Herrenhuter readings for Thursday, the 8th January 2015

Preach Christ CrucifiedGod calls his prophet Jeremiah: “Arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee.” (Jeremiah 1,17) and St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” (2.Corinthians 4,5) 

God himself calls his apostles and prophets into his service to proclaim, whatever he tells them too. He is most concerned about their faithfulness with regards to this message so that nothing is left out, nothing is added or changed. He wants his servants to let nothing fall by the way side or make anything up. Rather he would have them speak instead and on behalf of himself so that all that is said is as firm and dependable here on earth as if God himself had spoken in heaven above. They are his very mouthpiece amongst his people, whether they want to hear or not. So that our Lord Jesus Christ concludes: “Whoever hears you, hears me and whoever rejects you, rejects me.”

In the Augsburg Confession it is written: “To obtain such (saving) faith (in Jesus Christ) God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe.” (Kolb & Wengert, Pg. 40)

To serve God’s people with preaching the pure gospel and administering the sacraments as he himself instituted them in his new and final testament is at the very centre of God’s calling of men into his pastoral service. Therefore it is taught amongst us: “According to the gospel the power of the keys or of the bishops (which is the very same thing!) is a power and command of God to preach the gospel, to forgive or retain sin, and to administer and distribute the sacraments. For Christ sent out the apostles with this command (John 20:21–23): “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The same power of the keys or of the bishops is used and exercised only by teaching and preaching God’s Word and by administering the sacraments to many persons or to individuals, depending on one’s calling. Not bodily but eternal things and benefits are given in this way, such as eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. These benefits cannot be obtained except through the office of preaching and through the administration of the holy sacraments. For St. Paul says [Rom. 1:16]: “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.” (Apology of CA XXVIII ebd Pg.92).

In his exhortation to St.Timothy St. Paul agrees and repeats: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach… ” (1Ti 3:1-2 KJV). This aptitude to teach is central and vital. It is the reason, why the Church trains and teaches its future pastors so diligently. For they need to know all that our Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught and entrusted to the Church. In the Church it’s not so crucial to know, what this or that celebrity propagates, yet it is absolutely crucial to know, believe, trust and confess all that the Lord himself has ordained and instituted. His will and promises are our firm foundation – all else is but sinking sand. Part of being trained and exercised in God’s holy word, students of theology need to be examined and tested to establish, whether they are up to standard and meet the expectations of the church with regards to the basic requirements and prerequisites for this precious and high calling. Furthermore the Church itself in its prominent and authorized members together with the Christian congregation calls these candidates, which are deemed suitable after deliberate training and serious examination to serve in this or that special place and amongst certain people and then they are ordained and installed into this very specific service and contextual calling to proclaim Christ and him crucified. Obviously that’s but a chiffre for the encompassing service of the pastoral office. Preaching according to the lectionary Sunday for Sunday, teaching and instructing various classes and groups weekday for weekday. Even after a lifetime of serving in the Church and faithfully handing out God’s means of grace and wonderful gifts to the needy people, the pastor will not stand empty handed, because God is gracious and merciful providing richly for all the many needs of his people through the forgiveness of sins and granting blessed salvation and life everlasting.

The high and precious calling to serve as pastor in the Church is nothing else than bringing Christ to the people. That’s what the pastor’s service is all about. That’s what he is supposed to do – day and night, 24 hours for seven days a week. That’s the good work the triune God requires from his pastors, missionaries, teachers and bishops. Not everybody is called to be pastor, missionary, teacher or bishop, but those who are have their hands full. For that’s not just a part time job or sometime hobby or something I can handle on a Sunday morning before lunch. That’s something that demands all of me and everything. The question is, whether we are willing to obey this calling of our Lord to follow him and be faithful servants – or whether we’re preoccupied and have other things on our mind and to do. It’s all or nothing really.

It needs to be pointed out, that a calling like this is a very personal thing. It’s not a general rule or job description, which is duplicable and applicable in all life situations and holding true for everyone. No – this is something very special and individual. God’s calling of his servant into his service. We are answerable to him. He sets the standards and benchmarks. He is the one, who lays out the rules and stipulates the conditions. He himself has made that clear, when he said: “Like the Father sent me, I send you…” and “My food is that I do the will of the Father and finish his work” and “Work as long as it is day” etc.

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise,
manifested by the star
to the sages from afar;
branch of royal David’s stem
in thy birth at Bethlehem;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest and King supreme;
and at Cana, wedding guest,
in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in power divine,
changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
palsied limbs and fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight,
quelling all the devil’s might;
manifest in gracious will,
ever bringing good from ill;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Sun and moon shall darkened be,
stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
all will see his glorious sign;
all will then the trumpet hear,
all will see the Judge appear;
thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
mirrored in thy holy Word;
may we imitate thee now,
and be pure, as pure art thou;
that we like to thee may be
at thy great Epiphany;
and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in man made manifest.

 Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), 1862

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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