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Prayer of a Pastor

Johann_Heermann2Prayer of a Teacher and Pastor for Himself and His Conduct of His Office

J. Heermann (1585-1647)

from Michael Cubach’s Prayer Treasury

Lord Christ! From the beginning of the world, through all time, You have given teachers and pastors, to teach Your congregation to keep all that You have commanded. I also have been called by You through means of people, that I should be for the service of Your Church and Your Word, advance Your glory with all might, and should lead Your lambs, purchased with Your rose-red blood, to You in eternal blessedness. Dearest Jesus! It is of Your grace that I am what I am, for I am the weakest of Your servants, such that I am not worthy that I should be called Your minister. I am of impure lips. I am slow of speech and have an uninstructed tongue, and I have never been eloquent. So endue me now with power from on high to carry out this holy office as You require. Give me through Your Spirit what I should think and say, that I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners be converted to You.

Lord! Give me, according to Your promise, a mouth and wisdom. Open my understanding, that I may understand the Scripture, and grace me with an instructed tongue, that I know how to speak to the weary at the proper time. Lend me courage and strength, that I lift up my voice as a trumpet, and show my parish children, the rich as well as the poor, their misdeeds, without timidity and respect of persons, and keeping quiet about nothing. Grant that I show favoritism neither to the rich or the poor for the sake of a handful of barley and a bit of bread, so that thereby the godless may not be strengthened in their sins and in the future their blood be required from my hand. Help that I preach Your Word with all candor and withhold nothing from all the counsel of God, that I also do not cease day and night with tears to admonish, that I may be pure from all blood-guilt, and so rescue my soul and those of sinners from destruction.

Lord Christ, the matter and the office is Yours. Give me grace to convert many souls. Through my foolish preaching, create laud and honor to You and great and rich profit in Your Church and congregation, that I may exhort and rebuke the bad, bear the weak, and instruct with a meek spirit those who are overtaken in a fault. Thus may I serve God with a pure conscience and lose nothing which You have entrusted to me. Let me not talk into the wind, and my work in the Lord be in vain, but let it save myself and those who hear me. Teach me, Lord, Your way, that I walk in Your truth, and what I teach others out of Your Word, do myself; that I give no one offense, nor be to anyone an example and an excuse to sin, but instead in all things demonstrate myself to be a servant of God. Grant that I may do the work of an evangelical preacher, that I may cause all laboring and heavy-laden hearts and troubled and anguished consciences to stand upright through the staff of Your Word; that I use sharpness on the unrepentant, according to the power which the Lord has given me to build up and not destroy. Grant me to rightly carry out my office.

But when I, like Jeremiah and all prophets and apostles, will be derided by everybody and become the world’s curse and spectacle, then let me not become languid and impatient in my spirit, nor depart from my service and apostleship, like Judas Iscariot, on account of the world’s thanklessness and for the sake of temporal things, but instead in faith and patience hope for and await the eternal reward. Grant also, that I do not seek glory and honor before men, but rather honor with God, and confess Your Word, which is a Word of the Cross, confidently before the evil world. Then I will be recognized by You, Lord Christ, before Your heavenly Father, and all holy angels and saints on that day, and as a faithful servant may enter into Your eternal glory and perfect joy, for Your own sake. Amen.

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Clergy have highest job satisfaction in UK

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/21/vicars-greatest-job-satisfaction-publicans-least-happy

FILE: Tax Increase On Tobacco & Alcohol Announced In Government's 2012 Budget

Vicars report greatest job satisfaction while publicans are least happy

Overall job satisfaction has little to do with salary, figures drawn from Office for National Statistics data show

Although publicans earn almost £5,000 a year more than vicars on average they are the least happy in their work. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Want to be happy in your work? Go to theological college and avoid a career pulling pints. That would seem to be one conclusion to draw from a new study into wellbeing and public policy, which found that employees reporting greatest job satisfaction were vicars, while publicans – who on average earn almost £5,000 a year more – were the least happy in their work.

Overall job satisfaction, in fact, has little to do with salary, according to the figures drawn from Office for National Statistics data. While company chief executives, earning £117,700 a year on average, were found to be the second happiest employees (mean clergy income by contrast is a mere £20,568), company secretaries, fitness instructors and school secretaries, all earning less than £19,000 a year, emerged among the top 20 most satisfying careers.

Slumped with pub landlords at the bottom of the list of 274 occupations were construction workers, debt collectors, telephone sales workers and care workers, all earning significantly below the national average salary of £26,500. But chemical scientists, earning almost £10,000 more, only scraped into the top 200, while quantity surveyors, on £38,855, could do no better than 234th place.

The data has been used to help inform a report, published on Friday by the Legatum Institute, an independent thinktank that examines wellbeing as a core part of national prosperity, alongside wealth.

“Not only does GDP fail to reflect the distribution of income, it omits intangibles, or feelings, that are not easily reducible to monetary values,” note its authors, who were chaired by Lord O’Donnell, formerly the head of the civil service. “There is a growing recognition that the measures of a country’s progress need to include the wellbeing of its citizens.”

The government has taken some steps towards measuring and incorporating the nation’s happiness into policymaking – the ONS was asked to include four questions in its annual population study relating to life satisfaction, while David Cameron has said: “If you know … that prosperity alone can’t deliver a better life, then you’ve got to take practical steps to make sure government is properly focused on our quality of life as well as economic growth.”

The director of communications at the Legatum Institute, Shazia Ejaz, said: “A lot of careers advisers will tell you, ‘If you become a doctor you will earn this much, as a teacher you’ll earn this much. But perhaps people should also know what different careers can do in terms of their life satisfaction.”

 

 

Top 10

1. Clergy

2. Chief executives and senior officials

3. Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture

4. Company secretaries

5. Quality assurance and regulatory professionals

6. Healthcare practice managers

7. Medical practitioners

8. Farmers

9. Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors

10. Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors

 

Bottom 10

265. Plastics process operatives

266. Bar staff

267. Care escorts

268. Sports and leisure assistants

269. Telephone salespersons

270. Floorers and wall tilers

271. Industrial cleaning process occupations

272. Debt, rent and other cash collectors

273. Elementary construction occupations

274. Publicans and managers of licensed premises

The Gospel for the Unforgivable

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment

cranach jesus adulteress 1532reposted from Chad Bird’s blog “The Flying Scroll”

They walked to the gallows together, pastor and penitent.  Each step up took them closer to the fall–the abbreviated, fatal fall to come.  As the criminal stood above the trapdoor that, moments later, would open to rope him into eternity, an officer asked him if he had any final words.  ”I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul,”  he said.  Then, turning toward the man who had been the shepherd of his soul during his incarceration, who had been his confessor, his preacher, and the one from whose hand he had received the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper, he said, ”I’ll see you again.”  Then noosed, hooded in black, and legs tied, he dropped out of this world into another.

As gripping as this account is, no doubt many similar scenarios have played out in the course of history, where condemned men have found repentance and faith when certain death looms nigh.  What makes this story remarkable is that this man, along with many others who were hanged that day, was among the most hated men in human history, guilty of atrocities so horrific only words forged in hell could adequately describe them.  These were Hitler’s men.  His closest confidants.  His very own pack of wolves.  Yet in the months leading up to their executions or imprisonments, many of them had been transformed from Hitler’s wolves into Christ’s lambs thanks to the ministry of a farm boy from Missouri, who grew up to be a pastor, and who reluctantly agreed to be the chaplain of the fifteen Protestant war criminals during the Nuremberg trials at the close of World War II.

Henry Gerecke was in his early 50′s when he went, cell by cell, to introduce himself to his infamous ‘congregation’ and to invite them to chapel services.  Some refused, others wavered, and still others promised to be there.  Of the fifteen chairs set up for the first service, thirteen of them were filled.  Scriptures were read, sermons preached, hymns sung, prayers prayed.  And, through it all, hearts were changed.  Soon some of the very lips that had once barked, ”Heil Hitler!” spoke a repentance-confessing, faith-affirming Amen as they knelt to eat and drink the body and blood of their forgiving Lord.  They expressed a desire for their children to be baptized.  One of them, though he began reading the Bible to find justification for his unbelief, ended up being led to faith by the very same divine words.  So reliant did these men become upon their pastor that, when a rumor surfaced that he might be relieved of his duty and allowed to return home, they wrote a letter to Mrs. Gerecke, begging her to ask him to stay.  On that letter were the signatures of all these former Nazis, men who had enjoyed power and rank, now humbly beseeching a housewife in America, who had not seen her husband for two and a half years, to let him stay.  In her brief reply, “They need you,” is packed a whole volume about sacrifice and love.

Pastor Gerecke’s story has already been told (see links below), but it deserves to be retold, again and again, to every generation, for two very important reasons.  The first has to do with the men to whom he ministered, the ones who repented and believed in Christ.  The scandal of Christianity is not that these men went to heaven; it is that God loved them so much that he was willing to die to get them there.  Had it been a human decision, many would have thrown these men, guilty of such atrocities, into the flames of hell.  But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie, but because they reject Jesus as the one who has already endured hell for them on the cross, and earned a place for them in heaven.  There is no one who is so vile that he is beyond redemption, because the redemption of Christ envelops all people.

Another reason Pastor Gerecke’s story needs to be remembered involves his vocation, and those who share it.  What pastor, knowing he was about to visit men such as these, would not have struggled to find any hope in their possible repentance?  But Gerecke visited each cell anyway, invited each man to hear the Word, and left it to the Spirit to do the work of making new creations of these hardened criminals.  Nor did he mince words, surrender his convictions, or water down the truth for them.  On the evening before he was to be hanged, one of the men, Goering, asked to be communed, just in case he was wrong and there was some truth to the Christian claims.  But Gerecke refused to give the Sacrament to one who so obstinately refused repentance, and treated the Supper as if it were an edible, just-in-case, insurance policy.  When Christ calls men into the office of the holy ministry, he calls them to be faithful—not successful, not popular, not practical, not winsome, not cool, but faithful.  They are to preach even when they doubt it will bear fruit.  They are to give the word of Christ to sinners, and let the Christ of that word do his work.  And he does.  He convicts, he calls, he saves, he baptizes, he feeds, and, finally, he welcomes one and all into his kingdom with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In 1961, at the age of sixty-eight, Pastor Gerecke passed from this life into the next.  He entered that innumerable company of saints who had gone before him, some of whom had been among his flock during his years of ministry, one of whom, atop the gallows, had promised, “I’ll see you again.”  And he did.

Online Resources:

I strongly urge you to click on one or all of the links below to read Pastor Gerecke’s story.  The details and quotes I included above are from these resources.

Gerecke’s story, in his own words, was published in the Saturday Evening Post, 1, September, 1951, pp. 18-19, under the title, “I walked to the Gallows with the Nazi Chiefs.”  Click here to read his story:  http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=54c3a380-d341-4df2-92f0-e25631014730%40sessionmgr4&vid=2&hid=18

Don Stephens, in War and Grace:  Short biographies from the World Wars, (Evangelical Press, Faverdale North, Darlington, DL3 0PH, England) devotes a chapter to Gerecke and his ministry.  The chapter is available online at:  http://www.messianicgoodnews.org/henry-gerecke-chaplain-to-nazi-war-criminals/

In 1950, Gerecke was called to be Assistant Pastor at St. JohnLutheranChurch, Chester, IL.  That congregation’s website includes audio files of Pastor Gerecke speaking about his experience.  These can be listened to by following the link below, and clicking on the audio files on the right side of the website. http://www.stjohnchester.com/Gerecke/Gerecke.html

http://birdchadlouis.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/from-hitlers-wolves-to-christs-lambs-how-lutheran-pastor-henry-gerecke-brought-the-gospel-to-hitlers-highest-ranking-disciples-before-their-executions/

 

My son won’t raise hell

pksThanks to Angela, who sent me this.  She doesn’t ever read this blog though, or have a facebook account, so she’ll never see this.

Pete if you see this, enjoy.

http://www.larknews.com/archives/175

Pastor laments, ‘My son won’t raise hell’

LOUISVILLE — Pastor Sean Welch and his wife Eleanor are concerned that their 16-year-old son isn’t turning into the hellraiser they thought he’d be.

“We’ve always heard how much trouble PK’s are, so we spent years reading parenting books and attending seminars,” said Eleanor. “It looks like all that preparation is wasted.”

The boy, Adam, is admittedly mild-mannered, even annoyingly so. He likes to sit in his room and strum his guitar and play computer games with his friends. He wants to be an orthodontist. His teachers say he’s a good student, if lacking in creativity.

“Dad sat me down a few weeks ago and told me it was time I start causing trouble,” Adam said, clearly uncomfortable with the subject. Pastor Welch handed him the keys to the car, a fifth of whisky and a baseball bat and shooed him out of the house, then waited by the phone for the police or an angry parent to call. That call never came.

“I went out and hit a few mailboxes with the bat, but it didn’t feel good, so I poured out the whiskey and came home,” says Adam. “If I have a police record, dentistry schools won’t take me.”

Welch faces humiliation at pastors’ conferences, where other men confide in each other about their troubled teenagers.

“I’ve started lying and telling them Adam is having problems, too,” Welch says. “I make up drug use, promiscuity, all sorts of stuff. Then I go back to my room and cry. I’m missing the whole father-of-a-PK experience.”

The Welches fret that Adam’s testosterone level may be low, though he tested normal. Sean and Eleanor sit at home most evenings, their boy upstairs playing worship songs, and stew.

“I’ve lost some respect for the kid,” says Sean with a sigh. “I’ve tried to be the model pastor, and I’d hoped he would be the model PK. I feel I’ve failed somehow.”

Kierkegaard on Militant Pastors

March 16, 2013 1 comment
Soren Kierkegaard studying

Soren Kierkegaard studying (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kierkegaard on Militant Pastors 

Pastor Ronald Marshall

In his little book, The Gospel of Sufferings (1847), Kierkegaard also discusses pastors. They are the ones who are supposed to walk in the steps of the first followers of Christ, the apostles, as they are called in the New Testament. They are the ones who are supposed to inspire and lead the rest of us to follow Christ as the first apostles did. On them, Kierkegaard writes this: “And now an apostle! He had seen the Holy One crucified. He had seen the evil and corruption of the world disclosed when the Lord and Master was scorned — with this impression the apostle went out into the world. If you possibly can, try to imagine it any other way than that this man had to wish that this same world would treat him in the same way, that this man, disheartened and deeply troubled, would have had to blame himself if he was not persecuted, whereas he could fear only one thing, whether it still would not be too great an honor to be crucified! Try it, imagine that he who was to proclaim to the world this message about the Holy One’s being crucified as a criminal between two robbers, that this man was dressed in purple and glory, that this man possessed all the world’s goods, this man who was to proclaim a crucified one’s teaching that his kingdom was not of this world [John 18:36] — try it, if you can bear the attempt….

Or imagine that the apostolic proclamation of Christianity had quickly triumphed, as they say. Imagine that an apostle could have experienced the danger in which later generations were tried, that power and glory and dominion were offered to them — not in order to stop proclaiming Christ but in order to proclaim him. I really wonder if an apostle actually could have persuaded himself to understand this. I wonder if he would not have found it inconceivable that the Lord and Master would be treated as a criminal and the pupil, ‘who is indeed not above the teacher’ [Matthew 10:24], would attain honor and high position! I wonder if an apostle would ever have changed so much that instead of affirming a militant view of life and Christianity he would have affirmed a triumphant view?

The triumphant view assumes that on the average most people, the majority of people, are of the truth; for that very reason the possession of power and honor is a sign that one is eminently good. But the militant view teaches that the good must get the worst of it [see, for instance, John 15:18-19 and Luther’s Works 24:277; 25:177; 31:227], and therefore its servants are persecuted, insulted, treated as criminals or as fools [Luther called the pastor a vir rixorum or ‘man of strife,’ LW 2:20] — alas, and by this they are known, and for that very reason they do not wish power and honor, because that implies a false admission with regard to their view. The only person who with bold confidence can possess honor and power is the one who is convinced that on the average the human race is good” (KW 15:337-339).

So what’s up with all these American Lutheran pastors belonging to the Rotary Club or to some sort of organization like it? Why do they do that? Here’s an idea — Why not use this Kierkegaard passage to discuss this with one of them? Go on, don’t be bashful, give it a try — if you dare.

HT: http://www.myspace.com/bondageofthewill/blog

 

Prayer of a preacher before visiting the sick. Ev. Luth. Treasury of Prayer.

February 14, 2013 1 comment

2012-08-01 St. Peter neighborhood Aug. 1 2012 055200.  A preacher’s prayer before visiting the sick

 

Almighty, eternal God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and source of all right comfort!  See: I, an unprofitable servant, go as my calling requires, to console a sick and afflicted person, one who may be dying.  It does not lie with human strength to accomplish this.  This comfort depends entirely on divine aid.  So I ask You: lend me Your Holy Spirit, that He may put Your Word in my mouth and rule my tongue and my lips, so that my speech flows and is sweet as honey.  Raise up this one who is sick and strengthen [ him/her ] in faith, hope, and patience, or else make [ him/ her ] calm to die swiftly and joyfully, for the sake of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

–Johann Schrader (17th century)

Ev. Lutheran Treasury of Prayer (1881—15th edition)

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
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