[Note:  This sermon was preached in the chapel at the International Center on June 25, 2013 as we commemorated the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession and installed Reverend Peter Jacob Haugen in the missionary office to which he has been called by the Board for International Mission to serve as a career missionary for the LCMS in partnership with the Gutnius Lutheran Church in Papau New Guinea.  + Herbert Mueller]

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

A few days ago, Pastor Haugen, you made a vow, in front of family and friends in Texas, when you were ordained. In a few moments you will repeat it for us.

This vow puts you with Lutheran confessors gathered before the imperial council in Augsburg, Germany, June 25th, 1530, exactly 483 years ago today. In a meeting of princes with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Chancellor Christian Beyer read out in a clear voice for all to hear this confession of the pure Gospel.

We believe that there is one divine essence, which is called and which is truly God, and that there are three persons in this one divine essence.

We believe all people born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin.

We also teach that the Son of God became man, and that the two natures, divine and human are so inseparably united that there is one Christ, who was born, lived, suffered, died and rose for us.

And we teach that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and 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…

And so that we might obtain this faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is provided the Gospel and the sacraments. [from the first five articles of the Augsburg Confession]

Now you are sent into the mission field with the badge of this confession. You are a Lutheran Pastor, pledged, as every Lutheran Pastor is, to preach and to teach only what accords with Scripture as explained by this confession.

It is not forced on you. But you take it freely, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of the people you will serve. This is where you stand.

But you will never be able to do it on your own. You are NOT able, not at all, not one bit.

In English where you have two negatives, in a backhanded sort of way, it turns the statement positive. But when Greek piles on the negatives, it just makes it stronger. That’s what John does here in bringing the Words of Jesus:

I am the Vine. You are the branches. The one who abides in me and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit, because (literally, it says) apart from me you are not able to do NOTHING.

Apart from me…

There are going to be times, Pastor Haugen, when you are going to wonder – what did I get myself into? Maybe already? When you or your dear wife and family will feel VERY ALONE. When you will feel completely inadequate, undone, and there will be a deep fear creeping up your spine that you are about to be discovered.

There will be other times when you think things are going well and – my goodness – wasn’t God really wise to place you where He did…!!!

EITHER WAY – you will be acting like a branch WITHOUT the Vine. And a branch without the Vine … is … dead.

Apart from me, Jesus said, you cannot do one single thing. So ABIDE IN ME, Jesus says, and let my Words abide in you.

This is the Word I have spoken to you, the Word that makes you clean.

In other words, YOU, dear Pastor, and you dear family – YOU live by the same Word of Jesus you are pledged to bring.

You know that the Apology says that the highest worship of Jesus is to receive the forgiveness of sins. You also are called to worship frequently at that altar, the altar of the forgiveness of sins in Christ, for you cannot give away what you have not first received.

Abide in Jesus’ Word.

Repent of any self-reliance.

Whenever it appears – give it up. It will get you nothing.

But hear again the Word of Jesus: “I am the Vine – you are the branches…”

I am filling your dead and sinful self with My life.

My Word speaks you righteous.

My Word makes you clean.

Jesus makes this comparison, of course, the very night before He went and did what His words say. When the Word of Divine judgment and condemnation for sin fell on HIM, not you. When, for you – He went to the cross – for you.

All the world thinks everything is run by KARMA, that is, you get out what you put in.

But here at the cross, it’s not Karma, but grace. You and I put evil in, but God sent that all to Jesus on the cross, not to us. So that NOW, there is only GRACE – undeserved favor – left for you. So Jesus says, YOU ARE CLEAN! Clean by my Word!

Yes, you! Each of you for the sake of Jesus.

There’s the Good News you are pledged to bring, Pastor Haugen, in partnership with the Good News Lutheran Church in New Guinea.

And there is the Word of Jesus that will sustain you and yours through everything.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.