The Ordination of Mark Preus
“The Ministry of Reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5, 18-21
Faith Lutheran Church, Wylie, Texas
August 8, 2010
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5, 18-21
Today Mark Amberg Preus will be ordained into the office of the holy ministry. Ordination signifies that the call of Faith Lutheran Church to Mark to be their pastor is a call from God. It signifies that the pastoral office entrusted to Mark is instituted by God. It signifies that Mark Preus is fit to assume the responsibilities of this holy office.
God established the pastoral office when he sent out the first pastors to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. He sent them out after he died on the cross and rose again. All four Gospels record it. God is the one who established the pastoral office and God is the one who calls men to be pastors.
Jesus is the one who sends Mark to Faith Lutheran Church to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. As surely as Jesus told St. Peter to feed his sheep, so surely Jesus tells Mark to feed his sheep. Make no mistake about it. The call is from God and the call is to do what God says to do.
You are to talk. You are to preach, to teach, to comfort, to encourage, to correct, to plead, to declare, and to assert. You are to talk. What you say makes all the difference in the world.
You are to preach the gospel. That is, you are to preach the word of reconciliation. If God had wanted to choose angels to preach the gospel he could have done so. But he didn’t. He chose sinful men like you, Mark. St. Paul says that before the ministers are entrusted with the ministry they are first reconciled to God. What you give is what you have received.
God doesn’t call the preacher to preach about himself. Some preachers will wax eloquent about how they used to engage in disgusting sins from which God mercifully delivered them. Or they will talk about their own personal spiritual growth, how they overcame self-doubt and insecurity, and how their experience can be yours as well. “Look at how God has blessed me,” they say. “God can bless you, too.” In short, they preach about themselves, as if by such preaching God will bless those who hear them.
We don’t preach ourselves. But we preach to ourselves. We are reconciled to God. First God convicts us. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6, 5) God reveals his law of pure and holy love to us. He shows us we have not loved him with our whole hearts though it was our duty and he had every right to require it of us. He shows us we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves through it was our duty and he had every right to require it of us. He shows us that he is right and we are wrong. He exposes us for what we are. Our sins are revealed in all their ugliness. We are guilty. We make no excuses because we cannot. And in our sin God speaks his word of reconciliation to us. He forgives us all our sins.
It is as forgiven sinners that we preach. It is as those personally reconciled to God that we proclaim the gospel of reconciliation. No, God doesn’t choose angels to be his ministers, but he calls us angels because he gives us words that give righteousness for sin, innocence for guilt, life for death, and reconciliation for enmity and division.
There is no ministry until Christ reconciles the world to God. The ministry of Christ in the here and now is grounded in the ministry of Christ then and there when he gave his life a ransom for many. There is no generic ministry of religion into which we can put whatever sort of proclamation we choose, as if the ministry exists of itself before there is any gospel to preach.
No, first Jesus reconciles us to God and then we preachers have something to preach. First, he who knew no sin must become sin. The innocent must be counted guilty. He must feel the guilt. He must bear the guilt. There can be no peace with sin. God cannot abide it. He cannot tolerate it. His law is not just empty words of impotent frustration! No, his law hunts down and kills every single sinner in the world, so that no one can escape, there is nowhere to run and hide. The whole world is guilty before God.
Then comes God in Christ. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.” The world is forgiven. The world is reconciled to God. How? How can guilty sinners be reconciled to him who judges and condemns guilty sinners? “God was in Christ.” The eternal Son of the eternal Father became a man. He did as a man what God required of mankind. He obeyed. He was innocent. His obedience was flawless. His love was pure. And he was made to be sin. God reckoned to him the sin of all sinners so that all sin of all people of all time and place became his. The only innocent man suffered the guilt of us all.
He reconciled the world to himself. The obedience and suffering of Jesus brought about peace where there was war and division. Jesus is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. By bearing our sin in his innocence he removed it from us forever.
This is what preachers preach to guilty sinners who know their sin and hunger and thirst to be free from it. This gospel isn’t an appendix to some other kind of message. This gospel is the heart and soul of everything you preach. You don’t serve a Lord who requires sinners to appease him. You aren’t called to preach a self-help pseudo-gospel of submission to principles of success. You are called to preach about God’s mercy in Christ.
Yea, so truly for us careth,
That His Son
All we've done
As our offering beareth;
As our Lamb who, dying for us,
Bears our load,
And to God
Doth in peace restore us.
You will become discouraged at times. You will not see the fruit of your labor. You must remember that God, not you, is in charge of his Word that you preach. You cannot make the law convict anyone. You can only preach it – clearly, specifically, concretely, and without fear. You cannot make the gospel powerful to elicit and sustain true faith. You can only preach it – clearly, consistently, always setting before your hearers who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them so that they will always know in whom they must put their hope and trust for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Some folks don’t care about forgiveness of sins. They’ve been hurt. They’re suffering. They’ve been done wrong. They want you to minister to them. Christian people don’t always know what they need. It is your job to know. You are to be a physician of souls. You are to consider those entrusted to your care according to their needs as God describes them in his holy Word. The ministry is always the ministry of reconciliation.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ of Faith Lutheran Church, the pastor God has sent to you is your servant, your minister. Treat him as such. Ask him to serve you. But what shall he serve? What does the minister administer? God’s word. The truth. The true word of God. That is what he has been preparing to do for some time now. That’s what he wants to do. He wants you to ask him to serve you with God’s word.
If you have a problem – I mean a real spiritual problem that you don’t think anyone can fix – go to your pastor as if he had the words of Jesus Christ himself. Because he does. And he wants to speak those words to you. He wants to serve you with that wholesome spiritual food that will strengthen and sustain you.
Don’t assume that because he’s a young man he doesn’t know how to help you. The help he has to offer isn’t his. He didn’t come up with it. It’s not something you come up with by living. It comes from God’s holy Word. Your pastor has nothing to say to you that God doesn’t say to all of us in the Holy Scriptures.
We live at a time when most people care more about their car than they do about their soul. Preachers are invited to preach and the public is invited to ignore them. This is America, after all. We are all free to choose.
But we don’t choose the reality in which we live. Sin needs forgiveness or it will kill you, not just physically, but eternally in hell. True, the religious market out there isn’t looking for forgiveness. You need to ignore the market. If you let the market drive you you’ll cave in to the culture and lose your Christian identity. There’s a reason preachers like Joel Osteen pack them in. Oh, he’s gifted, alright. He’s really very fluent. But that’s not the key to his success. It’s his message. He knows what people care about. He speaks to their felt needs.
But we know that people don’t by nature know what they need. We know that even Christians who are born from above and have received the forgiveness of sins and are reconciled to God still carry with them the old sinful flesh, live in this fallen world, and daily face the temptations of the father of lies and murderer of souls.
That’s why this congregation needs a pastor who won’t swerve from his devotion to that pure and life-giving doctrine he has learned. St. Paul was talking to you, Mark, when he wrote:
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3, 14-15)
You didn’t learn anything at the seminary that wasn’t already planted inside of you when you were a little boy. You just learned to know what you already knew a bit better. Continue in what you have learned, from when you were a five year old walking through the house singing “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.” Humble yourself, and serve God’s people with patience. Stand on God’s word, don’t move away from it, and don’t compromise it. Then you’ll be safe. And so will those you serve. Amen