The Ordination of Winston Parker Andrew Grieser on the Thursday after Pentecost
June 8, 2017 A+D
St. Luke 9:1-6
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When the Lord sent out the Twelve He knew full well there would be sorrows and rejection.
He told them that it would happen. He did not say “if” this happens, but “wherever ” it happens. It happened to them. It will happen to you.
He says not that they should respond to this with their hats in their hands making every effort to make amends, but that they should shake the dust off their feet. The Lord does not tell them to try harder. He tells them to disown those people, to shake the dust off their feet as a testimony against them.
We have too much hand-wringing in the ministry and not enough dust shaking. We place the blame on the Christians and excuse the heathen. “If only,” we pine, “the Christians were nicer, more loving than people would love the Light.” We think it is us they don’t like but it is not. Jesus is the problem, not us. So also, the same is true when they love the Light. It isn’t us they love, or our clever ways, it is Him.
In any case, the Lord warns us to not throw pearls before swine but we aren’t sure He really meant it. There is something deeply broken in us that thinks we can out do Jesus with Matthew 18, that we can do more than He asks, make up new standards like face-to-face meetings, and who know what else. Instead of going an extra mile, as He says, we go 10 extra miles and then we start over, never pulling the trigger in a vain and blasphemous attempt to be more loving than God, or else we declare that it is better pretend false doctrine isn’t false or that openly sinful lives are covered by the 8th commandment or that we can create unity where God has not given it. All this is really an attempt to run away from our duties.
This comes from our sinful nature. These things violate God’s Word and substitute the standards of men for Divine Law. We are afraid to shake the dust off of our feet. We are afraid to let those who reject Christ get what they deserve. We take on to ourselves a burden that wasn’t never meant to be ours and which we cannot bear. Repent.
The sending of the Twelve Luke 9 is unique. It is distinct from their later sending as Apostles and also from our sending of their successors into the Apostolic Ministry. They were sent as prophets, proclaiming and performing miracles, but not teaching.
Prior to Pentecost, only Jesus taught. It is a fact easily missed but it is of great significance. The Lord did not send the Twelve nor the Seventy to teach during His humiliation. They were sent to proclaim, not to teach. Then when Jesus took the Eleven to the mountain, just before His ascension, and told them to wait for the Spirit in Jerusalem, He ordained them to teach. He did this not just with authority and power over demons and diseases, but with all the authority in heaven and on earth for Lo, He is with them always to the end of the age and all authority in heaven and on earth is His.
In the context of the Gospels, this word teach is used with great precision. It means more than simply repeating the facts, more than proclaiming. It means to give a detailed and authoritative exposition of Christ and His work in the Church based on the Scriptures. It means to open those Scriptures so that they testify of Christ and the hearts of the faithful burn within them.
The Apostolic Minister, that is you, is sent to instruct and admonish and encourage the Baptized in all the facets, implications, and results brought about by the Incarnation, the Sacrifice and Victory, and the Ascension of Jesus Christ. This teaching will not only bestow the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit, making disciples, but it will also bring those disciples into a real encounter with the risen Lord in His Sacraments and it will change them.
This teaching engages and uses the intellect, training, and experience of the minister. Even as the Bible is more than an orthodox book, so also preaching is more than an orthodox speech. It is not simply a bunch of true stuff about God. It is not even just a delivery of forgiveness. The minister called by Christ is filled with the Holy Spirit whom the Son has sent to testify of Him and the Son Himself is with the minister, despite the minister’s unworthiness and weaknesses and pride, the Son is with the minister in his teaching and baptizing and it is the Son who uses it to make disciples for Himself.
Being inspired and authorized by God to preach it is not the same thing as being inspired to write the Bible. Our sermons are not infallible. Nonetheless, the relationship of Apostoilic Minister to Apostle and Apostolic writing is more closely connected and intertwined than we might imagine. The call to teach with Christ’s authority makes the charge laid at Aaron’s feet and the handling of holy fire look like child’s play.
So it is that the Lutheran Confessions use the word “teach” to describe preaching, not Bible class or confirmation instruction or private counsel. Our forefathers understood the sermon to be the place where the Holy Spirit inspires the men that He sends so that they would open the Scriptures to His people in detailed and lengthy expositions of Christ. This preaching is itself absolving. Through it, Christ speaks His people clean and gives His Holy Spirit, strengthening and encouraging faith. But this preaching is more than an absolution, more than proclamation. Christ is risen from the dead and He gives to His people a part in His kingdom. Apostolic preaching has always included instructions for and admonitions to holy living, ethical instruction and calls to virtue. Apostolic preaching, as modeled in the New Testament, has never been a mere repetition of the Saving Truth of God’s love, but has always included what the Gospel means and how it effects daily life, how we are carry on in the midst of tragedy in light of the Gospel, how we are to resist and recover from sin, and how we are repent and believe and rest in the Gospel.
There isn’t much glory in this. Our age craves libertinism posing as tolerance and Lutherans has always been vulnerable to the errors of antinomianism and hedonism. On this side of glory, teaching Christ’s Word always brings some slander and sorrow. That was the main sin committed against Jesus. They said He had a demon or He blasphemed or He was disrespectful to the traditions of the elders. This is still the main sin committed against His ministers. They slandered Christ and they will slander you. They will talk about you, complain about you, and assign bad motives to you. They will make up stories about you and accuse of ridiculous positions to make themselves feel better about ignoring your counsel. And it is almost inevitable that at some point one of your brothers in the Office will fail if not betray you.
And yet, the Word of God is living and powerful, and rare is the ministry, no matter how hard, that doesn’t know something of the joy of being present when faith is born in a hearer.
Teaching is hard work. It not always received with joy and it is sometimes just plain hard. But that is what you are being called to do and be. You are not simply an absolver or a proclaimer. You are not a prophet or a priest. You are not a robot with nothing new to say. God has called you, as He made you, with your unique personality and history, with your strengths and weaknesses, to be a Teacher of the Church and a blessing to the people of God in Florence and beyond Much of what you have to teach will be unpopular and unwelcome, but hidden there is the power of salvation to all who believe, and there will almost certainly be those who praise God for you and the work you do and who support you with their charity.
It seems, no doubt, that you are being sent out tonight with about the same level of supplies as the Lord gave to the Twelve. But you aren’t on your own. The Lord is with you. He sends you with His authority and His promise. Rejoice and be glad. Dark days and dust shaking might come, but He has given you a place to teach, people to serve. And He gives you also a part in His Kingdom and joy in His Word. You too live by grace and it is a great honor and privilege to be called a Servant of the Word.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Just, Concordia Commentary Luke Vol. 1, p. 376.