What pastors do

Last Sunday at church, in addition to receiving Holy Communion as we do every week, we baptized a child and sent off one of our members to seminary.  Our pastor gave a sermon on the readings for the day–Jeremiah 16, Luke 13,  and Philippians 3–and tied them into all of those events.  You should read the whole sermon, but what he said about the life and calling of a pastor deserves to become a classic.

From Pastor James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church, the Second Sunday of Lent, 2013:

That baptizing, that calling, that reaching out, our Lord does through those men he places into the office of the Holy Ministry, which today our friend George takes leave of us to begin his studies for service in this way. It is not only through pastors that our Lord does this, but pastors are those our Lord specially calls and sends and places into congregations to specifically do these very things as His representatives, in His stead and by His command. To care for His flock. Undershepherds of the Good Shepherd.

I will tell you now, George: you will never have a harder job, and you will never have a more joyful job. Speaking God’s Word will sometimes get you in trouble, as it did Jeremiah. Calling people to repentance and preaching against sin has never been popular or well received. They wanted him dead as they wanted Jesus dead, and Jesus said that will happen today as well. And you’ll be tempted, and you’ll fail; you’ll not always preach and teach what you should; you’ll take an easier way out. It happens to all pastors. It is one of the ways we pastors sometimes leave the wings and need to repent and return.

But you’ll also have days like today, when you hold a little one in your arms and pour over his head the Word and water of life. You’ll see the Word at work, in big ways and small. You’ll shed tears, like Jesus, over those who would not. Those who as Paul described them: Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But you’ll absolve many too. And then also every Sunday you’ll place into the mouths of your flock the Body and Blood of their Saviour. And you’ll say to each and every one: for you. His Body and Blood for you. His forgiveness for you. His life for you. To keep you as we wait for the second coming of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. And you’ll bury some of those sheep, but confident that their citizenship is in heaven, and that they will be transformed on the last day.

For the Lord will never forsake His own. To those who would not, Jesus declares that your house is forsaken, which is not His doing but theirs. But the Lord’s house is never forsaken. For in the Lord’s house is His promised presence, His promised forgiveness, His promised life. So as we gather here today in repentance and faith, gathered under the wings of our Saviour, and singing blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, we receive Him who comes for us – who came first to lay down His life on the cross, and who comes now to give that life to you, using such simple things like water and words and bread and wine to do so.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Lent 2 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.

  • C-Christian Soldier

    a Pastor’s “job” is never easy-they have to deal w/ humans!! (-:
    Bless them all -even those who believe that men are superior to women! (had to add that – as I have run into a few of that type)
    C-CS
    President of :
    LA LFL

  • SKPeterson

    At the installation of one of our associate ministers, his father-in-law, another LCMS pastor, told him job was to be like the donkey or colt that bore Jesus to the people in Jerusalem. He’s not to replace Jesus, only to bring Him to the people. I thought that was a great analogy and pastoral mission statement in just a few simple words.

  • fws

    Skp @ 2

    Probably that plan went away forever when we decided to profissionalize the holy ministry complete with pay scales based on the number of degrees and years of service, and pension plans that make pastors think twice before leaving one synod for another.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    @fws. Good point. I hope you are feeling better.

  • Becky F.

    Not all congregations follow the pay scales, and pretty sure any pastor in his 20′s/30′s is thinking he’s not going to be able to count on other people to fund his retirement. Anybody going into the Office of Holy Ministry with money in mind is not going into the right profession! Sure, pastors and their families are people, too, and we have to weigh out finances just like anybody else, but I’m sure my husband could make a lot more money and have a more lucrative retirement income in another vocation. I know of too many churches that cut salaries to “punish” pastors they don’t like, and too many churches that can’t afford to even give their workers raises to match inflation, so talking about money seems a little inappropriate to me.

  • Becky F.

    Please excuse me. That was little bit of a knee-jerk reaction to seeing salary brought up in relation to a very well-worded description of what a pastor’s vocation is. It is a tough job, a thankless job, a job that does not always show the fruits of the labor put into it. Those who are faithful to the Gospel will have more hardship in their vocation than those pastors that are not, and that can be stressful and even isolating, sometimes. A pastor’s job never ends, even when he thinks he will have a day off to relax, sometimes. There is much joy in delivering God’s Word and His gifts to His people, but there is much pain in the process, too.

  • fws

    Becky F @ 5

    It is truly satanic and evil for someone to mistreat someone who is delivering mercy to you. This is especially true for congregations who chose to control or punish or manipulate their pastors by means of their pay.

    Therefore: There is nothing at all wrong for synod officials to come up with guidelines for congregations as rules of thumb, so that they are not relying on emotions or favoritism when it comes time to decide who gets paid what. That is good, right and salutary.

    At the same time it is true that , even with the best of intentions, it is very easy to lose sight of the servant nature of all governamental offices, including that of pastors.

    Old Adam either wrongly over spiritualize the office (“special rules apply for the called offices, like vows of poverty”), or…we loose sight of THE reason God commands the Holy Catholic Church to install rulers and administrators that we call pastors/bishops/elders. Pastors are , indeed, rulers over a fleshly and carnal government called the Holy Catholic Church, which will perish with the Earth as with all romans 8 flesh. See the Apology to the Augsburg Confession art VII & VIII for more on the true Lutheran doctrine of the Church on this.

    Therefore we must attend to the pay and physical care of pastors, who are our spiritual fathers, exactly, and for the same way we care for our biological fathers, and the fathers of our nation such as the speaker of the house and the president, governor, etc. Here the 4th commandment applies. See the large catechism on the 4th commandment for more on this.

    What does happen however, is that it is often easy to forget that there is One Reason why the office of pastor has been ordained by God. It is to punish and curb wrong doers temporally so that they do not interfere or disrupt the administration of word and sacrament. But that is to serve the central role , that alone, pastors are entrusted with. That is , alone , to declare the forgiveness of sins freely and unconditionally, and the personal application of that “for YOU!”

    This for YOU! is especially to be applied to those whom the pastor has had to exclude from the christian congregation to maintain outward discipline.

    The office of the Keys is never to withhold the “for YOU!” and thus exclude anyone , ever, from the Communion of Saints! pastors have NO power to do that! This power is reserved, alone, for Christ at the end of the age.

    So then, it is not at all wrong , of itself , to “profissionalize” the pay scales of pastors. But the danger must be avoided of focusing on the fact that the church is all romans 8 earthly, fleshly carnal governments, established by God, which are the Holy Catholic Church ruled by pastors. This is the same function, households ruled by fathers and mothers, and society ruled by civil governments and customs.

    Yet this must always, Always be kept in mind:
    it is the carnal government of pastors, alone, that also bring that One Thing that , alone, the Holy Spirit uses to give eternal Life. This is the unconditional proclamation of that “for you” that , alone, pastors are entrusted with.

    That is why, even though it is the function of pastors to do mercy work, administrative work, and to rule , the Apostles , even still, appointed deacons to do adminstrative and mercy work.

    “It is not good for us to wait on tables”. They needed to focus on the ministry of the declaration of the full and unconditional forgiveness of sins. That is the Reason for the Apostolic Ministry.

  • fws

    Becky F @ 6

    It is true and shameful that I , as a sheep, do not value my pastor as I should dear Becky. Thanks for tha.
    t loving reminder from a pastor´s wife.
    God requires me to show love to my pastor . That love is describe according to it´s fruit in 1 cor 13. Further, I am to care for the human and physical needs of my pastor.
    I fail at this weekly so very miserably!
    Lord have mercy on me Becky!

    Please pray for me and other sheep that God will give me mercy and not what I desserve! Pray for me and others that God would not remove God´s Word and the Gospel from me and so give me the punishment that I desserve dear sister!

    Bless you!

  • Helen K.

    So much to read, so little time. Your pastor, Dr. Veith is amazing. I read his sermon yesterday and then took a quick look at the church website. I read a funeral service he had preached. You are blessed to be a part of that congregation. Thanks for sharing.

    We are also very fortunate to have three wonderful pastors who lead our congregation. And our Lenten service this evening was glorious. It was nearly a full house and quite a few visitors. It’s good to spend time in the Lord’s House and with other believers – a good antidote for our crazy world and times.

  • http://www.LutherWasNotBornAgain.com Gary

    Sorry, to interrupt the current topic, LCMS pastors, but I need your help: Should we Christians impose our morals on secular society, and if so, where do we draw the line? I and my readers could use some pastoral instruction on this issue. This is not a liberal ploy. I am LCMS and fully support my Church’s position on sexuality, abortion, and gender issues. I am having a hard time finding an LCMS pastor willing to leave a comment on this tough issue.

    I and my readers would be very grateful for your input! Here is the post:

    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/02/just-how-far-should-christians-go-to.html

    God bless!

    Gary Matson, Jr.
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

  • http://www.frip.in/ How To Make Blog

    What’s up i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anywhere, when i read this piece of writing i thought i could also make comment due to this sensible piece of writing.


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