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.