What Are Pastors For?
Tuesday of Pentecost 15
30 August 2016
As the summer draws to its close, the season of ordinations also ends. Many newly ordained men have been read into the office of pastor by their ecclesiastical supervisors. Energetic and optimistic young men must be reminded that it is difficult to be a pastor. Every pastor will be tempted to rely on himself and what he thinks of as his enormous capacities. Once he gets a few months into his term of service, he will be afraid like those whom Jesus sent out in Luke 10:1-12. Pastors sent by Jesus have no signs of earthly power: no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals (Lk 10:4); but they will be tempted to use earthly power and wisdom as the methods of their ministry. Instead, be a lamb among wolves (Lk 10:3). He will look into the expectant eyes of Christian people and will be tempted to generate pat answers and legalistic solutions. Pastors can be deluded by Satan into thinking that God's people are dependent on them. How wrong they are!

The sheep redeemed by the blood of Christ will come into the pastor's office with their burdens; broken families where husbands and wives are in a constant state of war, sick parents who need more care than they can provide, wayward children who are sneaking out of the house at night and eventually they will ask, "What should I do, pastor?" They are asking the wrong question! A pastor should not answer it. Because he will be falling into the legalistic trap.

The easiest question to answer is "what should I do?" because the law tells us. The ten commandments are perfectly clear about our duties to family, church, and community. Christians almost always come to the pastor's office because they already know what the law requires. Their tears are the fruit of failure. But the office to which Jesus calls the pastor and into which He has sent him is to proclaim His kingdom, which is a kingdom established not by the law, but by the gospel. A pastor should not tell them what to do, but what has been done. A pastor shouldn't tell them what they expect. Tell them what Jesus expects the pastor to tell them: give them peace (Acts 2:37-38). A pastor should give them the peace that does not come from human duty and earthly piety, but the peace that surpasses all human understanding: the peace that transcends family feuds, the peace that closes a dead parent's eyes confident of their salvation in Christ, the peace that absolves the weeping teenager, who has disappointed his parents. Pastors preach the Christ and His atoning blood. That's what He sent pastors for! That's why He established the preaching office: to forgive sins.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"God wants to forgive sins. But how? In no other way than is written here, that is, by giving such power to forgive people (Jn 20:23; Mt 18:18). Christ teaches this in later commands that from that point on and to the end of the world, the church should observe that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be preached. Let everyone, then, learn that he must seek forgiveness of sins from fellow human beings and from nowhere else. For thus reads the command of our Lord Christ. For God will not tolerate the building of special ladders and stairways to heaven to suit every individual. He alone wants to be the sole architect.
"Accordingly, if you desire sins to be forgiven, go and be baptized, if you are still unbaptized. Or if you have been baptized, remember the promise that God made at your baptism and do not be unbelieving. Likewise, go and be reconciled to your neighbor, and then ask for absolution. And when you hear the announcement of forgiveness of your sins in the name of Jesus, believe it, and truly you will have it. After that go to the most venerable sacrament and receive the body and blood of Christ in the assurance that this precious treasure is meant for you and that you may enjoy it as your own, etc.
"Baptism, absolution, preaching, and the sacrament are not to be despised, but in them forgiveness of sins is to be sought and obtained. To this end, God has called and commissioned your pastor, your father and mother, and your closest fellow Christians and has put His Word in their mouth, that you are to seek consolation and forgiveness of sin from them. For those human beings are talking to you, still what they say is not their own word but God's Word. Therefore, you should believe it firmly and not despise it."

Martin Luther, House Postil
John 20:19-23

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."   (ESV)
O eternal, merciful God, You have spoken through Your own dear Son, saying that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore, we would ask You, the Lord of the harvest, to send laborers into Your harvest. Hear now our prayer on behalf of our pastor(s), who has been called and ordained to be Your minister in the Church. Strengthen all pastors to take up the Word of truth and faithfully to administer Your holy Sacraments, through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, the overseer of the flock. Amen.

For pastors, that they might ever and always rely on the Word of God as their only weapon

For those who are struggling to care for disabled children, that they would rejoice in their service to these little ones as service to Christ Himself

For Michael Golchert, as he undergoes cancer therapy, that he would be granted strength and healing
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
©  Scott Murray 2016