Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Monday, December 3, 2018
How Are They to Hear Without Preaching? - December 2, 2018 - Ordination and Installation of Arturo Mendez - Text: Romans 10:14-17
Brothers and sisters in Christ, invited guests, Rev. Pastor Arturo Mendez. Today is a day you have been waiting on for some time. Today the call of God has been confirmed through this congregation to be a pastor, a shepherd to His sheep. What a great and wonderful day, a day of rejoicing indeed, yet a day of recognizing the gift of God that He is bestowing on you. And along with His gifts He gives you the very means to carry out His calling.
For Arturo the journey from unbelief to faith to the desire and now the call to share the Word of God with others has not been an easy journey. Having grown up in a difficult country, one in which he served as a soldier and policeman and seeing much corruption, God stirred him to want to do the right thing. And yet, even that desire to do what was right was not always the God pleasing thing. Indeed, it is as God worked through His Word spoken by others that Arturo heard the Word of God, that the Holy Spirit worked through that Word of God and worked faith in his heart. And as he grew in his faith he knew he wanted to share that faith with others so they too might be a part of God’s kingdom. All this moved him to pursue what is being confirmed on him today.
Our Epistle lesson is one which reminds us not only of the importance of God’s Word but also of the importance of one to deliver the Word of God as well as His Holy Sacraments, His means of grace.
How important are the means of grace? Paul tells us in our text, “14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (v. 14-17).
The means of grace are so important that they are indeed a matter of faith, life and salvation. This question of the importance of the means of grace ties in with the old question about those we think have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, how can they be held accountable for their lack of faith? The fact of the matter is that they have had the opportunity, but somewhere along the line their fathers failed to share the faith and so they are being punished for the sins of the fathers, to the third and fourth generations, as we speak in the close of the commandments. Remember, we all go back to Noah who had the Word. Thanks be to God that He allows for other opportunities to hear the Word so that those whose fathers failed to share the Word may hear it elsewhere and be given faith through that Word, which is what is the desire of Arturo, to share that Word with those whose fathers have neglected to share it with them.
In our text Paul asks, “How can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” How can one hear unless some one is sent to administer the means of grace? Notice the importance of the means of grace and making use of them? God’s usual way of coming to us is through means, namely through the means of grace, the Bible, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And notice the importance, again, of making regular, every Sunday, and diligent, everyday, use of these means. When we absent ourselves from these means then we fall into this group about whom Paul is speaking, how can we believe if we do not hear?
And Paul speaks of the importance of the Office of Holy Ministry. How can one preach unless one is sent? Notice, a man does not appoint himself for the Office of Holy Ministry. Simply to feel a calling does not validate such a calling. A man’s calling by God is validated when God through a congregation, calls him into the Office of Holy Ministry in order to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments, the means of grace.
Notice the bottom line in Paul’s words for us this afternoon. The bottom line is the Word of God. And I would add the authority and the promise of the effect of the Word of God, that is that the Word of God is efficacious, it does what it says and it gives the gifts it has to give. I can believe and trust that Word, that it has authority and will give its gifts, or I can attempt through some means of my own to try to “help” it along. Certainly I could stand up here every Sunday and entertain you. I could speak with pious platitudes or show a power point presentation or a video of this that or the other thing to move you. Or I could stand up here and try to motivate you, which usually amounts to preaching law to you because that is what such motivation usually is, telling you what you have to do in order for God to do something for you. I could even use some great Christian sounding words, words your itching ears might want to hear. I could tell you how God wants you to succeed in life. I could tell you that all you have to do is believe hard enough or all you have to do is work hard enough and God will reward you. I could sound like many of the preachers you hear on TV. But, is that what God promises us and is that what God tells us in His Word? Does God promise us great success and happiness in life?
Arturo, the temptations are great. Many men get out of seminary, see how “successful” their neighboring church is and desire to be just as successful, in the name of saving souls of course. In an attempt to be as successful they let down their doctrinal filters and buy into all the sociological ways of being about God’s business with the belief that if we just do it one way or the other they will come. Don’t preach too much law, put on a good show, have a certain type of music and they will come. Interestingly enough, God has never promised to make anyone successful through any means. What God has said is that He gives us the authority to speak His Word. He will be with us. He will give us the Words to speak and He will give the harvest, when and where He pleases.
In the Old Testament, in Leviticus God gave His people the ceremonial laws which pointed to Jesus. In the New Testament Jesus fulfilled all those laws and now we have a Divine Service which has been around since the day of Jesus and the Apostles, ad since Leviticus given by God. Today we have it in its fulfilled form which continues to point us to Jesus; a Divine Service that transcends time, language, culture, age, ethnicity and the like; a Service that is permeated with the means of grace, the Word of God which is where God promises to be with us and to come to us to give us His gifts.
So, what does this mean? And what is important? What is important is the means of grace through which the Holy Spirit gives faith, forgiveness, life and salvation and works a response of faith. Oh, we might make it in life without these means. We might be quite successful and we might even believe that God has made us successful. Yet, even more important for our eternal salvation is the forgiveness of sins and faith in Jesus. Paul does not even mention success as a part of salvation, but he does mention faith, believing and confessing our faith.
Faith and confession of faith is important and so the Office of Holy Ministry is important. God has given us the Office of Holy Ministry and He has called some men into this Office for the administration of the means of grace, preaching the Gospel, administering of confession and absolution and administering the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Today we celebrate that you, Arturo, have been given this call by God.
So, what about your part as members of this congregation? Under section three of Luther’s Small Catechism, the Table of Duties, Luther reminds us of “What the Hearers Owe Their Pastor.” from 1 Cor. 9:14, “The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. ” From Gal. 6:6-7, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” From 1 Tim. 5:17-18, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” From 1 Thess. 5:12-13 “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” And finally from Heb. 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So we are reminded that Pastor Mendez did not call himself here to be your pastor, God called him through you, thus we are reminded that the way we treat God’s called worker and ambassador is what we think of how we would treat God Himself. And I would remind you that Pastor Mendez is a worker priest, working a regular job to support himself and his family while serving God as associate pastor here in our midst.
Now to wrap this up. The important things Paul tells us are, hearing, believing and confessing. These three work together. We hear the Word of God through the pastor which gives faith. Faith motivates us to confess that we believe. And as we believe, so that becomes our confession. This hearing, believing, and confessing are reflected in our worship. Our worship practice comes out of our confess of faith and our confess of faith comes out of our worship practice. Because we believe the means of grace are the way in which our Lord comes to us, so our worship practice is that our worship is permeated with the means of grace, beginning with the invocation which reminds us of our baptism, to our confession and absolution, to our responsive readings which are our repeating back to God the very words He has given us to say, and to the Lord’s Supper. As we worship this way we understand the importance of the means of grace and we are strengthened and kept in faith.
Paul continually reminds us of the importance of the Word, namely, the Gospel, and the Word, Jesus, God in flesh. The Jesus of the Bible is not a Jesus of glory. He is not a Jesus of success, at least not in the terms the world would like to frame Him. As a matter of fact, He is a God who gave up the glory that was His, as God, in heaven, in order to go to the cross, to pay the price for ours sins. The Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of the Word is a Jesus of the cross. And He is a Jesus for all.
Paul covers a lot for us this afternoon and clears up some misunderstandings about the importance of the Word. There is only one God and one Lord who calls to and gives faith and he does this through the men He calls into the Office of Holy Ministry to speak His means of grace so that Holy Spirit works through these means, the Bible, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, so that we might respond by listening, believing and confessing that Jesus Christ is Yahweh. Arturo, this calling is now your calling from God. May He bless you in this calling so that your work may be done in such a way that we all say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.