08 June 2019

The Spirit of Christ Jesus in the Ministry of His Gospel

We pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit in the confidence that our Father in heaven pours out His living and Life-giving Spirit generously upon His Church through Jesus Christ, His Son — as on that first Christian Pentecost Day, so also on His beloved children in this place on this day, and upon His servant, the Reverend Samuel Steven Wirgau.  For the Lord our God is awesome in His Sanctuary, and He gives power and strength to His people through the Ministry of His Gospel.

In the footsteps of Moses and the Holy Apostles, Pastor Wirgau has been called and ordained by the Lord to be a prophet and a priest of God Most High for the benefit of the Lord’s own people.  As of today he is entrusted with that office here in Ossian, as for the past seven years in Texas, not by his own reason or strength, piety or wisdom, but by the Word and Spirit of God in Christ Jesus.

The Spirit of God does rest and remain upon this man, not only as a Christian disciple of the Lord Jesus, but also as a minister of the Gospel, as an instrument of the Holy Spirit for others.  Indeed, it is for this purpose — that the Holy Spirit should be given to you from the Father in Christ Jesus — that Pastor Wirgau has been ordained to this Ministry, and that he is being installed here today.

Such good work — in such a Holy Office — is possible only by the Word and Spirit of the Lord.

Although you are a creature of God, which is to say that you exist and have life by His Word and Spirit, you could not receive or know the Holy Spirit in your sinful unbelief — nor could you even realize there is such a Person of God as the Holy Spirit — because you cannot see Him or perceive Him with your mortal flesh, and you are not able to discern His presence or find Him for yourself.

What is more, you are not able to love without the Holy Spirit; you are incapable of knowing love or even what it is.  For without the Holy Spirit you do not know the Lord your God, who is Love, neither the Father nor His Son who live and abide in Love in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

But the mutual love of Christians for each other, and of pastors and people for each other within the fellowship of the Church, is established and rooted in the divine Love of the Holy Triune God.  For the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has known you and loved you in His Son; and He has poured out His Spirit generously upon you in Christ by the cleansing waters of Holy Baptism.

The Lord has given you a new heart and a new and right spirit within you, so that you begin to live and to love as you are loved by Him.  He has removed your heart of stone with its idolatry and greed, and He has given you a heart of flesh and blood like that of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.

You abide in Him, that is, in the Lord Jesus, in His Body of flesh and blood; and He abides in you, in your body and your soul, along with the Spirit of His Father.  He comes to you, and He reveals and gives Himself to you, because He loves you with divine, holy, and steadfast loving-kindness.

You love both God and your neighbor because this one Lord Jesus Christ, who is both God and your Neighbor, has first loved you, and because He continues to love you and serve you forever.

This same Jesus, who was crucified for your sins, who has risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, who lives and reigns eternally, He has not orphaned you.  He has not left you alone to make it on your own.  He is with you in the Ministry of His Gospel, by which He has also given you another Helper, that is, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father in the Son.

Under the shadow of the Cross, in the hope and promise of the Resurrection (though not yet seen), the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit constitute the dark and glorious Cloud with which the Lord God accompanies and confirms the preaching and works of His ministers in His Name and with His own authority.  Beginning with Christ and His Apostles, that Ministry continues to the close of the age throughout His Church on earth, and no less so here and now in Ossian, Indiana.

It is therefore not by sight, but by faith in Christ, by the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, that you know and love His God and Father as your own dear God and Father, because He has given you the Spirit of adoption.  You are a beloved and well-pleasing son of God in Christ Jesus by virtue of your Baptism in His Name, whereby you share His Cross and His Resurrection from the dead.  So have you also been anointed as a Christian with the Spirit of Christ Jesus in Holy Baptism.  For all that belongs to the Son of God has thus been given to you and is now yours by His grace.

Assuredly, you are not an orphan.  You are God’s own child, an heir of all good things in Christ.  You belong to the Household and Family of God, living and abiding with Christ in the Bosom of His Father, partaking of His Spirit and participating in the Life and Light and Love of His divine nature.  For God the Lord has called you out of Egypt in His Son.  He has brought you through the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River out of death into life, out of darkness into light.  He has established His holy Covenant with you, and He feeds you at His Table with His own Lamb.

With all of that, He has likewise taught you and invited you to pray to Him with all boldness and confidence, as a dear child to your own dear God and Father in heaven, and as a beloved member of the Body and Bride of Christ Jesus.  So it is that we call upon the Name of the Lord for Pastor Wirgau and for Bethlehem Lutheran Church, trusting that He hears and answers all our prayers.

In particular, the Lord lays His hand upon you, and He pours out His Holy Spirit upon your heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit, by the agency of His sent ones, His ministers of the Gospel.  Through their words and works of love in His Name, He stretches forth His mighty arm and reaches out His strong but gentle hand, not to hurt you but to help you and to heal you, to absolve you of all your sins, to cleanse you of all your guilt and shame and sorrow, and to feed you in body and soul with peace and joy and grace and every blessing in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Wirgau shall now begin to administer and carry out these works in this place.  But they are not his own doing.  They are the works of God the Father in His Son and by His Holy Spirit, as you and your pastor are taught and reminded, that you should fear, love, and trust in the Lord alone.

Sam, as you continue to work and serve in the Name of the Lord, in the same Holy Office to which you were ordained seven years ago, take to heart the Words and promises of God which undergird, uphold, and prosper that work which He has given you to do.

Such labors are not without their difficulties, hardships, and frustrations, as you and all of your brothers in office are well aware.  Much of your work is confidential or otherwise carried out in quiet solitude behind the scenes, and the fruits of your labors are generally hidden from sight and human sense (including your own).  To be and to work as a minister of the Gospel, as a pastor of the Lord’s Church, is every bit as much by faith alone as it is to be and to live as a Christian at all.

Even so, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is with you — in love for you and for all people — to sustain you and keep you in peace, and to accomplish His purposes to the glory of His Name.

The Lord who has been with you for so long — who knew you before you were conceived in your mother’s womb; who created you in divine and holy love; who called you by His Name to be His very own in the waters of your Holy Baptism — the same true God and Lord shall continue to be with you, even at those times when you do not recognize, remember, or know Him as you should.

And by the Spirit of Truth, who dwells in you and with you by the Word of God in Christ — by the Holy Spirit who rests and remains upon you within the Holy Office to which He has called and ordained you — God shall strengthen and sustain you in all things, at all times, and in all places.

Because He lives — not only as true and eternal God in His own divine nature, but as true God and true Man in the Person of Christ Jesus, in His own Body of flesh and blood, crucified and risen from the dead, ascended far above all heavens — so shall you also live, here on earth in this body and life, and hereafter in the Resurrection to the Life everlasting of your body and soul in Him.

So it is that God’s Kingdom comes in and with His Church, even here and now, on earth as it is in heaven.  As surely as the Lord Jesus has reigned in His Church by the preaching of His Apostles from Jerusalem throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth, so does He reign in love from His Cross through the preaching and ministry of His Gospel in this place.

Indeed, according to His astonishing promise, even greater works are done within His Holy Church than those which He once did in the Holy Gospels, because He has returned to the Father in human flesh and blood by the way and means of His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.  For God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ.  He has made Atonement by His holy and precious Blood, and He has perfected His Creation and made all things new in His Resurrection.

Therefore, by the preaching of the Gospel, by the ministry of the Word of Christ, by the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism, by Holy Absolution in His Name and stead, and by His Body given, His Blood poured out for you, His God and Father in heaven gives to you His Holy Spirit here within His Church on earth.  And so, by His grace, you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you love and trust in Him, and you do keep His commandments: You love as He loves you.

Together, then, as pastor and people in the Lord, you are given to know the Father and to receive the Holy Spirit in the Word and Flesh of Christ Jesus.  Baptized into His Cross and Resurrection, bearing His Spirit in both body and soul, you are a priestly people in Him.

Pastor Wirgau’s priesthood is carried out in faith and love within the Office of the Holy Ministry, according to His own vocation and station in life.  He is given to care for you and serve you in the Name and stead of Christ, according to the Lord’s divine command.

In much the same way, for all of you members of Christ’s Church, your priestly service is carried out within your own proper callings and stations in life, whatever and wherever those might be.  Not least of all, as beloved children of God in Christ, you are given to love and care for your pastor and his family, remembering him in your prayers, and providing for his bodily needs, as surely as he is given to serve you in body and soul with the priceless gifts and treasures of the Lord Jesus.  So do you pledge and promise on this day, and so shall you carry out by the grace of God.

For the Spirit of God is with you by and with the Gospel — and this Gospel is the Truth.  It is the Truth that God the Father loves you, that He forgives you for Jesus’ sake, and that He gives you Life in Himself by His Son.  By this Truth of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit lays Christ upon your heart to defend and protect you, to strengthen and sustain you.  The Spirit loves you with the Love of God in Christ, and by the forgiveness of your sins He obtains the faith and love of Christ in you.

Beloved of the Lord, the Holy Spirit is with you.  He lives and abides in you, not in some vague, abstract, or generic way, but in all the particulars of your own body and life and place in the world.  He is with you and in you in all of your callings and duties and relationships; in both your joys and your sorrows; in hardship and prosperity; in sickness and in health; in death as in life, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting that are yours, now and forever, in the Body of Christ Jesus.

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

No comments: