Installation of Rev. Keaton Christiansen
Zion Lutheran Church, Garrett, Indiana
November 17, 2019 A+D
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We don’t re-ordain a man who has already been placed under orders, but we do want to remind him of those orders and we want to hear his promise to obey them. So it is that the rite of installation is nearly identical to that of ordination.
His orders are simple. Perform the duties of your office, that is preaching, teaching, and the administrating the Sacraments, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and Confessions that you have just pledged yourself to.
The duties are then delineated further. The purpose of this preaching, teaching, and administration of the Sacraments, is that through these things the pastor would be instructing the young and old in the chief doctrines of the Church, forgiving the sins of the penitent, never divulging sins confessed to him, ministering to the sick and dying, demonstrating a ministry centered in the Gospel, admonishing and encouraging the people in confidence in Christ and also in holy living, and that he, himself, would live a holy life, diligent in the study of Holy Scripture and the Confessions, and constant in intercessory prayer for his flock.
To all this he says something to the effect of “I promise with the help of God.”
This rite, a repetition of his duties and his promise, helps us to make the necessary distinction between laity and clergy. God has instituted this office among us for those precise purposes. In fulfillment of that gift, the Office of the Holy Ministry, some men from among us, after they have been trained and examined, are placed under orders and made to be servants not only of Christ but also of the Church. They are to exercise Divine authority for the Church to the Church in the Name of Christ and are placed under a stricter judgment. They are His ambassadors, undershepherds, and stewards. They serve Him by serving His Bride.
The authority that they exercise is unlike authority in the world. It is not coercion or force or right. It has nothing that men count as back up to back it up. On this side of glory, to all appearances, the pastor has only words and foolish words at that. He can easily be ignored. The only threat of punishment is that of future punishment and to the minds of men, even if it does exist, it is far away.
The authority exercised by pastors is distinctly Christological and follows the pattern of Christ’s own Ministry. It exercises itself by an attempt to influence, to guide and to persuade. Its authority is the authority not only to extend an invitation to the unworthy and invite them to be part of the King’s banquet and Kingdom, but also to guide them there, to point out the path and warn of dangers and distractions along the way.
There may not be an obvious, immediate threat in ignoring God’s Word or treating His messengers shamefully, but eventually there will be and it is not as far away as the devil wants us to think it is. There is a place prepared for the devil and his angels. If you won’t accept the invitation to the banquet, when heaven and earth pass away there won’t be any other place for you but the place prepared for the devil. Repent.
The Office of the Ministry is, among us, mainly an office of remembrance. It is constantly reorienting a forgetful and stiff-necked people back to the reality of the unseen world and of God’s promises. We are like Israel in the wilderness. We place too much trust in our reason and our senses. We think we understand far more than we do and we forget who we are, whose we are, and who He is.
So it is that our pastors stand in the cemeteries with open graves and dead bodies and without any sense of irony at all proclaim, “Oh death where is thy sting?” Why do they say this? They say this because it is possible for Christians on this side of glory to be misled in their grief by open graves and dead bodies so that they forget that Jesus is risen from the dead and that all the dead will be raised at the last day and that this life is not all there is. This is absolute foolishness to those who are perishing and we need reminding of what is real and what is trustworthy. So our pastors remind us and call us back and again reorient us to the Biblical world.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ (is) the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:18-25).
We need this in cemeteries. We need it in hospitals. We need it in schools and bedrooms and kitchens. We need it in our cars and at work and when we go home for the holidays. This is the duty of our pastors: proclaim this foolishness to the people and God and bring them back or keep them on the path and get them home.
It is foolish in the eyes of the world to not indulge the flesh. It is foolish to bear burdens for one another, to teach the truth. The consequences of sin and of false doctrine to heart and mind and soul are not always immediately evident, but they are harmful and can be deadly. Our reason and senses and experience can betray us. We like easy answers and excuses. Our consciences can be hardened, our reason can misled, and we are good at talking ourselves into what the flesh wants. Therefore we must trust the Word of God. It is the only infallible and trustworthy source for all of doctrine and life.
Again: Christ instituted the Office of the Ministry for this purpose. He gives us pastors so that that His Word would be among us, that we would be kept by His Word on the path, that our eyes would be on Jesus and His saving Gospel and not on the open grave and dead bodies or the wisdom of the world or a convenient falsehood.
So it is that the installation rite also contains a small bit of duty and promise for you. It is not only about Pastor Christiansen and what he must do and promises to do. You also have this Word of God read to you:
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17
God commands you to submit to the authority of Pastor Christiansen. That is not authority of coercion or power. It isn’t a hierarchy of command and honor. His authority is to teach, to persuade, to guide, to remind, to reorient, to forgive. Will you submit to the Word of God? Will you let it have its way with you? Will you believe it and trust it and not in yourself? Pastor Christiansen is here to keep watch over you as a shepherd over sheep. He is not here as the secret police to get you in trouble or some petty bureaucrat to boast in his position. Rather, he watches over you like a mother watching a toddler take his first steps. He is there to help you, to keep you from missteps, to guide you to the sheep pen. Obey him so that his work will be a joy, that is, listen to the Word of God, believe it, trust it, so that his preaching isn’t in vain.
That is what you’re going to promise. You are going to promise that you receive this man as your pastor and confess that he has been placed over you by God Himself. You will promise to love, honor, and obey him, to support him and his family with your money, the liturgy says “gifts” but it means “money,” and with your prayers, with your words and with your presence.
That promise is no less serious than the promises that he will make. The consequences for breaking are equally dire. This not because Pastor Christiansen is so personally significant. Rather it is because God has placed us into families and this is yours. Family brings duties along with blessings. Our family, this family, is defined by the Blood of Christ and His Word. Its slogan is “Jesus lives.” Its motto is “O Death where is thy sting?” And its mission is to get us all home for the banquet together.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.