|Let us pray: Dear Savior, as the Chief Shepherd of souls You know how lost humans are without You. That’s why You came—to seek and to save the lost. Likewise, You knew during Your earthly ministry that You could not be physically present with all those hurting souls all the time. That’s why You ordained other men to carry on Your work in Your work in Your absence. Today each of us is here, each of us knows You because of the work of a fellow Christian. And since that work can all be traced back to a faithful pastor along the way, we thank You for ordaining and commissioning the public ministry. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GOOD SHEPHERD!
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Dr. Teigen, or B. W., had the greatest influence of anyone I’ve known when it came to shaping me and my understanding of theology. He was a pastor, our college President for 20 years, a fabulous teacher for many years thereafter, an amazing preacher, and a giant theologically. I would say that he ranks in the top 5 or 6 of Lutheran theologians worldwide over the past 50 years. Last Sunday God called him home at age 95.
For some reason, B. W. liked me. He saw promise in me. Even when I was just another pre-sem student he spent time teaching me and instructing me. That continued throughout my seminary years too, and all the years thereafter. I can still see him coming to convention in June with his straw hat and walking staff, seeking me out, and then holding one of his famous lectures with me outside the Bethany gym. And I always listened and never tried to interrupt because I always learned something new.
B. W. knew the theological trends of the day. He knew that the whole concept of the public ministry was and is under attack in our day. Instead of a God-ordained office which is to be highly respected because Christ speaks through His public ministry, the modern view is often that pastors are disposable commodities when they don’t cater to the psycho-babble whims of modern society. I still recall him quoting this section of Luke’s Gospel—especially vs. 16 where Christ says to those He commissioned and sent out: “He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects the One who sent me.” B. W. taught us that we hold a sacred office and that all we do or say must be based on God’s Word and that we must never compromise or water down its truth. His dictum that pastors stand in Christ’s place and have Christ’s warrant behind them—all stemming from His powerful Word of truth—that fact still rings in my ears and also provides tremendous comfort as I seek to build up God’s kingdom. With that tribute as background, today I want to look at our lesson under this theme:
THANK GOD FOR CHRISTIAN PASTORS!
Jesus was getting ready to suffer and die. He was getting ready to go to Jerusalem and give up His life for ours on the cross. He knew that soon He would be in heaven and the sheep would need strength, spiritual nourishment, and guidance. So, “after this the Lord appointed 72 others (besides the 12 apostles) and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! (There’s a command for the ministry) I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or a bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.’”
First, it is interesting that Christ had other disciples besides the 12. In this case, 72 others who He ordained right here into the public ministry. We know that from the Greek word translated “appointed.” It literally means: “Display, exhibit, and declare publicly.” Our Lord sends them out in pairs, as well. The reason for this is that they can help strengthen each other. Their task is to “prepare the way of the Lord” just like John the Baptist and just like pastors today. Then Jesus likens the world unto a harvest field ready for the sickle. The point is: don’t dwaddle or be lethargic in your work, but be active! Souls are at stake. He also doesn’t sugar coat what they will face. The world is full of wolves. It is full of people who don’t want to listen to God, who don’t want to repent, and who will often disappoint and/or outright reject Christ’s message that forgiveness comes only through repentance. Finally, He adds that they are not to take a lot of extras (purse, bag, sandals) or get distracted in their main work of spreading the message of salvation through faith alone in Christ.
Now, Jesus expands on that with these words: “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is near. I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day (judgement day) for Sodom than for that town.”
Many young sem students have starry-eyed notions of the ministry. They have no idea of the stresses and conflicts that they will face. After all, the message of repentance is not an easy one. No one likes to be rebuked for sin. Today it is unpopular to preach the whole counsel of God and speak out against sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, abortion on demand, the blatant foul language in our society—the list is endless. And when rejection occurs strong and stern measures must result for to leave someone comfortable in their sin condemns them to hell without any hope while also calling God a liar.
So, if this is what pastors face (and it is) why would anyone want to undertake this office? Well, first, human beings don’t decide on their own to be pastors, God decides. He appoints and calls them—just as He did with these 72. Second, God also promises that “My word will not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish the purpose to which I sent it.” That purpose is the saving of souls. When pastors faithfully preach God’s word and apply it to the lives of hurting souls the Holy Spirit acts. He comforts and uplifts. He works faith within. And ultimately, that kind of joy helps dissolve the other heartaches and headaches that go with the public ministry.
I’m a Christian today by God’s grace alone—because Jesus died for my sins. But, I can also say that I’m a Christian because God chose men like Pastor E. O. Schulz and Prof. B. W. Teigen and many others who fed me with Christ’s forgiveness, strengthened my faith, and taught me by words and actions how to navigate the minefields of everyday life. So, today I thank God for Christian pastors! And I hope you will thank Him, too. Amen