Glorious Weakness
The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
29 August 2016
Our pastors' office is so exalted! In company with John the Baptizer, they are the forerunners of God's eternal Son, pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. They are the messengers for whom the people have prayed (some of whom even before you were born), because they knew that they needed laborers to go into the fields white unto harvest (Lk 10:2). Their prayers were answered when they were called to serve their congregation. They didn't know you until then, but their Lord Jesus Christ knew them from the foundation of the world. They were always His men and now in the ministry they are His men for the people whom they serve.

There is such a great contrast between the office and the man. Those who hold the office are not always the best specimens. However, God does not call the able, but sinners. He does not call the strong, but the weak. He does not call the competent, but makes competent those whom He calls. When Luke tells us that Jesus appointed and sent out the seventy-two (Lk 10:1-2), he means that Jesus showed these seventy-two to be appointed to the office which He created. They were not chosen because of their personal pizzazz, their whiz-bang organizational capacities, or their outstanding moral strengths. In fact, God often calls the chief of sinners (1Ti 1:15). One doesn't have to read too far in the New Testament to understand that Jesus makes fun of our wisdom by appointing into the preaching office those who appear to be poor choices, at least to the worldly-minded. Every pastor is one of those poor choices according to the world, and also according to his own sin.

God's people should not look upon the weakness of pastors. God calls the flock to look upon pastors as the ones who are holding Christ's gospel office among them. Christ Himself knew what it was to serve under the cross of weakness, humility, suffering, and inglorious death, but these things are for us the very wisdom of God. They are the very signs of His success in saving a world of weak, humble, suffering, and dying people. Your pastor's ministry will be no more and no less glorious than Christ's. We should expect nothing else of His sent ones. No doubt about it.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"You should consider the fact that [your pastor] possesses the office of the ministry which is not his but Christ's office. Also do not let yourself be led astray as to whether he has been properly called or whether he has bought or forced himself into his office, how he obtained it, whether standing on his head or on his feet, whether he is Judas or St. Peter; do not concern yourself with that at all. Distinguish between the office and the person, and between the holy place and the sacrilege.

"Very well then, he is a pastor, and Christ has thus preserved his holy, beloved office of the ministry even in the papacy with its sacrilege. When he preaches the text of the gospel purely, then say: 'This is the holy place of Christ.' When, besides this, he preaches a different doctrine contrary to the gospel, then say: 'This is the sacrilege of the devil who destroys the word.' When he baptizes and in this adheres to the ordinance of Christ (even if he does not understand baptism correctly), then say: 'The baptism is valid on account of Christ's ordinance, not on account of the pastor or his work.' When he absolves you in private or public confession or forgives your sins, even though there is not a papist in the world who might rightly understand what the forgiveness of sins means, for they do not know (as all their books show) whether they forgive guilt or punishment, do not be concerned about this; if your pastor adheres to the words and form and absolves you in the name of Christ, then say: 'This holy, comforting absolution is granted to me by my Lord Christ himself through his keys which he has given to the church.' If, in addition to this, he imposes upon you penitence according to which you should make satisfaction for your sins, then think of it in this way: 'You see, this is the sacrilege which desires to destroy for me the absolution of Christ, as if Christ were to sell me his grace on account of my merit. I want to make amends to my neighbor before the world wherever I have injured him, but before God my satisfaction is founded on Christ himself with his precious blood. I shall abide by this and rely upon it.'"

Martin Luther, The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests
2 Timothy 4:1-5

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (ESV)
Collect for the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death.  Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in holy baptism, may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Marcheta Beasley, that the Lord would watch over her, granting her strength until she could undergo heart surgery and be granted a full recovery by her Lord

For all those who travel, that they would be kept safe in their sojourns as you watched over Abraham and Sarah and that they would have joyful homecomings

For those who are aging, that the debilitations of maturity would not be a cause for reduced confidence in the gracious care of God
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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