A Specific Pastor
Friday of Pentecost 10
18 August 2017
God sends us a specific preacher. God has called your pastor specifically to be the pastor of the community to which they are preaching. This is a form of the scandal of particularity. In other words, God is not using just any preacher or any preaching to proclaim the gospel to God's people, but He sending a specific preacher and his preaching. This is deeply incarnational. He is the en-fleshed proclaimer through whom the Spirit works to accomplish God's ends.

This is why it is impossible for Lutherans to have generic preaching delivered by the Reverend Max Headroom on a screen at the front of the church. Certainly, there are many better preachers than your pastor, but none of them have been called to preach to you. He has. His preaching does need to be his preaching. The preacher who has shared the gospel at your hospital bed on Wednesday should be the same preacher who proclaims the Gospel to you on Sunday. The preacher who proclaims the gospel from this pulpit should be the preacher who hears your confession during the week and gives you holy absolution. He is the preacher God has sent and no other can be tolerated. He has been sent by God and his feet are beautiful ( Rm 10:15).

Every sermon is a contemporary service. It is service from God because it is delivering his gifts to his people. It is contemporary because the preacher is preaching into the present context. The scandal of particularity extends not only to this particular preacher, but also to this particular time. Every sermon is informed by day-to-day life, including this week's hospital calls, visitations, Bible studies, church meetings, devotional reading, and catechetical instruction.

The preacher will have preached this gospel first to himself. He will be a student of his own depravity, weakness, fear of the cross, and doubt of God. If the Word has been preached to the preacher, then it will ring true to the hearer. The hearer has the same faults and weaknesses as the proclaimer. Preachers don't preach to the hearers because they're better than their listeners, but because they are worse. I especially love what St. Paul says, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" ( 1Ti 1:15). God uses the worst to mock the best. He uses the weak to mock the strong. The preachers are in greater need of God's mercy than their hearers. In this way, God shows the abundance of his grace to sinners. This is the apostolic syllogism: "God has saved me, although I am the worst of sinners. Therefore, he can save you too."

American evangelical Christianity is offended by the particularity of the gospel; the death of Christ, the mode of his dying, and the specific promises of God fulfilled in the preaching and sacramental acts commanded by holy Scripture. American Christianity wants to generalize the work of God. In this way, God's work is about everything, and if so, it is about absolutely nothing. A general salvation can only save general sinners. There are none of those in the church. I am a specific sinner. Christ died specifically for me. Christians are particular sinners. Christ died particularly for you. How blessed we are that we can take up in our hands the specific means by which God has saved us in the body and blood of Christ, in the water of baptism, in the words of holy absolution, and in the proclamation of the gospel word of God. God is using a particular pastor, at a particular time, to preach a particular Word of God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augsburg Confession

"So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given ( Jn 20:22). He works faith, when and where it pleases God ( Jn 3:8), in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake. This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ's sake.

"Our churches condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that through their own preparations and works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word."

Augsburg Confession, 5
Acts 20:17-32

 Now from Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:

"You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty and most merciful God and Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have established Your Church to be a temple and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks that You continue to provide shepherds to feed and serve Your flock in which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. We humbly implore You always to strengthen Your ministers, that through their ministry of Word and Sacrament Your people may increase in Your knowledge and service and grow up into Him who is the head, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the pastors and staff of Memorial Lutheran Church as they serve God's people, that they may be strengthened in every good deed

For Brenda Blackwell, that she would receive strength and healing from cancer

For the success of Reformation year celebrations being conducted by Christian churches, that the message of forgiveness for the sake of Christ alone would lead those who are burdened by their sin to be free through divine mercy
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017