Monday, May 23, 2011

Reflection on the Holy Ministry

Since the Wisconsin Synod's seminary in Mequon recently completed its academic year, with the assignment of candidates to their first Calls, and graduation, I felt moved to jot down a few thoughts as I complete my own 30th year of ministry in Christ's vineyard. I was drawn to Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.

Second Corinthians 4:7 – But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

It is God Who establishes the office of the Holy Ministry of His Word. It was God who Called the prophets of old. It was God, in and through His only Son, our Lord, Who sent forth the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world. It is God, working through the Holy Spirit - sometimes not very easily "through," but often more "in spite of" - human agencies to Call men to their various ministries. This is because, though He still does the Calling, the human instruments are subject to human frailty and are liable to make human mistakes. Still, I believe that, because it is God's work, He sees to it that through these imperfect human instruments His will is done.

It is therefore also God who adds His Spirit to the preached Word and through such preaching and teaching saves souls. It is God Who calls, gathers, enlightens, and adds people to His eternal kingdom. It is God Who offers His grace in visible forms in the Holy Sacraments. It is God Who forgives sins, speaking through the voice of His servants in the Gospel Ministry.

Yes, we proclaim in Christ Jesus God's grace, pardon, peace, and eternal life; but these are God's gifts and God's power and God's salvation! God has given His Church THIS work to do - and we must do it - but it is still His work. And His work is not to entertain the world, or even the church; not to tell them what they want to hear, or what they like to hear, but only what they need to hear. Nor is it to bedazzle the world or our fellow believers with our oratory or even our art or music. These can only be but servants of our ministries, never the goal.

Thus, the Church selects a few men - brave and hearty souls, prepared, ready, willing, and able - to take upon themselves the public ministry of the work of the kingdom. But always this work remains the work of God. It belongs to Him, and not to us to do with as we please. And as God's work it must not cease until Jesus comes, and it dare not be left unattended to, or done in an off-handed or slovenly manner. And grave danger it is to any and all who attempt to hinder it, or indeed do hinder it by their sloth or incompetence or false doctrine and practice.

Therefore, let us - both full-time ministers of the Gospel, and all those who hold up our hands in love and support - do the work which God has given us to do! Nor is the least of the work that we carry our shepherding burdens in our hearts to the throne of God; that we together invite and implore the Source of all good things, for His divine blessing upon our work. May God grant us all wisdom, strength, and zeal to carry out our ministries, for it is only with His help and with His power that we may even hope to bring treasured souls to heaven!

Pastor Spencer

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