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Psalm 133


Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (ESV)


United in Faith

Friday of Epiphany 2

23 January 2015

How wonderful it is for a parish pastor to know how faithfully supportive his parishioners are toward him. I often travel to serve the LCMS as a Vice-President. When I travel I know that my congregation is well served by my colleagues in the ministry. Despite that, however, I still entertain the nagging doubt that the members of my congregation might figure out that they really don't need me; and in a "Twilight Zone" twist, I sometimes imagine that they picked up and moved the church, so that when I return I would not find them: "He's gone for a while, let's get while the getting is good. He'll never find us."


I am delighted, of course, to find that my parishioners are still just where I left them, waiting for me to return, and many of them express their delight to me that have returned to them. How wonderful it is to feel needed and appreciated. My congregation has always supported her pastors and expressed its love for them. That mutuality is a cause of celebration. Because of that love and support I gain from God's people I also return to them the support they have given me, as the Lord enables me. Many parish pastors do not experience this, but are scapegoated by parishes; taking the blame for things not in their control. So I count myself truly blessed.


There is a kind of mutuality of love and respect that encourages and buoys everyone up. We're all in this together. The Lord's gifts are given to everyone together; the church has them, her pastors have them. There is no mine and yours, but ours. Even Paul the great Apostle shared this mutuality of faith and confession with the Roman Christians. Despite his primacy, Paul wanted to express his appreciation for the support of the believers. No matter how illustrious he might have been as the greatest missionary the church ever had, he still appreciated the unity he had with the brothers in the faith. If that is true of the Apostle Paul and the Roman Christians, why wouldn't it be true with us and our pastors? 


John Chrysostom


"Paul does not say merely, 'to be encouraged,' but, 'to be encouraged by each other's faith.' He was not content with this but he puts in a further mitigation, when he says, 'both yours and mine' (Rm 1:12). Oh how great was his humility! He showed himself also to be in need of them, and not them only in need of him. And he puts the disciples in the position of teachers, not letting any superiority remain on his own side, but pointing out their full equality. For the gain is mutual, he means: 'I need the comfort from you, and you that from me.' And how does this happen? 'By each other's faith, both yours and mine.' For as in the case of fire, if someone gathers together many flames, it is a bright blaze that he kindles, so it also naturally happens with the faithful. For when we are by ourselves, torn away from others, we are somehow in worse spirits. But when we see one another, and are entwined with the members of our own selves, great is the comfort we receive. You must not look to the present time, during which, by God's grace, both in city and in the desert itself, there is a great host of believers, and all impiety has been driven out. Consider, at Paul's time, how great a good it was both for disciples to see their master, and for brothers, who had come from another city, to be seen by brothers.


"Let me use an example. For if it should even happen (may it never be!) that we are carried away to the land of the Persians, Scythians, or other barbarians, and had been scattered and separated by twos and threes in their cities, and were then suddenly to see anyone who is here coming to us, reflect what a harvest of comfort we would reap in it! Think of those who are in prison, if they see any of their acquaintance, how they revive and are quite fluttering with the pleasure? But if I compare those days with captivity and imprisonment, count it no wonder. For the disciples of the New Testament suffered far harder things than those, because they were scattered and driven about, and dwelt in the midst of famine and wars, and tremblingly expected daily death. They suspected friends, kindred and relatives, and dwelling in the world as in a strange land, yes, and in a far harder plight than those who live in a foreign country. This is why he says, 'that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.' And this he says, not as though he needed any assistance from them. Far from it; for how could the pillar of the church, who was stronger than iron and the rock, the spiritual strength, who was equal to the charge of countless cities. But that he should not make his language impetuous and his reproof too strong, he says, that he himself also needs their consolation."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 2



Almighty God, You want us to be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. We thank you for the unity You build by Word and sacraments. Help us to support our pastors that they might encourage us in our faith. Amen.


For pastors who are serving in difficult vineyards, that they would be patient with the vines


For Herb Michael who is recovering from heart bypasses, that the Lord would strengthen him and grant him the gift of health


For all the boards and committees of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would help provide support for the work the Lord Jesus has given us to do 
Art: RENI, Guido Baptism of Christ (c. 1623)


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