Servants of the Word
Monday of Easter 1
24 April 2017
Our pastors are fallible human beings; only the deluded would deny it. But we do not obey and follow them because they are human beings. We follow and obey them because they have the command of God to teach and admonish the church in the name of Christ. The Lord assures His church that when we have heard these men speaking for Him, we have heard Him (Lk 10:16). Such a commission from the eternal majesty is great comfort and even much to boast about, because the boast is in the Lord. Just as we would not permit just anyone to come and take our place with our husband or wife, by waltzing into our marriages, so we should not permit those who have no place in the ministry of the church to take over the church's ministry. Such a thing is religious adultery. Our parish pastors have the most valuable things in their hands because God Himself has placed these things there for the good of the church.
Today we celebrate one of those parish pastors, who did so much to advance the Lutheran reformation in North Europe, John Bugenhagen, pastor of the church in Wittenberg, and therefore Martin Luther's parish pastor. Bugenhagen, who hailed from Pomerania and was called Doktor Pomeranus by Luther, was not so famous as his parishioner. Yet, he toiled to advance the proclamation of the gospel in many North European principalities. Even though he labored under the enormous shadow of the famous Luther, still he was an effective pastor because he preached the Word of God and administered the holy sacraments. God does all through such things as through means. Thus our pastors are the means of the means. They bring us the gospel which is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Rm 1:16). They are the incarnated delivery points of the gospel message. To say this is not the vain self glorying of those who love to crow about themselves. This is the boast of those who have had their mouths commissioned to speak for Christ.
We should not look upon our pastors from a fleshly point of view (2Co 5:16). According to the flesh, they are merely earthen vessels; not attractive, powerful, or important. According to God's Word, they are the living voice of God in our churches. The devil would love for us to doubt this. Much mischief is worked when we do. God works much good when we honor and respect our pastors, like Doktor Pomeranus, for what God says they are, servants of the Word. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Duke John of Saxony can say and boast that God ordained him prince of Saxony and lord over this city and country. This he does, and this he is obliged to do. His letters are superscribed: 'John, Duke of Saxony by the grace of God.' Things would have come to a bad pass if he were not convinced of this and could not boast of it. Parents must also say that they are parents of their son by the grace of God. A child can say: 'Father, I am your son by the grace of God.' And the man of the house can say: 'I am master in this house; I am father and mother-that is my title and that is my glory.' Such glorying proceeds from God's command, by which everyone is assured that he owes his office to God's commission, that it is God's office, that his message is God's Word, and that his own administration of office is God's decision. He who boasts of this does right. Yet someone may say: 'Yes, fools praise themselves.'
"This is true. But you should know that I do not boast of myself that I am a preacher or a prince; there is another who joins me in boasting, namely, our Lord God, who entrusted this office to me and commanded me to be a father, pastor, prince, count, nobleman, burgher, or peasant. If God says this of me, I am not boasting alone. If I were to praise myself without God, I would be a fool. Let us say, for instance, that a schismatic spirit came along and said: 'I have been sent here to preach.' I would tell him: 'Just a minute! You are praising yourself, for you come of your own accord. You have no other witness than yourself. I feel in my heart that your glory is vain, and your neighbors have failed to support you.' Such a one praises himself and lacks the inner witness that says: 'The Holy Spirit has commanded me to preach.'
"Or if someone were to come into my house and say, 'I am to be man of the house here,' I would tell him: 'No, brother, the Holy Spirit told me to be master in my house. You claim the support of the Holy Spirit? Nonsense! Out with you, and please let my servants, wife, child, and goods alone! When did the Holy Spirit ask you to do this? I, too, have the Holy Spirit; for I have God's command, which reads: 'This house and these servants are entrusted to your rule.' I am master here, and you know it.'
"That is the way things are done in secular affairs and in government. There it does not sound offensive to glory in one's calling; it is proper. There one grants a prince the honor to sign himself 'We, John, Duke of Saxony.' This has God's confirmation, and the world is wise enough to recognize God's command in it. This the world can bear. But it resents it in spiritual matters if I say: 'I am sure of what I preach against the pope and the schismatic spirits, for this is God's Word. I, with my doctrine, am a true light; but they are sheer darkness.' In the ministry of the church this lacks the proper ring and sounds like self-praise. This is because people look solely upon the person and not upon the office. When a pastor preaches, people assume that this is merely John Bugenhagen, Pomeranus, who, after all, has been certified as our pastor. No, the mere persons of John and Martin are not to impress us. The fact that they are pastors, however, gives them an entirely different aspect, just as Duke John is prince of Saxony and as father and mother are parents and masters in the house."

Martin Luther, Sermons on John, 8.12
1 Timothy 5:17-25

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. (ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, You have said that those who hear those whom You have sent have heard You. Send your Holy Spirit to our pastors that might proclaim Your Word fully and truthfully. Help me to listen quietly when You speak through them and believe that Your living Word has been sounded in my ears. Amen.
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS that he might find strength in Christ to carry out faithfully his office
For the family of Daniel Harrison, whom the Lord Jesus called him to Himself, that they would comforted by the resurrection of flesh and the life of the world to come
For your parish pastor, that you would pray for him daily that he would be protected from the onslaughts of the evil one
For all deployed military personnel, that God would send the holy angels to guard them
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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