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Luke 14:7-15

 

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

 

 He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

 

When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (ESV)

Office and Offices

Wednesday of Advent 1

3 December 2014

How we struggle to maintain our dignity! We actually have such a small store of it, we think that by giving ourselves away to the need of our neighbor we are depriving ourselves of something important. Pastors easily fall into this trap. And there is something to be said for pastoral dignity. The pastor has to have a clear sense that he represents something and someone greater than himself. He represents the church, which has been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. But that dignity must be put at the service of the Lord who creates the church through His suffering and death. This Lord refuses to stand on His own dignity, shouldering the cross in the ignominy of a judicial execution at the hands of wicked men like us. Jesus exhibited the weighty dignity that speaks the truth even to death and when that death approaches embraces it. In His ministry, He had in His heart and mind the needs of those who were His absolute inferiors. He offers Himself in place of beggars like us, who have no claim on His work. We can only marvel that One of such pristine holiness and dignity condescends to embrace our filth and sin. His office is His for our good and He puts Himself at our disposal.

 

The pastor who offers Himself to the needs of those whom he serves without concern about the dignity of his office follows this Lord just as this Lord wants to be followed. Indeed the office to which the Lord has called him is itself a service; it is not a dignity or a title. It is not a protection from the filth of the sinners all around, but a source of service to those who are in need of the Lord's word of holy absolution; the life-giving forgiveness all sinners need. He is not giving up anything that is his own to claim or to possess by refusing to stand on his dignity as a pastor. No, this is why the dignity is given by the Lord in the first place; the office is offered to serve those in need of the message of life in Christ. Not only is this the proper use of the dignity of the office, but it is the proper use of the gift of true humanity. A pastor, despite his exalted office, remains a human being. He becomes the sign of humanity remade by being the servant of the people to whom God sends him.

 

The pastor's authority is not taken from him by such service; he hands nothing over to those with whom he sympathizes. He remains the pastor as much as Christ remains God's Son in the midst of His agony for us. The office of pastor is must remain a service. When it becomes merely a dignity it finds itself not serving those in need, but becomes self-regarding and preening for its own sake. The office is for the offices of service. It was for Jesus. It must be for us.

 

Martin Luther

 

"It is a common occurrence in life that superiors address not only their equals but even their inferiors in a courteous and respectful manner and defer to them in their offices. Thus love is accustomed to assist and promote even inferiors with every kind of office. Thus a pastor of the church, when he sees a man tried and afflicted with terrors of conscience who seeks consolation from him, offers to the afflicted man even the most humble and absolutely servile offices, so that he may arouse and strengthen this weak and broken soul. However, he does not hand over the rule or governance of the church by doing this, but he himself retains the function entrusted to him.

 

"These are the offices of godliness and genuine humanity by which great offenses are often able to be avoided, and they are not forbidden by God. Indeed, it is commanded that we should be subject to equals as well as inferiors for the benefit and advantage of our neighbor. By this humility we lose nothing at all of our dignity, even though we accommodate ourselves to save another and, indeed, for the glory of God."


Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 33.3
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but offered Yourself for us into death, even the death of the cross. Send us pastors whose office is for the service of Your people. Free us from pride and self-righteousness. Fill us with concern for our neighbor's suffering and enable us to offer ourselves for his need, as You have for ours. Amen.

 

For all whose expectations of the holy season of Advent have been warped by our self-indulgent culture, that they might wait with patience the promised return of our Lord Jesus Christ to rescue us from this present evil age

 

For Vicar John Stebbins, that he might grow in his capacity to deliver God's Word to God's people

 

For the altar guild of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would find increasing joy in caring for God's house
Art: Annunciation Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, Julius (1818)

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