Installation of Rev. Mark P. Braden, Zion-Evangelical Lutheran Church, Detroit
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord Jesus Christ does not say that He has all authority in heaven and on earth. He says that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him. As the Father and the Spirit sent Him so He sends the Apostles. As the Father and the Spirit gave all authority in heaven and on earth to Him, so also does He give authority to the Apostles. Whatever you bind or loose on earth is bound or loose in heaven. The Lord bestows His authority, His own Holy Spirit, in speaking. We should not imagine Our Lord puffing, like blowing out candles on a birthday cake, and then saying, “Peace.” Rather it is the Breath of Our Lord, which first stirred Adam to life, that carries the Word to the ears of the apostles. You cannot speak without air, without breath.
The authority Our Lord speaks upon the apostles is “Peace.” That is the character and content of their authority. And as it has been given to them they are to give. The Apostolic Office, that is, the pastoral office of the New Testament, bestows peace on the world through speaking. That peace is spoken in the Holy Absolution, in Holy Baptism, and in the Holy Communion. But there is more. That peace is spoken in Holy Matrimony, in various blessings, by the power of prayer, and in preaching. Only a fool tries to count sacraments. Fortunately for us, the Lord suffers fools. But when our foolishness is revealed we do well to cease. Why would we create lists where God would bestow a bounty? Where the Man of God is sent, where he lives and works and speaks, God bestows peace. Let us bask in the way God serves us through the Office, in what He provides, and let us rejoice again today that He has provided particularly for us and for Detroit in Father Braden.
This is the way that God has loved us and how He gives His Kingdom to us. For Our Lord has instituted this Office that that Word of God would dwell richly among us, that peace would be bestowed, that all manner of tares of false doctrine would be rooted up and kept away from us, that the wolves in the sheep’s clothing would be exposed, and that the sheep would be fed in good pastures, indeed, that the body of Christ, that is, the Church, would be built, ever grow, and be strengthened. This is how God loves us. He breathed peace onto His apostles and established a Divine Office to preach the Word and forgive our sins.
Now, it behooves us to consider the purpose and benefit of this present ceremony. For unlike Holy Ordination, the installation of a pastor has not been established by Christ in Holy Scripture. It contains no promise to bestow grace or the Holy Spirit. It is a rite and ceremony mostly outside of the tradition of the Holy Catholic Church. God places men into the Office at Holy Ordination. Once ordained men move about to serve in various jurisdictions as the Spirit leads and seems best to the Church. So why all the pomp and circumstance? If Father Braden is already a pastor what are we doing? Do we have the right to engage in this act?
Installation t is not forbidden in Holy Scripture. That should mean that we are free to engage in it if it seems good to us. But we do not add ceremonies to the Church, even in terms of local custom, simply because we can. We only add to the Church’s ceremony for the sake of edifying the Church by underscoring the Gospel in some way. Not all ceremonies are helpful. And sometimes ceremonies that ought to be allowable must be removed or denied, even when they themselves are neutral, if they give the false appearance of unity with heterodox churches.
In this regard, this particular ceremony, the installation of a pastor, is questionable. It has been sorely abused in our midst, which is to say, in America and in the Missouri Synod. It has been been misused to subtly deny the reality, authority, and necessity of the Office of the Holy Ministry and of the promise of the Call and Holy Ordination. It has been used to make it appear as though the Office of the Holy Ministry required some congregational blessing, was based upon the promises of men or the power of bishops, and that each parish re-ordained men of their choosing and convenience when and where they wanted in much they way we install congregational officers, teachers, and various parish workers.
This was particularly the case with the Missouri Synod’s Agenda from 1941. I am glad to report that it was corrected in 1981, though not all the bishops paid attention or noticed. Those who failed to read the rubrics carefully simply followed the old practice with the new book, mostly in ignorance. But a change began with 1981 book. Our newest rite for this ceremony is even better. For all the fractures and dangers currently facing our synod, this is an area where we have actually gotten stronger. Even though the Office itself is under constant assault the book of occasional services is the best we’ve ever had.
So if the ceremony is allowable and our current rite is strong enough, we still need to ask what good this ceremony does? How does it underscore and confess the Gospel? It reaffirms in public, and in our hearing, Our Lord’s institution of the Office, the responsibilities of the Office, and the promise to and in the Office, and it reminds again Father Braden, and all of us, what his ordination vows are. Not were. Are.
This ceremony has its roots in the Reformation. But they didn’t simply do it as an inaugural event as we are and do. They did twice a year, every year, or at least that was their intent and desire. They wanted to keep their pastors educated and on track. Because they recognized the vanities of men and the temptations the ministers faced. Because they loved the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and wanted no trace of synergism or corruption in it.
We have mostly done this ceremony in the LCMS unaware, by convention or tradition, often without understanding. and occasionally even with misunderstanding. Nonetheless, it is in a very good and salutary ceremony. Perhaps an increased frequency, like unto our forefathers desired even if they never quite pulled it off, would serve us well. For it is impossible for me to stand here in this peculiar, Holy Place and not think that such a practice might well have staved off some of Zion’s most painful and recent sufferings.
So listen well Father Braden. The authority you have been given is dangerous and powerful. You have taken vows. We intend to hold you to them. We do because we are in constant desperate need of the Gospel, and so are you.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most precious commodity on earth, and though it is free, it is also most rare. Yet the Lord provides. He has given His Son into death for our sins. He has raised Him for our justification. Here at Zion, He declares peace in His Son on earth, and what He declares on earth, what He declares in Zion, is valid also in heaven.
In +Jesus’ Name.
Pastor David Petersen