The Ordination of Rev. Gifford Grobien–Emmaus, South Bend
The Feast of Sts. Simon & Jude and the occasion of the Ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry of the Rev’d Gifford Grobien October 28, 2006 A+D Emmaus Lutheran Church, South Bend, Indiana St. John 15:12-21
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God uses frail and fallible men to administer His grace. Neither Word nor Sacrament administers itself. The Holy Spirit does not administer them in proper and visible form except through those He has called. What He might be able to do is endless. What He has done and is doing is revealed in His Word. The Lord has taken up, confirmed, and sanctified created things, the voice of a man, water, bread, and wine, and brought them into the realm of grace. He wills to distribute this grace to men through men. Before His death and again before His ascension, the Lord Jesus commanded certain men to preach, to forgive sins, to baptize, and to give His Body and Blood fore eating and drinking for the remission of sins. He also gave those men the promise of His Blessing and His Presence until the end of time.
That is how it came about that Sts. Simon and Jude died in Persia. They were not called by the Persians. They were called by God. God sent them there to preach His Gospel. The authority and content of their office came from Him. He gathered hearers by their preaching, not preachers by their hearing. They were not there for the sake of good order or convenience, because it was handy for the Persians to have a single figure to carry out the day-to-day tasks of the Ministry. Rather God sent them to Persia create a people for Himself, to begat and rear children by grace. It is because of the preaching of Simon and Jude that some Persians loved Jesus Christ whom they had not seen. They believed in Him, were baptized, and received His mercy. They ate His Body and drank His Blood and sang His praise.
Well, Hell’s strategists could not ignore this activity. Wherever God builds a Church, the devil erects a chapel. Hell feared it would lose control of that empire, an empire steeped from antiquity, and still to this day, in satanic arts. So they fueled a mob with hate, and the mob took up sticks and clubs and beat Simon and Jude to death, because they would not stop preaching the forgiveness of sins. Simon and Jude followed in the Way of Jesus Christ, in life and in death. They preached His Word with their last breaths, did what they were sent to do and did not love their lives to the end. So, too, they will follow Jesus Christ out of the grave in the resurrection to come.
When Julius Caesar brought his army into the Italian peninsula, seeking to become the dictator of Rome, Pompey rallied the senate to fight against him. Many senators, free men who loved Rome and her republican ideals, fought with Pompey against Caesar. They could not bear the thought of a King in Rome. They feared absolute political power and denounced Caesar as both immoral and a tyrant. They lost the war. Bur Caesar showed himself to be generous. He offered these senators, who had said such terrible things about him and even tried to kill him, forgiveness. He let them come back to Rome and take up their old lives again. He even allowed them to remain in the Senate. But senators like Cicero, who accepted the mercy, chafed under it. For Caesar to have forgiven them meant that Caesar had power over them. They were no longer free. They belonged to Caesar.
So also, to this day, men fear God’s clemency. They do not want forgiveness because forgiveness is for those who have done something wrong. They do not want life because they do not think they are dead. And they do not want freedom, because they deny the power of the devil. They are so doped up self-indulgence and philosophy that they cannot see the threat. That is how it was in Persia, and that is how it is to this day in all the kingdoms of me. And the first thing that must be preached is God’s Wrath. The reality of death’s reign must be exposed. It is all around us. No matter how self-satisfied and dull the people have become, they are hurting. They are surrounded by death, by signs of God’s wrath. Every earthquake, hurricane, cancer, disability, injustice, pain, sorrow, hardship, fear, insecurity, and loneliness, every bit of it shows how broken this world is, that it is no longer the “good’ of Genesis one. And it should be. When children cry out to their mothers: “It is not fair’ they are right. Life is not fair, and it should be. Life should be fair, but it is not because this world and this life are evil. That is why we hurt. That is why we have hospitals and orphanages, mental asylums and cemeteries. How futile and vain are the works of men. You can cry all day about the corp of engineers’ failing in New Orleans, but the reality is that God sent those waves. It was but a taste, a warning, of His Wrath. And He sent that warning, as He sends them all, for mercy’s sake. Repent, before it is too late.
The Persians were proud. They were not afraid of God’s Wrath. And that is also our problem. We act and preach as though Jesus is as toothless and benign as the tooth fairy. Not so, Simon and Jude. They had a mission. They had to tell the Truth. They had to preach the Law. They had to warn and condemn sinners. So also, Gifford Grobien. You are called and placed this day into to the Office of Simon and Jude. You must preach the Law, in season and out of season. You must ignore the itchy ears on either side of your own head. For a time there is heaviness through manifold temptations. That time will not end until you are removed from the earth. For to preach the Law is a hard burden and there is always a temptation to water it down. In the beginning it seems easy to be faithful and zealous, but the subtle temptation to look the other way, to play along for some small honor or political reward, to grow complacent, is ever-present, and it becomes more and more appealing over time. A Minister of Grace can become little more than milquetoast well-wisher or an expert in trivia and end up serving his own retirement plan and an institution rather than the Lord Jesus Christ if he caves to compromise and cares too much for his own skin to preach the Law. Losing your zeal and urgency is a real danger. It always hides itself under the pious-sounding guise of becoming practical. Our Lord’s delay has gone on for so long that we grow weary and frustrated. Like Judas Iscariot before us we think that we must usher in the kingdom (or at least increase the offerings) on our own. The pressure to be popular, to be successful, and to have a decent retirement is more pronounced at 60 than it is at 30. The longer you live and serve, the more chances you have to fail. And, already, no doubt, you have already felt this pull. Repent. Do not shrink from or be ashamed of the Law. It is God’s wisdom for man. It is necessary. For without the Law, there is no Gospel.
And there is the Gospel. Thanks be to God, there is the Gospel. If we are sinners, we have forgiveness. If we are dead, He gives lives. If we are slaves, He liberates. Like unto Simon and Jude, you too have been begotten to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is God who works in the Ministry. What you are called to administer are His means, not your own. He will sustain you and give you supernatural faith, strength, and courage. He did it for Simon and Jude. He will do it for you.
For the Wrath of God has been satisfied in the death of Jesus Christ, and you have good news to preach. You are not sent to preach only the Law. Nor are you sent to preach Law for the sake of the Law. You preach the Law in order to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, the reconciliation to the Father, the work of the Holy Spirit, the restoration of creation to goodness, the adoption as children, the salvation and life of the world, the defeat of death and the resurrection of the body. You offer and give this lively hope to all who hear your voice. For those who hear you, hear Jesus, and Jesus makes men free indeed.
Cicero and crowd were never free. After Caesar’s victory, they had no place to turn. It was death on the one hand, allegiance and subservience to Caesar on the other. But it was a farce. Their former lives were subject to the whims of Carthaginian generals or corrupt consuls. Despite the lofty ideals of the Roman republic prior to Caesar, their chafing was hypocritical, as was also the suicide of the self-righteous Cato. They were slaves to their flesh. Not so Simon and Jude. They were free. Thus they were free to die and to live, because they did not belong to the Persian mob, nor did they require clemency from a Persian magistrate.
God’s forgiveness does place us into His court. It make us His servants. And the Psalmist declares: “With Thee O Lord there is forgiveness, that Thou mayest be feared.’ The forgiveness of God is according to His power. The Lord Jesus as the power, the authority, and the will to forgive sins. It is the power to not let the devil set the terms and conditions of war. God out-flanks the devil by loving His enemies, by laying down His life for them, and making them His friends. This forgiveness fills us with fear. But it also fills us with love and trust, with joy and peace. For we are slaves of Jesus Christ, but we are also His brothers and sisters, His friends. He loves us and calls us to be His Bride, to be intimate with Him. We are told, “Friend, go up higher, ’ and we even become peers in the Kingdom of God. Thus does God sustain those whom He sends by His grace.
Having this Kingdom, a throne waiting in heaven alongside of the other apostles and the patriarchs, Simon and Jude were brave enough to die as martyrs in Persia. They were not like Cicero. They had no fear of what men could do. And, in truth, it was not quite so brave as it seemed. For “what can man do to us, if God is for us?’ They embraced the love of God. They were eager to be free of this living death.
No Christian is a slave to this world, for all Christians are free in Jesus Christ. And no man or devil can rule our souls. Jesus Christ is Our Lord and you cannot serve two masters. The devil has no claim on you. The forgiveness God grants is not bestowed as an act of political manipulation. It is given in perfect, self-giving love. It is the satisfaction of His own perfect justice. So also no Christian can die. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. He does all things well. He watches over and protects His children, including His ministers. He leads them the way they are to go, both for their good and for the good of their neighbor. So that neither Simon nor Jude died in Persia. They were translated, rewarded, freed at last.
So what is the way of Gifford Grobien? It is the way of the Cross, the way of Simon and Jude. Perhaps these vestments will be honored with your blood. More likely, though, you will do the internal bleeding that comes from a thousand little wounds from a thousand little fights, the secret martyrdom of God’s servants, the suffering of constant disrespect and doubt, a lack of funds and prestige, even, though it seems impossible in your case, that of troublesome children. The reality is that tn the Kingdom of God, saints like Simon and Jude are rare. Most fight the fight without fanfare. Though it is little celebrated, all God’s men know the taste of the devil’s steel. So whatever way you go, whatever form it takes, it will be cruciform, and it will be evil. There is no way around that. The way of life is by death. The way to glory is though the cross. God uses evil for good. But God will not forget you. He is with you always. He will bless you and has given you companions, wife and children, to be sure, but also a flock and brothers in the Ministry. Through them, as though means, God will also sustain you. For the cross He sends is a purifying flame. He makes your faith full. He draws you ever closer to Himself and keeps you dependent upon Him. And He also makes your suffering and your preaching a light unto the world and the sustenance of your flock.
This is the lively hope of Saints Simon, Jude, and Gifford. May their names ever be praised among us.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.