations and esteem of the office, that they were called to carry out in faithfulness, love and utmost dedication and in which they failed so often and so dismally. Let them not despair, but trust in your grace and forgiveness +
We thank you Lord Jesus that you have revealed yourself as the truly good shepherd and as such are always taking good care of your Church and congregation. We are comforted by your strength and wisdom, your great mercy and patience with which you lead and guide your flock daily. You take best care of our lives too and you bless us in richest measure. We thank you from the bottom of our heart, that you have given your Church the office of the holy ministry, the service of the New Testament. By it you have bestowed on us the greatest blessings from the day of our holy Baptism. Make us faithful in prayer and intercession for those, who bear the yoke of your office among us. Promote and strengthen the priesthood of all believers among us too and let pastors and congregants be saved by your grace and mercy. Amen.
Send, O Lord, your Holy spirit On your servant now, we pray; Let him prove a faithful shepherd That no lamb is led astray. Your pure teaching to proclaim, To extol your holy name, And to deed your lambs, dear Saviour, Make his aim and sole endeavour.
You, O Lord, yourself have called him For your precious lambs to care; But to prosper in his calling, He the Spirit’s gifts must share. Give him wisdom from above, Fill his heart with holy love; In his weakness, Lord, be near him, In his prayers, Good Shepherd, hear him.
Help, Lord Jesus, help him nourish All our children with your Word That in fervent love they serve you Till in heaven their song is heard. Boundless blessings, Lord, bestow On his faithful toil below Till by grace to him be given His reward, the crown of heaven. (Frederick W. Herzberger, 1859-1930)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Monday after the twelfth Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 300 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.