Friday, August 22, 2014

Sermon -- Installation of Pastor David W. Schmidt (August 17, 2014)

For the Installation of Pastor David W. Schmidt 
at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burke, South Dakota

In the name + of Jesus.

     Dear saints of God at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burke,
     You have not had a chance to get to know your new pastor much yet.  I am sure that you are looking forward to getting to know him and his family better, just as he is eager to get to know you and to serve you.  Although I could tell you a story or two, I will pass along this bit of information about your new pastor: He likes to talk.  He is not shy about having conversations with anyone.  He will be happy to express his friendship and concerns for you.  He will be willing to offer to his opinions or a story or two. 
     But that is not what you called him to do.  If you take a close look at the official document which you sent him to call him to be your pastor, you will see that he is called to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments in accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.  His main purpose here is to proclaim the word of the Lord.  Good news: Your new pastor likes to talk.  He likes to proclaim the word of the Lord from the pulpit, in the classroom, at the side of the hospital bed or the death bed, or anywhere you might run into him. 
     A prophet is among you.  You will do well to listen to him.  He was called by you, but his charge is from the Lord.  He answers to the Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his gospel he preaches.  It is his sacraments he administers.  It is his yoke that he bears.  Any pastor who is worth his salt will remember that.  As a pastor, I can tell you that this makes our knees buckle a little bit.  So pray for him.  Listen to him.  And receive him as the prophet whom the Lord wants you to have.  A prophet is among you.
     Now, brother, you know full well what kind of prophet you are.  You are God’s prophet in this sense: You speak the words God has given you to say.  God loves these people so much that he wants to continue to speak to them—to comfort them, to encourage them, to admonish them, and to sustain them.  Of course, God could have done that himself.  But he doesn’t.  God chooses frail, flesh and blood men to speak in his stead and by his command.  You speak for God, and so your words must be God’s words.  This is how you serve as God’s prophet.
     The prophet Ezekiel was called into this same office.  The Lord gave Ezekiel this charge: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’  And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:4-5)  The Lord gave Ezekiel the words to proclaim.  That was the work of the prophet.  He was not in charge of converting anyone.  He was not even responsible if they covered their ears and screamed, “La-la-la-la-la…!”  He was to proclaim the word of the Lord.
     Now, perhaps it sounds cruel to link this text to the congregation you are about to serve.  You do not come here under the assumption that the people of Grace, Burke are goners or unchristian.  But here is what you do know: They are sinners, and they are dying.  If it were not true, they would not need a Savior, much less a pastor.  They all have sinful flesh which rebels against God’s word.  When their sinful cravings get the better of them, they will simply turn a deaf ear to God’s word.  They will to listen to what God wants, because they would rather do what they want.  They will either believe that God does not need to be obeyed or that God does not follow through on his threats.  Or they just don’t care.  That is typical of sinful hearts.  You should know that, for you have one too.
     But remember what Ezekiel’s role what and what your role is—a prophet.  You are here to say what God has to say.  And whether they hear or refuse to hear … they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:5)  A prophet is among you. 
     Brother, you are not here to be their therapist.  You are not here to fix them.  The sinful nature cannot be fixed.  It must be killed.  For that reason, you will not be preaching sermons about how to do this well or how to do that better.  Instead, you will unleash the sword of the Spirit.  You will put them to death so that God will raise them up anew.  You will proclaim repentance for sins and forgiveness of sins.  You will proclaim death and resurrection.  You will proclaim Jesus. 
     A prophet is among you who declares that God demonstrates his love through his Son who became flesh and blood for flesh and blood sinners.  You proclaim Jesus who willingly submitted himself to the commandments and kept them for those who cannot keep them.  You proclaim Jesus who, despite his innocence, submitted himself to the plot of sinful rebels in order to pay for sinful rebellion.  You proclaim Jesus who, despite his glory, endured the shame of beatings, false testimony, and condemnation.  You proclaim Jesus who, despite being the beloved Son of God, was God forsaken in his cursed death.  You proclaim a God who, despite being immortal, gave himself into death for all who are dying.  You proclaim a God who, even though he should put us to death, conquered death and makes us partakers of the resurrection.  You proclaim Jesus who, even though he should make us consume the cup of God’s wrath, gives us the cup of salvation from this altar and guarantees our place at the wedding banquet of heaven.
     A prophet is among you.  And the Lord has given him this charge: “You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 2:7)  Brother, you are dealing with sinners.  Though they want to serve the Lord faithfully in all they do, they will prove themselves to be sinners.  You will witness them lying to you in the hopes of making themselves look good to you.  You will hear of them giving their mouths to gossip but not to prayer.  You will grieve when the Lord has prepared a feast to give his people for their salvation, but they tell you that they have better things to do.  And you, dear brother, will be tempted to despise them because they will not listen or behave.  For, you are a sinner too.  Brother, your charge is not to despise them or to grow weary.  You are a prophet among them.  You are to pray to God for them.  You are to speak God’s word to them.  You are to preach.
     First, preach to yourself.  For you need Jesus, too.  You need to know that the Lord has taken away your sins of bitterness, laziness, or harboring grudges.  He does not excuse you for these things.  Instead, he absolves you of them; for he has paid for your sins in blood.  The Lord is not stingy in the mercy he pours out upon you.  Therefore, do not be stingy about being merciful to these people either.  Commandments and threats do not get anyone into heaven.  Only the mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ bring forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  Therefore, be generous with God’s mercy.  Put no limits on his forgiveness.  Comfort them, and then comfort them again.
     Brothers and sisters of Grace, a prophet is among you.  Whether people listen or fail to listen, a prophet is among you.  Pastor Schmidt, as a prophet, you will do and say all that God has given you to do and say.  You will mark these people with the name of Jesus and cover them with the righteousness of Jesus at every baptism.  Every sign of the cross will remind them that they are Christ’s redeemed people.  You will put sinners to death by proclaiming repentance of their sins, and you will breathe new life into them when you absolve them in the name of Jesus.  You will console those who are dying and scared to death of death.  You will assure them that Jesus has overcome death.  He has crushed Satan underfoot.  He holds the keys to death and Hades.  And his love and salvation for his people can never be taken away, not even by death.  You will see people with broken and contrite hearts who hunger and thirst for righteousness, knowing that they have none of their own.  And your hands will give them the body of Christ and pour into their mouths the blood of Christ.  For, you are Christ’s prophet.  You speak and act in his stead and by his command.  In this way, Jesus will strengthen and sustain his people. 
     Dear Christians, a prophet is among you.  Good news: Your pastor likes to talk.  Whether you listen for your salvation or whether you fail to listen to you own detriment, the Lord has placed his prophet among you.  He is here because the Lord Jesus Christ wants him here.  He is here because God loves you.  He is here because God still wants to comfort, encourage, and save you.
     Pastor Schmidt, you have received your call.  You have been given your charge.  Preach the word.  Bathe them in gracious waters.  Admonish the sinners.  Absolve the penitent.  Feed Christ’s lambs.  You are God’s prophet at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burke, South Dakota.  The Lord Jesus Christ wants you here.  You are here because God loves you.  He will be with you to comfort, encourage, and save you too.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.