26 January 2018

By the Ministry of the Word of Christ

Wherever the Lord Jesus Himself would go, He sends pastors in His Name, in whom His grace and glory are manifested through the ministry of the Gospel.  In their preaching of His Word, in their working of His works, the Kingdom of God draws near.  For Christ Jesus Himself is present and active in their faithful service, granting His perfect peace through the forgiveness of sins.

Pray that He would continue to send such faithful pastors to His Church throughout the world, and to all those whom He would call to Himself in every city, in every place, in every congregation.  And do not neglect to pray and intercede for those He has called, ordained, and sent in His Name. By all means pray for your own pastors in Christ, that they may be found faithful in their office.

And as you pray, give thanks to God that, according to His grace and tender mercy, He has never failed to provide such shepherds for His lambs and sheep.  St. Timothy, St. Paul, St. Titus today, and tomorrow, St. John Chrysostom, these men are but a few of those whom Christ has raised up in His Name and stead.  Prophets and Apostles, Pastors and Bishops, who handed over to the Church what they received from the Lord, and who ordained faithful men to follow after them.

As the Lord has so established and preserved His Church on earth for the sake of His Gospel, all those who are called to the pastoral office are instructed to rely on Him to provide for their needs through His Church, even as the people of God receive His good gifts through their pastors.

If you are a pastor, or if you aspire to that office, be content with what you receive, and work hard to serve those entrusted to your care.  And if you are baptized into Christ, if you are a Christian, a member of the Church, see to it that you support your pastors and provide for their needs in this body and life, all for the sake of the Gospel.  Not only in thanksgiving for what you thus receive, but that your neighbors also should be served by this pastoral office and ministry.

In relation to each other — pastor to people, and people to pastor — it is more blessed to give than to receive, as the Lord Jesus has taught you.  That is to speak in terms of holy love, for which you sacrifice yourself and your desires in order to serve your neighbor, to provide whatever is lacking.

Before God, though, you have nothing to offer but thanksgiving, since all things are from Him and are His.  All that you are and have belong to Him, and yet you are blessed by His generous giving and His good gifts to you.  Thus do you rely upon the grace of God in Christ for all that you need, as you go about serving your office and stations in life in love for God and for your neighbor.

And so it is that pastors are sent, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as sacrificial lambs in the midst of wolves; because they are the servants of the Lamb of God who handed Himself over to the Cross, who gave His life and shed His blood for the sheep, that they might have life in Him.

The pastors and confessors of Christ Jesus bear and suffer His Cross in their body and life, as surely as they proclaim His Cross in their preaching and distribute the fruits of His Sacrifice by the Ministry of His Gospel.  And they are content with the food and drink, the clothing and shelter that God provides through His people, just as surely as the Lord feeds His people and quenches their thirst with His Holy Supper, clothes them with His righteousness in Holy Baptism, and shelters them within His Church on earth through the labors of His called and ordained servants.

As ministers of His Word, as stewards of His Mysteries, they hold fast to what He has spoken, and they do what He has commanded.  They preach and administer His Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name.  They take the bread and cup, they bless and give thanks, and they give you the Body and Blood of Christ with His Words in the remembrance of Him.  They hold fast to His Word, that they might teach, rebuke, admonish, comfort, and forgive you in His stead.

It is by His Word that pastors are kept faithful, not only in their vocation and office as pastors, but in their faith and life as Christians; that they should be above reproach, hospitable, lovers of what is good and right and true; self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined in word and deed.

The faithfulness of pastors and people alike, from St. Titus in Crete to this very day and place, is found not in the Law which accuses, but in the blessed Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the world neither knows nor gives, but He has obtained by His Cross and bestows by His Ministry.

It is by and with His Word, and for the blessing of His Word, that He guards and protects you from all harm and danger to body and soul, and that He keeps you steadfast in the one true faith.  He so works repentance in your heart and mind, in your body and life, and He forgives you all your sins.

By His Word the Lord Jesus gives you all that is His — His Father and His Spirit, His Resurrection and His Name, His Sonship and His Kingdom — together with St. Titus and all the saints in Light.

See here, the Kingdom of God has come near to you.  Do not doubt it, but believe what He says.  For in this preaching of the Gospel, in the Word of the Lord, the Lord your God has come near to you in the flesh.  He is here with you and for you, and He shall never leave you nor forsake you.

Rest here in His House, at His Table, in His Peace.  Eat and drink what He provides, His own holy Body and His precious Blood.  This Hospitality of Christ, given and received in faith and love at His Altar, is the beating heart and center of His Church and Ministry.  In this Holy Sacrament the grace and loving-kindness of your great God and Savior are manifested and given for you.

Not on the basis of deeds that you have done, but according to His mercy, He saves you, even as He feeds you with Himself.  What He has established in His Body by His Cross and Resurrection, He bestows upon you by and with His Word of Peace, that you might live with God in Him.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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