Bread of the Word of God
Ezekiel
21 July 2016
We ought to be thankful to God for the quality of our church body's two wonderful seminaries. God has granted to us the daily bread of His Word through the ministry of the men who have graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne for over 170 years. What a challenge it is to go through seminary, especially in these days where the costs include not only intellectual suffering, but also financial burdens! I am deeply grateful for the courage of the men who have taken up the cross of Christ by attending seminary.

We certainly have done nothing to deserve our faithful seminaries and the great faculties that serve God's people in those places. Instead, we have taken them for granted. We seldom pray for them. As a church body, we have continually reduced the funding given to them. Only a small fraction of their operating costs are covered out of the budget of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Of course, fabulous people have continued to contribute directly to the seminaries;  in many cases people who will never  directly benefit from the education being given to seminary students have supported our seminaries; often in estate planning. Such people have a long-term view of the life of the church and the necessity of her ministry. A well-trained clergy that know the Word of God and can preach it and teach it effectively among God's people and to those who do not yet know Christ as their Savior is pivotal to the church's future. If we face persecution so aggressive that we must close our seminaries on account of it, we can still depend on God to see to it that faithful men are trained, even if that training must be underground. However, while it is still daylight and we are free to train our clergy let us do so properly. Dumbing down requirements will leave us with religious functionaries rather than true shepherds of the flock. Reducing course loads and making seminary easier will give us a cadre of blind and stumbling leaders.

The seminaries are not teaching just any learning. They are teaching the eternal Word of God. When I teach catechism to children in my congregation I emphasize to them the importance of what they are learning by heart and studying in my catechism class. I remind them that they are learning the most important thing; the one thing needful ( Lk 10:42). If our seminary students do not look at what they are learning at seminary in that same way, how will they be able to catechize the next generation of sheep that the Lord places under their care?

The pastoral formation that goes on at the seminaries will enable our pastors to confess faithfully in a culture increasingly hostile to our faith. We may not stint on their faithful education. Unfortunately, ordination does not give the indelible mark of faithfulness or education to those who are placed before the church as shepherds. Ignorant ordinands remain ignorant pastors. The church of Christ deserves better. The sheep that were bought by the precious blood of the chief Shepherd must be cared for by only the best shepherds. Because of Christ they deserve it. Because of Christ we must give it to them. Let us pray for the daily bread of the Word of God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"The meaning of the prayer ( Mt 6:11) is that God may give us the supernatural bread, our select, peculiar, and daily bread-daily so that we have it on hand and are constantly supplied with it against the time of need and suffering (which we may expect daily), so that it might strengthen us, lest we be taken unawares and despair and perish and die eternally from want of it.
 
"We must note here that we Christians ought to be richly and abundantly supplied with this bread. We should be so well versed and instructed in the Word of God that we have it at hand daily in all trials and will be able to strengthen ourselves and others. This is what the dear saints were able to do, as we gather from their epistles and biographies. But we are at fault when we suffer want because we do not ask God for this bread. In consequence, we have ignorant bishops, priests, and monks, who have nothing to give us. And we, in turn, make a bad situation worse by loathing, ridiculing, and despising them. God's wrath brings matters to such a pass! Therefore we should examine this petition closely. In it God teaches us to pray for all spiritual leaders, especially for those who are supposed to offer us the Word of God. It will not be given to them unless we prove ourselves worthy of it and ask God for it. Therefore, when you see untrained and incompetent bishops, priests, or monks, do not curse, condemn, or rebuke them, but regard them as a horrible plague from God by means of which he punishes you and us all for not praying the Lord's Prayer and for not asking him for our daily bread.
 
"If we would sincerely pray the Lord's Prayer and ask for our daily bread, God would surely hear us and send us fine, capable, and learned spiritual leaders. We are at fault more than they. Nowadays we find people whom God punishes by so hardening their hearts that they not only fail to recognize our untrained clergy as a plague, but even take delight in despising them and making light of this deserved plague of God, whereas they should really be weeping bloody tears, if this were possible, over such a serious and severe plague inflicted on us by God. I want you to know that God has never yet punished the world more harshly than by allowing blind and ignorant leaders to exist, who destroy us by withholding the Word of God and our bread. Let the Turks be Turks. This plague surpasses them. Woe unto us for not realizing this and praying for it to cease!" 

Martin Luther, An Exposition of the Lord's Prayer for Simple Laymen, 4
1 Timothy 3:1-7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.  (ESV)
Prayer
Our Father, You have invited us to pray for our daily bread and have promised to hear our cries and pleas at Your throne of grace for the sake of Your own precious Son. Send us the bread of Your Word, even though we have never deserved it or prayed fervently enough for it. Watch over and guard the seminaries of our church, that they might be dedicated to giving us the gift of well-trained shepherds. Help us to treasure seminaries as we ought to delight to receive those whom they have trained; through the good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Barbara Dubé, who is suffering from lung disease, that the life-giving Spirit of Jesus would grant her the breath of life

For Michael Golchert, as he undergoes chemotherapy, that he would be strengthened in heart, body, and mind by the Lord who watches over the suffering

For Cliff and Ellie Scherer as they prepare to move to New Braunfels to live near family, that the Lord who guarded Abraham in his sojourns would watch over them in their travels
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016