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Jeremiah 23:23-32


"Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, 'declares the Lord.' Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord." (ESV)


When Your Pastor Speaks


26 June 2015

When your pastor does his work in the name of Christ he is also doing it in your name because you are a baptized Christian and a member of the church. Baptism confers all the divine gifts upon those who are brought into the church through it, including the whole ministry. We moderns struggle mightily with the idea that our pastors could represent us in this way. We doubt that representative persons are capable of bearing our collective capacity as the Bride of Christ. We anxiously demand that we must "speak for ourselves." We think that unless we are personally offering petitions in prayer, we are not praying.


However, the church's ideal of representative persons turns us out of ourselves and toward the needs, concerns, and words that belong to others; even the words of the faithful who have gone before us. I particularly love the prayers offered before the readings in divine service of the church. They are called "collects." As a child this name was baffling to me. I didn't know what it meant, especially because it was pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable. Literally, it just means that the church is collecting together the concerns of the people of God in a single, deeply significant petition. When your pastor prays that prayer he is collecting the church's prayers. When he is praying you are praying.


When he speaks holy absolution, he speaks not for himself, but for the church; for all the baptized. These are the gifts that have been given to the church. This is what St. Paul is talking about when he says to the Corinthians "all things are yours" (1Co 3:21). The gifts of the church and her ministry are not the exclusive possessions of the pastors. No, they are servants of Christ and Christ's people. When the pastor opens his mouth, the church is speaking. When he delivers the gospel, the baptized are speaking. Pastors don't give the Word power when they proclaim it. It has power because it is God's speech, not our own property.


When your pastor teaches God's Word, Christ Himself is teaching through him to the church. It is no less the case that the preacher represents Christ, because Christ has delegated this responsibility to him, than that the preacher represents the church and each of her members, because the church delegates that responsibility to him. There is no contradiction here, but an overlapping of delegated service; Head, body, and servants of Christ all working together. What's not to like? We're all in this together. When my children were growing up they were very conscious of the fact that they represented our family in their public activities. What they did reflected on our family. They also recognized that when their father or their mother represented the family they understood that representation to be their own. They were part of the family. When your pastor speaks, he is speaking for the whole family of God; for you.


Martin Luther


"How important it is in this passage (Ps 2:7) that the King Himself make the declaration about the decree of the Lord! For, as I have said, it is chiefly concerned with showing that this King is also a teacher. Then the Holy Spirit doubtless considered also this, that He might teach us that God does everything through the Son. For when the Son preaches the law, the Father Himself, who is in the Son or one with the Son, preaches. And when we preach about this same decree (Ps 2:7), Christ Himself preaches, as He says: 'He who hears you hears me' (Lk 10:16).


"But this is a most fitting description of how the King will speak or preach orally. For this passage must be understood entirely with respect to oral rather than spiritual preaching. For it said above: 'I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill' (Ps 2:6). God Himself sings this verse about Himself and His Son. But our King sings to us: 'I will tell' (Ps 2:7). For He is a public teacher sent for the purpose of preaching, as Matthew says: 'The poor have good news preached to them' (Mt 11:5). He holds this office so that you do not think that He is a prince of the world. For He carries not a sword, but the Word. That is the scepter of this King. So embrace Him as a guide for the conscience, as a priest and teacher. And this is also the reason why the other kings oppose Him (Ps 2:2). For if He were silent, if this King did not preach, the world would be quiet. But this preaching rouses the whole world to arms."

Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms, 2.7

O Almighty King, rouse us to arms in the war against Satan, the world, and our own sinful flesh. You have preached Your gospel with Your own mouth and sent Your preachers out to proclaim it again and again to us. Help us believe that when You speak through them, that they have shared the possessions of all. Speak, Lord, Your servants are listening! Amen.


For Theodore Cokinos, who has a heart murmur, that the Lord Jesus would be with him as he is brought to doctors for medical care


For Broox Farley, who has been diagnosed with cancer, that the Lord of the church would grant him strength in the days ahead


For the delegates and guests at the PSW District Convention of the LCMS, that they would have safe travel and joyful homecomings as they return home to their families and parishes

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057