October is “Clergy Appreciation Month.” This is the month for congregations and their members to show appreciation to their pastors. And they do so, in various ways: special prayers, card showers, pot lucks, etc. Not many give the pastor the parsonage.
In one of the rural parishes I served, my predecessor retired from the ministry and remained in the parish to serve as organist. Although withdrawn and not very personable, he was also not always a quiet man, known to make outrageous comments. And he was not a very good preacher or teacher by most standards. Unique to say the least, what he sometimes did and said would today prompt a call to the district president. And yet the congregation loved and respected him during his 28 years as their pastor and then gave him the parsonage when he retired.
That was another day, another time–a time when calls to obtain pastors were more prayerful than careful, when pastors were more likely to be accepted with their flaws than expected to be well above average, when congregations saw their pastors as men of God holding a very high office. Our congregations and our Synod would do well to be a little less careful and expecting and a little more prayerful and accepting of the men God provides. They are giving their lives to teach His Word, administer His Sacraments, and shepherd the souls He calls, gathers, and enlightens by the very Gospel they preach.
And, of course, we could also use another month, a “Congregation Appreciation Month,” for pastors to show their love and appreciation for their congregations, the kind of thing C.F.W. Walther spoke of in his twentieth evening lecture on Law and Gospel. That would be the rest of the story. But that would also be another blog.
Gutachten: The Word of Forgiveness Spoken by a Lay Person
Two pastors in the Nebraska District requested the opinion of the Department of Pastoral Ministry and Missions of Concordia Theological Seminary on the following issue:
“There is considerable discussion and confusion in our district regarding the biblical and confessional position regarding the speaking of the Gospel by a member of the holy and royal priesthood.
Some in our district contend that according to the Scriptures and the Confessions only the men in the Holy Office speak an efficacious coram Deo Word of Gospel and that the unordained speak merely a word that gives information or that only makes an announcement. This position maintains that the Scriptures distinguish between forgiveness (coram Deo that only the clergy speak) and reconciliation (coram hominibus that those outside the Office speak).
Here is an example of what some are teaching. When a Christian wife says to her Christian husband who has sinned against her, “I forgive you. Jesus died for you,” this is only a coram hominibus reconciliation, not an efficacious word of forgiveness coram Deo, and that to contend otherwise is in violation of the Scriptures, in particular Matthew 16, Matthew 18, John 20, and the Lutheran Confessions.”
We address this issue fully aware of the reality of forces that have led to a diminishing of the Office of the Holy Ministry, including equalitarian movements and notions of entitlement reflected in the promotion of women’s ordination, assertions that “Everyone is a Minister” (Oscar Feucht), confusion of the Royal Priesthood with the pastoral office (for sources of this confusion see pages 1-16 of Timothy Wengert’s research in “The Priesthood of All Believers and Other Pious Myths” in Priesthood, Pastors, Bishops: Public Ministry for the Reformation & Today) and revisionist interpretations of AC 14.
I.In attempting to evade the above-mentioned errors, we must be careful not to “over-correct.” The Office exists for the sake of the Word and not vice versa. The Word is not authorized by the Office but the Word authorizes the Office to speak so that forgiveness is delivered in Christ’s name and in His stead. The Word of the Gospel creates the church and God has so ordered His church. Note the Large Catechism: “Therefore everything in this Christian community is so ordered that everyone may daily obtain full forgiveness of sins through the Word and signs appointed to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live on earth” (LC II:55, Kolb/Wengert, 438). It is the Gospel, not the ministerial Office, that is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17). Christ Jesus instituted the Office for the distribution of this salvation (see John 20:21-23). The Office is the instrument not the source of the gift. God is utterly abundant in His bestowal of the forgiveness of sins. Hence the Smalcald Articles: “We return to the Gospel, which offers counsel and help against sin in more than one way, for God is surpassingly rich in his grace: First, through the spoken word, by which the forgiveness of sin (the peculiar function of the Gospel) is preached to the whole world; second, through Baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys; and finally, through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren. Matt. 18:20, ‘Where two or three are gathered,’ etc.”(SA III:IV, Tappert, 310).
. The forgiveness of sins finds its certainty in the external Word. Wherever this Word is spoken the Spirit is at work to create faith in the hearts of those who hear it when and where it pleases Him (see AC V). This Word may not be fractionalized into parts, as though the pastor speaks only of forgiveness coram Deo and the layperson coram hominibus. The only forgiveness of sins that there is is from the Lord. Believers forgiven by God now forgive each other. Note Colossians 3:12-13; Ephesians 4:32. See also the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer in both Catechisms. Luther in Concerning the Ministry (1523): “There is no other sin than what any Christian ought to bind and absolve” (AE 40:35)
. Luther also guards against the splitting of forgiveness coram Deo and forgiveness coram hominibus in “A Brief Exhortation to Confession in the Large Catechism where he argues “Thus we have in the Lord’s Prayer a twofold absolution: both our sins against God and against our neighbors are forgiven when we forgive our neighbor and our reconciled with them” (K/W, 477). Citations from Luther abound. Note two in particular. First, from a sermon on Matthew 18:15-18 preached in 1537, Luther says that God’s forgiveness is poured out “in every corner, so that they not only find the forgiveness of sins in the congregation but also at home in their houses, in the fields and gardens, wherever one of them comes to another in search of comfort and deliverance. It shall be at my disposal when I am troubled and sorry, in tribulation and vulnerable, when I need something, at whatever hour and time it may be. There is not always a sermon being given publicly in the church, so when my neighbor or brother comes to me, I am to lay my troubles before my neighbor and ask for comfort…Again I should comfort others, and say ‘Dear friend, dear brother, why don’t you lay aside your burdens. It is certainly not God’s will that you experience this suffering. God had his Son die for you so that you do not sorrow but rejoice” (WA 47:297.36-298.14; quoted by R. Kolb, Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith, 135). Second, from the Genesis Lectures (1542): “If you want to be absolved from your sins in this manner, go to your pastor, or to your brother and neighbor if your pastor cannot hear you; he has the command to absolve you and comfort you (AE 6:128).
. Forgiveness from God through the pastor (SC V/Office of the Keys) need not be made more certain by diminishing the Lord’s forgiveness on the lips of the fellow-believer. The pastor is called and ordained to exercise the Office of the Keys in the midst of the congregation. The word of forgiveness he speaks is not his own but that of the Lord Jesus. His ordination places him “under orders” to forgive and retain sin. At his ordination he vows never to divulge the sins confessed to him. Lay persons are to have the complete confidence that their pastor is doing what the Lord has entrusted to him. The laity are not called and ordained to this Office. All believers live in the stations which they are given in this life (vocation). In these stations, Christians live by faith in Christ and love for the neighbor. To paraphrase the sainted Dr. Kenneth Korby, the sin of the neighbor is God’s call to speak the Word of God to the neighbor. In this context all Christians proclaim law and Gospel, repentance and faith. The words they speak are not their own but Christ’s. His Word does its work wherever it is spoken; it is never merely informational. It is a lively Word of Spirit and life doing the work and accomplishing the will of the God who speaks it. Of this we need no guarantees. Questions of validity are misplaced.
Adopted by the Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, Indiana
17 September 2009
The focus and purpose of Scripture is to reveal Christ, that we may
gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).
The apostle John also explained that
Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
On the way to fulfilling that purpose, however, the Scriptures occasionally give us fascinating glimpses into spiritual realities normally unseen. To be sure, the Word of God reveals also here everything we need to know for salvation, not necessarily all there is to know, or all we might want to know. For instance, we are told that God sends His angels to preserve and protect us, “to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). The angels carry us home to Jesus when we die (Luke 16:21). God gives His angels to be “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). But these realities are, for the most part, unseen.
Sunday, September 29, is the day the Church gives thanks for “St. Michael and All Angels” in the context of spiritual battle with the forces of evil going on behind the scenes. The Scriptures read this day comfort us with the promise of complete victory also in this unseen spiritual realm. The Gospel of Luke, for instance, records that when the 72 return (whom Jesus had sent out to announce His kingdom), they are full of joy at what they had seen and heard. Jesus saw even more, telling them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed, Satan falls. He’s done for. “One little word can fell him,” Luther’s hymn sings.
In the Book of Revelation, in a passage also read on September 29, we hear that Michael, the leader of all the angels, fought against and defeated Satan and his minions. St. John writes it down:
the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…’” (Revelation 12:9-11).
Many of the details are beyond us, but this we know for sure: Satan is defeated. He cannot take us down, not unless we capitulate to him. He is a liar and murderer, the father of lies, Jesus says (John 8:44). When he tempts us we can call him out for what he is, a liar and, in the name of Jesus, send him packing. Indeed, the devil can’t stand the truth, particularly the truth that Jesus defeated him. When Satan seeks to convince us that we have done things Jesus could never forgive, we can remind him of this Word of God: by His death Jesus broke
the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and [set] free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus has thrown him down so he can no longer accuse God’s own. So the church also sings this day:
Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken
By the devil’s seething rage,
Thwarts the plan of Satan’s minions,
Wins the strife from age to age,
Conquered sin and death forever,
Slams them in their steely cage.
Michael fought the heavenly battle,
Godly angels by his side,
Warred against the ancient serpent,
Foiled the beast so full of pride,
Cast him earthbound with his angels.
Now he prowls, unsatisfied.
Long on earth the battle rages,
Since the serpent’s first deceit
Twisted God’s command to Adam;
Make forbidden fruit look sweet.
Then the curse of God was spoken:
You’ll lie crushed beneath His feet.
Jesus came, this word fulfilling,
Trampled Satan, death defied,
Bore the brunt of our temptation:
On the wretched tree He died,
Yet to life was raised victorious,
By His life our life supplied.
Swift as lightning falls the tyrant
From his heavenly perch on high,
As the Word of Jesus’ victory
Floods the earth and fills the sky.
Wounded by a wound eternal,
Now his judgment has drawn nigh.
Jesus, send your angel legions
When the foe would us enslave.
Hold us fast when sin assaults us;
Come then, Lord., your people save.
Overthrow at last the dragon,
Send him to his fiery grave. (Lutheran Service Book 521)
What comforting words! Victory is ours, in Jesus. But remember, the greatest comfort is this, as Jesus said,
do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20),
written that is, in the blood of the Lamb, the blood shed for each of you!
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President
in the hearts of all believers and accomplishes His mission in the world. As the foundational symbol, after which the ECAVvČR is named, says,
these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this” (AC V:1-3).
But as Christ was both God and Man in one person, so the ministry of the Spirit has both a divine and human side to it. The divine side is clear, as St. Peter references the prophet Isaiah, “‘The word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the Gospel that was preached to you”(1 Pt 1:25). This Gospel, which is preached to you, while divine, is presented in a very human way, suited for our humanity. St.
Paul says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us”
(2 Cor. 4:7). For “we are not sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency
is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”(2 Cor 3:5-6). The letter that kills is the law, and “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin”(Rm 3:20). But the Spirit that gives life is the Gospel, that is, the forgiveness of sins, “that through this Man the forgiveness of sins is preached to you; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law” (Acts 13:38-39).
2) What emphases did you bring to the church? (Jaké důrazy jsi do ni vnesl?) and 3) Can you explain the idea with which you guided the
church and the goal of the path toward which we have taken steps? (Můžeš vysvětlit ideu, se kterou jsi církev směroval a cíl cesty, na kterou jsme nakročili?)
when you came?
life in the church, and holding to all the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord because they are a correct exposition of Scripture regarding the articles of faith treated therein. In my mind, that was the condition in which I found the ECAVvČR when I came, the one condition without which it would have been impossible to work together with blessing.
the immigrants was a Lutheranism with a different spirit than Luther, Chemnitz, and others, who solidified the Reformation faith with the Book of Concord of 1580.
century this new kind of ad fontes approach to understanding Lutheranism began to emerge. By the 1960s the American Edition of Luther’s Works appeared with over 50 volumes in English, and over the following decades important writings of Martin Chemnitz, the so-called “second Martin” of the Reformation, were also published in English.
bring to the church?
catechetical instruction and attending divine services. They had no knowledge of the elements of Lutheran pietism we had left behind in America. We were free to establish the kind of Lutheranism only slowly being revived at home. Some of it was only outward, though not unimportant. The black Geneva gowns, commonly worn by the clergy in American Lutheran parishes, along with the businessman’s suit worn during the week, could be quietly packed away and exchanged for the historic liturgical vestments in use during the Reformation and the daily clerical uniform reflecting the preaching office (Predigtamt).
sign and to obtain grace. [Confessor]: But
have you not [already] found forgiveness of sins by the absolution? Answer: So what! I want to add the sign of God to his Word. To receive God’s Word in many ways is so much better”
(Luther’s Works American Edition, vol. 53, p. 118, emphasis mine).
council and help against sin in more than one way, for God is
surpassingly rich in his grace: First, through the spoken word, by which
the forgiveness of sin (the peculiar function of the Gospel) is preached to the
whole world; second, through Baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the
Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys; and finally, through the mutual
conversation and consolation of brethren. Matt. 18, ‘Where two are gathered,’
etc.” (Smalcald Articles, Part III, IV. emphasis mine).
that the Mass is observed among us with greater devotion and more earnestness
than among our opponents. Moreover, the people are instructed often and with
great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how
it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that
the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given
instruction about other false teaching concerning the sacrament. Meanwhile no
conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except
that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses
for the instruction and exercise of the people. After all, the chief purpose of
all ceremonies is teach the people what they need to know about Christ”
(Augsburg Confesssion, Article XXIV:1-3, emphasis mine).
4), lost as casualties of American Lutheran pietism, could be taught without wondering if someone might accuse us of “Romanizing tendencies.” And the best of Lutheran hymnody could be instilled in the ears of young and old, leaving behind that not unsizable collection of Reformed hymns, so beloved by American frontier Lutherans.
The reason for this condition was that one could expect that Czechs and Slovaks, who understood English, might visit this service from time to time, and it would be important for them to see that the English worship was the same, especially because we also hoped to establish worship in Czech at St. Michael’s as well. It occurred to me that from these expatriate’s American Lutheran background, they might be shocked by the “high church” Lutheran liturgical practices revived in the Czech Republic. To my surprise, the reaction was the opposite. They welcomed such a service for its Confessional and liturgical richness, especially considering that the Protestant alternatives for English worship in Prague tended to be rather “low church” and un-Confessional.
to run more than a hundred miles for confession, not under compulsion but
rather coming and compelling us [pastors] to offer it. For here the compulsion
must be inverted; we [pastors] must come under the command and you must come
into freedom. We compel no man, but allow ourselves to be compelled, just as we
are compelled to preach and administer the sacrament” (Large Catechism, Part
idea with which you guided the church and
which we have taken steps?
righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that
we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for
Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and
that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are
given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as
Paul says in Romans 3 and 4” (Augsburg Confession, Article IV).
jistě obdrží“) (Brněnský Kancionál 2012, č. 109:2), He does this among us through His ministry of Word and Sacrament: “The Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it; He’s on our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit” („Ďábel, svět musejí jistě ustoupit slovu jeho, neb s námi jest v každém místě Pán s dary Ducha svého“) (Brněnský Kancionál 2012, č. 109:4, emphasis mine).
the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10).
Today, on the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels (29 September 2013), the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Czech Republic (ECAV v ČR) celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. The ECAV v ČR was established in 1993 when Czechoslovakia was divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Saint Michael’s Congregation on V Jircharich Street in Prague was established as a Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in 1946 when German Lutherans were transferred out of the country after World War II. Prior to this, the Saint Michaels had been the German Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia.
|The Saint Michael’s Congregation on V Jircharich Street in Prague|
The service on Saint Michael and All Angels marked the highpoint of three days of celebration which began with an organ concert, followed by lectures with the theme “Our Lutheran Heritage in Central Europe.” The service was broadcast on national Czech radio.
Shortly before the benediction and closing hymn, guests from various churches were able to give greetings. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was offered the opportunity to present greetings first. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations, presented the greetings to the ECAV v ČR:
On behalf of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and President Matthew Harrison, I bring you greetings in the Name of Jesus!
Today, the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels marks the 20th anniversary celebration of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Czech Republic (ECAV v ČR). This is fitting as Satan, the accuser of the Lord’s people has been cast down from heaven, no longer able to slander God’s people before His throne. Satan and his evil angels were defeated by the Word of God.
In Martin Luther’s famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” one little Word from the Scriptures sends Satan to flight. Over the years, the ECAV v ČR has faced many challenges, but the Word of God has preserved you.
The Missouri Synod only became involved with you a short time ago. We are happy that our churches have formed a working agreement that allows one of our pastors to serve the English speaking congregation. We pray that our churches may grow closer together and that Christ would bless us both.
As you celebrate your 20th anniversary, may it be a time of remembrance: Remembrance of how the Lord has blessed you through the years. A time of prayer: Prayer that the Lord would preserve the pure preaching of the Word of God among you. A time of thanksgiving: Thanksgiving for the Word of God in this place, for the pastors who preached to you, and for the tremendous grace the Lord has shown you. May it be a time of repentance: Repentance for neglecting the Word of God and for unthankfulness for His blessings.
As you celebrate today, remember Christ and his forgiveness. May He grant you many more years in His service.
The bulletin for the service is provided below.
Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations