05 March 2009

I'd Rather Be Taken Advantage Of

No one likes to be used or taken advantage of. That's true for pastors, too, but still, a pastor would much rather be taken advantage of than patronized.

Going to church is not a matter of doing the pastor a favor; at least it shouldn't be. Better to go for that reason than not at all, but that is hardly the point. I suppose it would be worse to presume that one is doing God a favor, but the pastor is speaking and acting in God's Name, so it really amounts to the same thing.

No one goes to a movie or out to eat as a favor to the manager of the establishment. No one goes to a mechanic or a doctor to do the professional a favor. We all make use of worldly goods and services, and we're even willing to pay for them, or barter for them, or whatever, because we desire to be cared for and served, or perhaps entertained, or to benefit in some way. How much more ought we to hunger for the Word and works of God, which He gives to us generously and without cost by His beloved Son.

As I said last night, it is one of the saddest ironies that man should make God's Sabbath into a burdensome and onerous task. The Lord desires to give His people joyful peace and blessed rest, but sinful man views this gift as a wearisome obligation. How quickly we count and calculate our effort and our sacrifice, while we forget our Lord's benefits.

Perhaps the pastor is personally boring or tedious. Nevertheless, the Word he preaches is the Lord's, and the works he administers are Christ's. These gracious gifts of God are not burdens upon His people, but the very fountain and source of life and salvation. Is this a chore?

To be patronized, as though people were doing the pastor a favor by coming to church, is one of the most discouraging responses to the Ministry of the Gospel. Not because it hurts the pastor's feelings (which would be missing the point in exactly the same way!), but because it reduces the Gospel to a legalistic work of man. Far better to be used and taken advantage of, that the goods and services of Christ and His Gospel might be received as the rich and pleasant benefits they are.


Vicar Davis said...

This thought really fits with next week's Gospel lesson (3 year series). When Jesus cleanses the temple, is it just because there are merchants in it? The question should be asked why are those merchants there? To make things easier for those who came to worship at the temple. Why did things need to be made easier? Because people thought that it's such a chore otherwise.

The same thing can be seen today, as you have pointed out. Why is this hymn so long? Do we have to sing all of it? Why is this tune so hard, can't we sing something easier? Why are the prayers so long? Why do we have to do communion each week? Why do you preach so much law? Why do we have to hear about Jesus each week? Can't we make this whole worship service easier?

When people see the Divine Service as a chore, they despise the gifts which God is giving to them. It's as if they're asking to see the angry side of Jesus - The Jesus with the whip of cords, with shouting and overturning tables.

I know if I had the gifts I give to others treated as a chore that they had to begrudgingly take on, I'd be that angry too. I probably wouldn't give gifts to them ever again. But thankfully Jesus doesn't do that.

When they asked Him what sign He would give to show them that He had the authourity to do such a thing, Jesus responded by saying, "destroy this temple, and I will raise it in three days." Even though they treated God's gifts as a chore, He still continues to give. And Jesus still goes on to give them - and us! - the most precious gift of all. He gives us forgiveness and salvation through that destroyed temple of His Body and Blood at the cross. And for that, thanks be to God!

Thank you, I think you've helped me figure out my sermon for next week.

-Vicar Eli Davis

Rev. David M. Juhl said...

May I have your permission to reprint this post in my congregation's newsletter?

Pastor Dave Ruddat said...

Good post. Why do I go to church, because of the Pastor or the Word?

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Sure, David. Thanks for asking.