Preaching Law, Gospel, & Vocation

Pastor Douthwaite preached a fine sermon on the callings of Isaiah and Peter on Sunday, a model of how to preach the Law, the Gospel, and Vocation. A sampling:

For while Isaiah was indeed unclean, he was not lost. For in the depth of his sin and fear, “one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” ” For the Lord did not bring Isaiah before him in this vision to destroy him, but to save him. And he is saved by the offering upon the altar. When it touches his lips, his sin and guilt and uncleanness are gone. He is given new life and hope.

And the same happens for Peter. He was right in confessing that he is a sinful man, but the Lord will not depart from him and leave him in his sin. Instead, Jesus says to him: “Do not be afraid.” Or in other words, do not be afraid of being in the presence of the Lord, for Jesus has not come to destroy, but to save. To save by being the offering that touched Isaiah’s lips from the altar of the cross. To save by being the sacrifice for guilt and the atonement for sin as the Lamb of God. To give Peter – and all the world – new life and hope. And the words that came from Jesus’ lips and touched Peter’s ears did for Peter what they said. They did not inspire Peter to boldness and confidence; rather, they gave him boldness and confidence.

And so it is for you and me. At the beginning of each Divine Service, we take our place with Isaiah and Peter and confess that we are sinful and unclean. We cry out Woe is me, I am lost. A lost and condemned person. We confess that we have no right to be here, and deserve only temporal and eternal punishment. But as with Isaiah and Peter, our Lord comes to us not to destroy or condemn us, but to forgive and save us. And so like Peter, His words: “I forgive you all your sins.” touch our ears and raise us to new life and hope. And like Isaiah, the sacrifice from the altar of the cross touches our lips as we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus in His Supper, and our guilt and uncleanness are gone. Gone, for they are taken by our Lord, and we are given His holiness and life.

And so Isaiah and Peter were mightily transformed. Isaiah’s Woe is me! is replaced with “Here am I! Send me!” And Peter’s Depart from me is replaced with his clinging to Jesus – leaving everything and following Him, to be a fisher of men. Yet this is not the only wonder. For is it not also a wonder that these are the very men our Lord wants to send and use. God does not look for holiest and best and most righteous of men. He does not seek the strongest and most steadfast. Rather, he takes an unknown like Isaiah and an ordinary fisherman like Peter, and uses them to proclaim His Word as prophet and apostle. . . .

And in the same way have you been mightily transformed. For the love, forgiveness, and life of Jesus is not without power. And though you are not the holiest, the best, the strongest, the most steadfast, or the most righteous – our Lord will now use you. He may not have called you to be a prophet like Isaiah, or an apostle or “fisher of men” like Peter. But our Lord has called you to be a father or mother, and speak His Word to your children. He has called you to be a friend and neighbor, to serve with His love. He has called you to be a boss or worker, to provide for others through you. He has called you to be a Christian, to speak His Word of forgiveness. And in these vocations, you are just as important as Isaiah or Peter. And Jesus is using you in ways that are both known to you and unknown to you.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 5 Sermon.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

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  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    That was a good excerpt. I particularly liked the clear parallel to Communion. As well as the parallel between the story arcs in the passages about Isaiah and Peter being the same arc that we see in our lives and in every church service. I love stuff like that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    That was a good excerpt. I particularly liked the clear parallel to Communion. As well as the parallel between the story arcs in the passages about Isaiah and Peter being the same arc that we see in our lives and in every church service. I love stuff like that.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Sorry, folks. We are under a spam attack and my filtering software, Akismet, is blocking legitimate comments. Stewart and I–well, Stewart–are working on this problem. I’m checking the queue periodically and releasing the comments as I find them.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Sorry, folks. We are under a spam attack and my filtering software, Akismet, is blocking legitimate comments. Stewart and I–well, Stewart–are working on this problem. I’m checking the queue periodically and releasing the comments as I find them.

  • Joe

    My Pastor gave a great sermon that connected these arcs as well. He also delved into the casting of the net. A net catches all – indiscriminately. I found this point very comforting.

  • Joe

    My Pastor gave a great sermon that connected these arcs as well. He also delved into the casting of the net. A net catches all – indiscriminately. I found this point very comforting.

  • http://www.lambert-blog.com Dave Lambert

    You are fortunate to have such an outstanding Pastor. I’ve heard too many LC-MS pastors who are focused on the Law and in church growth ONLY.

  • http://www.lambert-blog.com Dave Lambert

    You are fortunate to have such an outstanding Pastor. I’ve heard too many LC-MS pastors who are focused on the Law and in church growth ONLY.


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