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The Captain of the Ship. Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany 2017. Matthew 8:23-27

January 30, 2017 Leave a comment

jesus sleeping in the storm eugene delacroiz.jpgFourth Sunday after the Epiphany

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 8:23-27

January 29, 2017

“The Captain of the Ship”

Iesu Iuva

 

Jesus gets into a boat, and his disciples follow.  Then a great storm arises.  It must have been a really great storm.  At least four of Jesus’ disciples are men who fished on this sea six days a week for years.  They were familiar with the weather.  They have been through storms before, and I’m certain that, being men who made a living with their hands and their back, they were not the type of men to show fear easily.  But when they come to wake Jesus up, they cry like terrified children, they humiliate themselves: Lord, save us!  We’re dying!

 

I’ve known Christian men who were dying.  Men don’t want to admit fear of death and God’s judgment in front of another man even when death is imminent.  Yet these fishermen in the boat cry out to Jesus in terror.

 

This must have been an incredible storm.

 

I am sure that you have had storms like this throughout your life, whether you are listening on the radio or here today.  You may very well be in one right now.  It may be that the doctor told you how many months he thinks you have left; it may be that the doctor isn’t sure what to tell you.  Or it may not be a storm that threatens you with literal death, but it’s bad enough that it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, or it’s hard to bring yourself through the doors of the church.

 

Then there’s the storms the Church goes through, which is really what this story is getting at.  The boat that holds Jesus and the disciples is a picture of the Church.  Look up there, at the ceiling; it kind of looks like the bottom of a boat.  That’s why the Latin word for the part of the church on your side of the altar rail is called the nave; it comes from the navis, which means “ship”, which is also where we get the word “navy”.  The Church of Jesus is a little boat or an ark.  It sails through the rough waters of this world, the storms of persecution, the flood of God’s judgment, the depths of death and hell, and lets those inside out on the dry land of the new creation.  And Jesus is in this boat with us.  We aren’t sailing ourselves to heaven.  He is the Captain of the ark of the Holy Christian Church.

 

But the whole way on this voyage the boat is hit by storms.  And throughout the 2000 years since Jesus ascended to the Father, the Church has cried out in desperation, feeling like the ship was sure to sink, and the Christians inside would perish.

 

Anyone who’s a member of this congregation and cares about it at all, for whatever reason, knows this feeling.  This Gospel reading today is your story, isn’t it?

 

And if the Church sinks, it’s far worse than when storms hit us individually.  We come to the Divine Service, to other Christians, to the pastor, to find help when the storms hit us privately.  We rely on the Church to be there when our child is going astray, when we are laid low with illness—to tell us what God says; to correct us when we live or believe contrary to His Word, and above all to proclaim to us the forgiveness of sins in His name.  We come to the Church when our father or mother, husband or wife has died.  We bring the bodies of the people we love most so that the Church—or rather Jesus through the Church—will preach to us that our loved one will rise again.

 

But if the Church goes under, destroyed by persecution or twisted and mutated so that it no longer proclaims God’s Word—who will bring us the Gospel of Christ crucified?  Who will tell us that it applies to us too?  Who will forgive our sins in Jesus’ name?  Who will baptize our children?  Who will give us the body and blood of Jesus?  And not only us: if the Church goes under the waves, who will proclaim the coming judgment of God and the forgiveness of sins through Jesus to the world that falsely believes it has God already, without Christ?

 

+Our storms at St. Peter are not unique or new

 

–when all of Europe was supposedly Christian, a false gospel of salvation by human effort made the true Gospel for all intents and purposes unknown, until 500 years ago God worked through Martin Luther to restore it

 

–Since then the devil has worked to almost extinguish the pure Gospel again through luxury and wealth, through doctrinal indifference.

 

+Yet very few Christians realized that this was a storm that threatened to destroy the Church; very few even realize it today.  We are only starting to realize in our Church that true faith in Christ was being eaten away for a long time; we started to realize it because this congregation is almost underwater.

 

We aren’t the whole Church; but what is happening here is happening all around us.

 

+So we go to Jesus, like disciples:

And notice: when the disciples wake Jesus up, they don’t have quiet confidence, fearlessness.  That’s what firm faith brings.  Instead they have terror and fear that Jesus is just going to sleep while they drown.

 

Their prayer comes from fear more than from faith.  It seems to express anger at Jesus—“How can you not care that we are going to die?  What are you doing, still sleeping?”

 

When a ship has no captain, or the sailors don’t trust the captain and they think the ship is going to sink, all hell breaks loose.  Sailors stop working together and letting the captain direct; they all start trying to save the ship as individuals, which is absolutely not going to work, or maybe they try to mutiny and set up a new captain.  And when all these things become hopeless, people start grabbing something that floats and taking their chances in the sea.  When no one listens to the captain anymore, the ship is doomed.

 

But Jesus is the captain of the ship of the Church; He will safely bring it through all storms into the eternal calm and peace of eternal life.

 

When Jesus gets up from sleeping, notice who He speaks to first—not the wind and the waves.  Not to the thing the disciples think is the danger.

 

He speaks to them first, because the danger is not the storm.  In our day, the danger is not the declining numbers in the Church, or declining bank accounts, declining prestige in our society.

 

The danger is within us—unbelief.  That instead of Jesus, we trust in what we see and feel, in our own thoughts, in the wisdom of the world and the false religion pushed by the devil and the world.

 

Unbelief is the danger because it is idolatry:  we think the storm is more powerful than God; we fear it more than God.  The first commandment: You shall have no other gods—We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.  The storm is more powerful than God, and we know better than God’s Word what is necessary to save ourselves or the Church.

 

So Jesus speaks first to the disciples, rebuking the storm in their hearts, the storm of unbelief and the cowardice that comes from it.

Why are you so cowardly, you of little faith?

 

Jesus understands why they are afraid.  What He is telling them and us is that we don’t have anything to fear.  Not if we have Him.

 

+Really?  We have nothing to fear?  Nothing.  How can you say that, if the boat is about to sink and the disciples are going to perish?

 

Because Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.  Not only does Jesus know how to steer the ship safely.  He simply speaks and nature obeys.  Who does that?

 

The answer is, only God does that.  God was with the disciples in the boat, living with them, sharing their bread, sharing their storms, sharing their sins.

 

The prophet Jonah brought a great calm when he was thrown into the sea.  The storm came because of Jonah’s rebellion against God, when Jonah ran away from the presence of God.  It went away when the sailors handed over Jonah to certain death.

 

But God rescued Jonah from his rebellion and its punishment; from certain death, sending the fish, who vomited him onto dry land.

 

Jesus also brought great calm that lasts forever; He took on our rebellion against God as His own; He willingly was thrown into the boiling, angry flood of God’s wrath, making our sins His own and being nailed to the cross.  Then He stepped out of the belly of death into the land of the living, having put our sins away forever.  Now there is a great calm; peace with God.

 

That great peace comes rolling across the storms of this world to us from the eternal God in our flesh; not a temporary calm, like the one in Matthew 8, but an eternal one.

 

Jesus is the captain of the ship of the Church.  He can be trusted to lead us safely through the storms of death and hell, because He has already gone through them and destroyed them.

 

Jesus will not fail to bring His church safely to land.

 

His Church includes the weak in faith.

 

But those who reject Jesus’ word are not Jesus’ Church; they are not in the boat where He is.  They are mixed with the saints around the Word, but they don’t believe in Him.  When storms come, they mutiny against Jesus, don’t listen to His Word.  They try to take over the boat from Him, or jump overboard because they think it’s doomed.

 

Brothers, we are weak; we do this in spite of ourselves.  But let us be comforted and listen to Jesus.  He is worthy to be trusted.  He isn’t a fool or a con artist.  He tells us, “You have me in the boat in my preaching, in my pure doctrine, and my Sacraments.  Hold on to me; you have nothing to fear.”

 

We have many sins, but He doesn’t cast away sinners who trust in Him, the Savior of sinners, the sin-bearer.

 

He will not let the floods overwhelm us or let His Church sink.  Our traditions will perish, our will that contradicts the will of God will not be done.  But Christ’s Church is more than that—it is the whole company of saints throughout the world, through time and eternity, who cling to Jesus alone.

 

It will never perish, and neither will those who trust Him.  He cannot perish; He died, and He lives forevermore.  And we who are baptized into Him have been joined with Him who joined Himself to us—we also have died and risen.  The new creation that will appear on the last day has already begun in all who believe.

 

Amen

 

SDG

 

Prayer for the Church. Gebets-Schatz

georg schimmerPrayer for the Church

Lord, merciful and gracious God, because only those enjoy the goodness of Your house and are citizens of Your kingdom who were built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone, and because You bless with grace only those who walk in Your light, therefore I pray You: Let Your word create it that here and there there is a crowd that hears the voice of Christ and listens to Your Word, that is everywhere one and holds to the commandments of God and the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.  By Your Word may the believing community grow and increase more and more, and the chariots of God be many thousands of thousands, which enter the gates of righteousness to live in Your house, and therefore depart from unrighteousness, serving You alone in holiness and righteousness, as is pleasing to You.  O Lord Jesus Christ, You who are the author and perfecter of faith, and mighty in the assembly of the saints, rule through Your inward grace in the hearts of men, so that they are converted to You.  Give to Your thunder, that is, to the preaching of Your Word, power.  Let it succeed in that for which You send it.  Enlighten and strengthen the hearts of men that they may not cut themselves off from your congregation, but rather would rejoice in the midst of the throng where Your Word and Holy Sacraments are repeated and distributed pure and unfalsified.  Even if it is a little flock, a poor, weak people, exposed to the elements and finding comfort almost nowhere in the world, still Your little flock shall not fear, because it is Your good pleasure to give it the kingdom of Your glory, and there to take away the reproach of the people, and to draw all those that have remained with you in Your trials, that they should eat and drink at Your table in Your kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Do not give rejoicing to the devil, who is the enemy of You and Your Word, who wherever He can causes offense so that Your Word may not be heard and believed.  Glorify Your name, that many souls be added to the number of the elect, which live in Your house and praise You there forever.  Amen.

Georg Schimmer, Pastor at Wittenberg (1652-1695), Biblical Soul-Jewel. 

In Evangelische Lutherische Gebets-Schatz

Church for Jerks

May 17, 2013 1 comment

Man starts church for jerks

YORBA LINDA — Walk into Mark Hanson’s church and nobody will greet you. The guys hanging around the foyer might even make fun of what you’re wearing, or your haircut. A sign over the entrance reads, “Grab a seat in the back and shut up. Nobody cares what you think.”

Welcome to Jerk Church.

“You know these guys,” says Hanson, the pastor and founder. “They sit with their arms folded the whole time, leave during the altar call, criticize the pastor, snort when other people state their opinions and never create lasting bonds of friendship. Their wives are always really stressed. Bingo — that’s my mission field.”

Two years ago, Hanson noticed a “growing population of total jerks” in his community that nobody was reaching with the gospel.

“They’re like white noise, filler — they’re everywhere but nobody sees them,” Hanson says. “They are trapped in their own jerk-dom. My heart went out to them.”

Hanson left a position at a larger church to plant a church aimed at this population. He played around with names like “Church for Guys,” but ended up going straight to the heart of the matter.

“I want pure jerks — the guy who cuts in and out of traffic on the highway, the guy who knows everything at the party, the guy who’s upset about politics, the guy who doesn’t know when to stick a sock in it,” Hanson says. “That’s my tribe.”

Attendance spiked when Hanson informed local churches that he was looking for “grumpy husbands and skeptics.” Some churches started recommending certain guys switch congregations. Others gave their men a choice: marriage counseling or six months attending Jerk Church. Most men chose the latter.

Hanson has designed sermons and church literature to “shut guys up before they can start.”

A prominent, attractive display in the foyer showcases every major objection to Christianity ever conceived, and invites men to read the original works before “ranting.”

“It demonstrates that I’m not afraid of their little arguments,” Hanson says. “They come in thinking their opinions are original. When they realize they are thousands of years old, they get real quiet. Nothing shuts up a jerk like being exposed as a follower.”

Hanson also knew the men would complain about everything, so he prepared answers in advance. When guys grouse about the volume of the music, too loud or too soft, Hanson tells them, “Maybe it’s ‘cause you’re getting old and your brain can’t handle it anymore.”

When they say the seats are uncomfortable, he invites them to “lose the extra 35-pound hog carcass you’re carrying around your midsection.”

On a recent Sunday, Hanson greeted them from the pulpit with, “Look at this roomful of former hotshots who became grumpy old men. Why are you here? Did your recliners break? Is your wife sick of you, big man? Or did you just lose your fishing pole and you’re too poor to buy a new one?”

Foyer conversation is argumentative. When guys aren’t poking holes in each others’ theories they stand around waiting for someone to say something so they can critique it. Now and then someone storms off to the restroom while the others snort and mock him.

Water baptism services are far from normal. A man named Darrell was baptized recently. Hanson prodded him to give his testimony.

“I’m doing this to shut up my mother-in-law,” Darrell said.

“Anything else, you wuss?” Hanson said.

“Nah, just do it,” Darrell said.

Darrell came up from the water looking annoyed, snatched a towel from someone’s hands and exited the tank. Amid a smattering of applause one man yelled, “Loser!”

“You’re the loser!” Darrell yelled back.

A cautious sense of camaraderie has emerged among the men. If a guy acts up during the service, other guys muscle him into a “time out” room which Hanson has labeled “Nursing Mothers” to humiliate them.

“I don’t need ushers. The guys patrol themselves,” Hanson says. “They know when to make each other feel like a big baby.”

Hanson fills the church schedule with events that don’t actually exist.

“Men’s breakfast at 7 a.m. on Saturday? No guy in our church would attend that,” he says. “I announce it just so they feel good about skipping something.”

Services often don’t end in prayer. Rather, Hanson just says, “I’m done. I’m not even praying for you guys today. Get out of here. Go on.”

“I want them to know I love them, but not so much that I’m a sucker,” he says. “My life would actually be more pleasant without them. I don’t hide that.”

The church web site reaches out to wives of jerks and offers a script for them to read to their husbands: “Honey, you’re a jerk. Nobody can stand to be around you. But I have a place for you …”

Jerk Church strictly enforces a “No wives” policy.

“Having a wife around gives them an audience for their stupid, critical observations,” says Hanson. “I want plain, unadulterated jerks with no place to hide and no one to listen to them.”

In their heart of hearts he says jerks just want someone to push back.

“They know they’re not right all the time. They want someone to let them know why,” Hanson says.

Guys admit they attend because Hanson “gets” them.

“He knows I’m a cantankerous, moody old b****** but he loves me anyway,” says one man shrugging. “Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll go from jerk to recovering jerk. Don’t tell my wife.”

HT http://www.larknews.com/archives/5007

America 2012

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burying a church….continued

Today I looked at Pr. Fiene’s facebook page where he linked to the article I copied yesterday, and a bunch of pastors chimed in saying they knew exactly what this guy was talking about.  Then Pr. Harold Senkbeil–the man who preached at my ordination–chimed in with a gem.

I repost it particularly for burdened pastors and for any members of my congregation who may read these things.

__________________________________
A heartfelt, painful, yet beautifully written peace from an anonymous friend. http://thehighmidlife.blogspot.com/2012/08/burying-church.html
The High Mid Life: Burying a Church
thehighmidlife.blogspot.com
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    • Hans Fiene ‎*piece*
    • Alissa Ulmer That’s beautiful.
    • Hans Fiene I concur.
    • Brett Snider And yet *peace* works just the same with the article
    • Dan Dahling very well written
    • Jason Harris This sounds extremely familiar from my first call. I like to think that I was providing hospice care and shepherding the congregation through the grieving process.
    • Jared Hartman Thank you for posting this, Pastor.
    • Harold L. Senkbeil We need to hear this.  The comfortable world we have known for far too long is collapsing everywhere.  The church cannot hitch her wagon to the star of the prevailing spirit of the age; she needs to be both trans-cultural and counter cultural in a world that has lost its heart.  Yet if congregations appear dead or dying, there still is hope.  We serve a God who raises the dead, and His Word never returns to Him void.  From the collapse of the late antique world came the age of faith – which was not without its own idols.  Faithfulness and courage are twin ingredients in mission.  We are “given” men, not “driven.”  As this brother points out, we can’t whip people into repentance, but God Himself accomplishes it by His Spirit.  …that in these grey and latter days there may be those whose song is praise, each life a high doxology unto the Holy Trinity.
    • Jerry Kliner My first parish was very much like this…  They really wanted to “close”…  They were too tired, but also too possessive.  Like the obsessed man who cries “If “I” can’t have her, no one else will either!” they struggled for control even against Jesus.  They would, quite literally, rather the congregation cease than give up even a modicum of control.  In the end, I had to shake the proverbial dust from my feet and move on.  But I will forever be “their Pastor” and still grieve for that parish…even nine years later.
    • Jason Schockman ‎@Senkbeil  You always manage to work that hymn text in…I love it.

Burying a Church…from “The High Mid Life”

August 7, 2012 1 comment

Some pastor sent this to my friend Pr. Fiene, and I’m linking to it and copying it here.  I can relate to the writer.  Almost too much.  It’s good to know that my pastoral experience is not unique.

http://thehighmidlife.blogspot.com/2012/08/burying-church.html

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Burying a Church

An anonymous friend wrote this article and asked me to publish it here.
This brother is not alone in his struggles.  And while I believe it’s meet, right, and salutary for a pastor to feel a sorrowful sting every time he looks down from the pulpit and sees that no nursing children or newlywed couples have taken the seats of the saints he’s been burying, he ought not feel like a failure.
When we look at a congregation of senior citizens who cling too tightly to the past with one hand and perhaps not tightly enough to the Word with the other, we see something to disdain. 
But this is not what Christ sees.  Rather, Christ sees a flock of wrinkled sheep that He will never cease to feed and love and defend, a collection of saints that He is still preserving with His life, even when all five of our senses tell us that death has already consumed them.
So no matter many times you’ve received no response when you’ve commanded Lazarus to arise, and no matter how hoarse you’ve grown from calling out his name, keep shouting.  You do not speak this word in vain.  And Christ will continue to bring life and resurrection through your lips that preach and your hands that baptize and commune.
Burying a Church
by an anonymous Lutheran pastor
Once, my wife told me that she thought that my strength as a pastor was comforting the bereaved, preaching at funerals, burying the dead.
I was angry with her for saying that.  But she said that she meant it as a compliment.  “That’s probably the hardest thing for a pastor to do,” was something like what she said.
Burying people is probably near the top of the list of things I have done consistently and successfully as a pastor.
On a given year I usually confirm around one, two, or three adolescents.  I may confirm or receive by affirmation of faith about as many adults.  I baptize around 8 babies, most of which are the grandchildren of members who don’t live nearby or the children of members who don’t attend Divine Service more than a few times a year.
But I bury between 20 and 25 people every year.  About two people a month.  My work among the living is like a civil war officer trying to keep his command from routing, trying to get them to advance, to keep advancing.  But ground is lost every day.
My work among the dead and the mourners is a constant labor during which I am largely isolated from the congregation, preaching to family members who are alienated from the church or who have forsaken the Lutheran church for communions that still seem to win victories.
Burying the dead often seems to be my real work, that and caring for those for whom death is now a houseguest. Preaching and teaching to those who are still healthy feels like preaching to the deaf, or like saying, “Lazarus, come forth!”  and he doesn’t.  Or like a ghost preaching to a congregation of ghosts.  Trying to work with the congregation’s leaders to administrate feels often like the restless movements of the bedridden—not only on their part but mine.  So much not only of what the congregation wants, but also of what I want—perhaps it is vain.  We think we are living and we can make things happen.  We feel like it is our responsibility.
One of the reasons why it is possible to comfort the bereaved and to comfort the dying is because I do not feel as though I am responsible to stop it.  With a congregation it is different.
When I first arrived at the congregation I was confident that I could get people fired up and working together.  That’s poor theology, but theology is easily diverted or diluted by what we want and what we need—what I would be more quick to call “idolatry” in the face of congregational criticism.
Six years in, I feel utterly powerless and mostly exhausted.  You try to rally the troops and lead some charges, not realizing that many of the troops have been on many charges and are too tired to do it anymore.  But a few go with you, maybe against their better judgment.  Probably as many more want you to fail.  And the mass don’t pay any attention.
After awhile, you can’t do it anymore.  The politics within the congregation continues.  The numbers decline in church and school.  There’s no time to go after the sheep who are never join the rest of the flock by the pulpit and the altar.  There are no volunteers to help give rides to church or check on why others aren’t attending.  They’re overwhelmed with the inroads the enemy makes into their areas of responsibility—their children, grandchildren, sick parents and spouses.
And yet—the death of a congregation can be averted—can’t it?  Should we always chalk it up to God’s hidden will?  Or does God sometimes allow the congregation to decline because He wants His congregation to seek Him?  He hides Himself, desiring to be sought?  He wants the congregation to examine herself, to fast and pray for the lost sheep, to listen attentively again to His Word?  “In their distress they shall earnestly seek me…” Where is that verse?
Even with dying people we counsel them to accept God’s will as coming from the hand of a gracious Father.  “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  Yet we also do not stop praying for the recovery of the dying—if it is God’s will.
Often with the elderly it isn’t easy to know what to pray for, particularly if they’ve been suffering a long time.  And yet, I’ve seen families who—with good intentions, out of love—keep telling a dying family member, “It’s okay, grandma…it’s okay to go see Jesus now.”  But they don’t realize that sometimes it is not okay; it’s not because grandma doesn’t want to go.  She’s wanted to go for days or weeks; she is tired of the pain.
But God is not ready yet.  He says, “No”.   But we keep telling grandma it is alright to go now, as though grandma decides when she lives and dies.
Because death is inevitable, we don’t want our loved ones to have to keep fighting it forever.  But burying a church?  It’s different.  There are young people and old people in a church.  There are those who are tired and those in the midst of their years; and there are children and infants from whose lips God has ordained praise, to silence the foe and the avenger.
One member of the congregation, I’ve heard, seems to want the congregation to die. “Why don’t you just let it die in peace!”  he’s supposedly said.
This often angers me.  But we’re in different places.  I’m 35 and this is the first congregation I’ve served.  This person is 80 something.  This person has had enough and no longer has the energy to keep leading charges.  Even though I’m worn out, if I was convinced it would accomplish something and I could get anyone to come with, I could probably lead scores more charges.  Let’s paint this!  Let’s convert that!  Let’s show mercy here!  Let’s study this!
But if I get this tired at 35, I can only imagine how I’ll feel at 85.  I would not give an 85 year old a guilt trip for not wanting to endure radiation treatments or chemotherapy.
But a congregation doesn’t exist only for 80 year olds, even if they are the majority.  What about the 35 year olds?  What about the 20 year old mothers in the projects up the streets, and the 7 year olds with no father who don’t know the gospel of Jesus Christ?  What about the children who are the age of my son?  They are the ones who are going to have to come of age in a country in which the wealth and power we enjoyed have become ruins.  They are going to see the collapse of the great tower of Babel built by our great grandfathers, where the church and the Greeks and the Romans were built together in a great city that housed  Bach’s music and Luther’s theology as well as Thomas Jefferson and Robespierre and Nietzsche and Freud.  All of that is going to be a ruin by the time my son is older.  It is already becoming a ruin.  But then the barbarians will be scavenging marble from the aqueducts to build fortifications and vandalizing the statues of Apollo.
It’s easy to preach the pure Gospel at a funeral and say, “Your mother doesn’t have to lead anymore charges.  She rests with Jesus.”
What about for a congregation that wants to die, that wants to be able to die and say, “It was inevitable.  It couldn’t be helped.  The neighborhood was bad.  The old people were bad.  The school was bad.  The pastor was bad.”?
How can a congregation want to die?  “Why will you die, O house of Israel?”  “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Much of the congregation wants to die.  Or doesn’t want to avert it’s death.
Because death is upon it.  Sennacherib is surrounding the city.  But no one humbles himself before the Lord.  The church does not pray and fast or weep in dust and ashes.  The congregation does not rouse itself and seek the word of God.  It wants the good days to come back, and if they won’t come back, then nothing is worth working for or saving.  Let our children live in the ruins like owls in the wilderness.
But I think there’s a problem with my preaching and theology, too.  I scold the congregation, as though the dead could raise themselves.  Or as though the lame could strengthen their own wobbly knees.
There may still be time left, but the congregation is no more able to contribute something to its own healing than the mourners are able to comfort themselves.  Mourners try to do that a lot.  They invent false comforts.  “He’s in a better place,” is the one we hear most frequently.  The funeral homes print stupid poems up on cards: “When you stand at my grave, do not weep.  I am not there.  I do not sleep.”
The first task is to take those away without giving the impression that you’re sadistic and you hate them (if possible.)  But it can be done, if there is compassion.  Because no one really believes the stupid poems.
Probably this has been one of my gravest sins in the ministry—that I foolishly preached and acted as though the congregation had any resources to effect its own repentance.  Or as if I had them.
No, neither the minister nor the congregation has the resources to prevent its death. Repentance and renewal in faith and the continued existence of the congregation are in God’s power alone.  All of the three depend on His will alone.
Perhaps I should pray, “Lord, grant the congregation repentance and spiritual renewal.  And grant me to preach Your Word rightly, so that I don’t act as if our salvation is in our own hands.  And if it pleases You, let the congregation continue to proclaim Your Word and Your mercy to the next generation.”
It would probably be a good thing if my pastoral work among the congregation took lessons from my work among the dead.
Posted by at 9:23

Prayer for the Church and Against her Enemies–Luther.

June 14, 2012 4 comments

264.  Prayer for the Church and against her Enemies.

Almighty, eternal, merciful God and Father of our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  We see and feel how it goes for Your Church in this life—what kind of success she has, and how she is plagued in so many ways by the devil and the world.  Therefore we pray You, for the sake of Your only-begotten Son, first that You would comfort and strengthen our hearts with Your Holy Spirit, so that we would not be overwhelmed by many great dangers still lying in wait for us.  Secondly, we pray that You would also not hinder all the designs and plots of the enemy, but instead with Your faithful and wonderful deliverance make known, declare, and demonstrate, that You provide for the Church,  govern her, defend, preserve, and save her; You who live and reign, one eternal God, God Father, God Son, God Holy Ghost, from everlasting to everlasting.  Amen.

Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Evangelische-Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz

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