Preach You the Word!
Wednesday of Pentecost 15
31 August 2016
How easily we presume failure! Look at our churches. When I visit parishes in many places, the people come up to me and ask me if I would like to join the youth group. I am the youngest person in the building. How shall we look upon this? How easily we judge by means that are just wrong! We judge with our eyes. When we judge with our eyes, we could easily say, "Where are those fields white unto harvest? Why does it look like the church is dying?" But whose church is this? Not yours. Not mine. This church belongs to Christ. He says the fields are white unto harvest (Lk 10:2). Who are you to say otherwise? Don't presume failure when Christ has promised His life. Walk by faith. Walk with your ears wide open. See with the Word of God. Unnumbered myriads stand a golden harvest swaying in the breezes of the gospel breath of God, bending in worship to the Christ that has given such fields life with the seed that His messengers sow.

Only the Bible can show you this. Think of the powerful Martin Franzmann hymn, Preach You the Word: The sower sows; his reckless love/ Scatters abroad the goodly seed,/ Intent alone that all may have/ The wholesome loaves that all men need. Of all his scattered plenteousness/One-fourth waves ripe on hill and flat,/ And bears a harvest hundredfold:/ "Ah, what of that, Lord, what of that!" (LSB 586: 3, 5).

If our pastors sow anything else other than the goodly seed they will be aliens in God's family. They will be false prophets in the house of the prophets. Thirty-three years ago, when I was ordained to the office of the ministry, the Old Testament lesson was Jeremiah 23. Time has not changed what is required: faithfulness. And since that time it has been burned into my mind. I must ever and always speak only for Christ; no matter who is offended, no matter which cultural ox is being gored. Only in this way will Christ be honored, the gospel preached and God's people saved. The apostle to the Gentiles and the greatest missionary in the history of the Christian church had this exhortation for a young pastor at the beginning of his ministry: "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1Ti 4:16). We're not talking about mere opinions, good advice, moral rectitude, or anything so peripheral. We are talking about eternal salvation for the souls of the flock redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Nothing less. This is why Jesus calls preachers "harvesters." They are gathering in the great harvest of the eschaton by preaching Christ in their ministry.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"When men run without God's command or proclaim other messages than God's Word, they work nothing but harm. Jeremiah, too, drives both these facts home, saying: 'I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied' (Jer 23:21). You who are to preach, impress these two points on your minds! Note them well! They are directed to you and the people; they enable you to instruct souls. Peter also emphasized these two facts: 'Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies' (1Pt 4:11), so that he may be sure that both the Word and the office are divine and commanded by God. For it is decreed that whenever God speaks, it comes to be (Ps 33:9), that all things are to come to pass by His Word (Jn 1:3). Therefore 'Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up' (Mt 15:13). Even if they are planted and begin to sprout, they will not reach the state of fruition. Thus man's petty baubles may have their day, but they work havoc and do not effect their purpose; after they have run their course and wrought enough harm, they perish."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Jonah, 3.2
Jeremiah 23:21-32

I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.

"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.
Lord Christ, even You Yourself had a proper call when You began Your public ministry among us. Grant that we might only listen to those who have a proper call to Your ministry among us, and that we not be ensnared by the devouring wolf and cheated of the divine truth by those who go but are not sent and prophesy but are not commanded by You to preach. Send faithful preachers to our churches that they might gather the abundant harvest You have given through Your fertile Word. Amen.

For all pastors who are without calls and who desire to serve in full-time public ministry, that the Lord of the harvest would send them out as laborers into the abundant harvest fields

For Bill Heine, that the Lord of the church would grant to him strength and confidence in his heavenly Father's care

For all seminarians as they prepare to start a new quarter of pastoral formation and the discipline of the word of God, that they may be shaped like Christ in His suffering and death
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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