Installation of David Thompson
Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church
Audubon, Minnesota, January 8, 2005
Man, Godís Word, Godís Church, Godís BloodĒ (Acts 20:28)
What you see here this afternoon
is a group of people. We
stand, sit, sing, speak, and listen.
One man will stand up here in front of you.
He will answer questions and make promises.
So will you. What
you see here is people engaging in a religious ritual.
But religious rituals arenít
necessarily divine. Thereís
more idolatry in this world than there is true worship of the true God.
People love to engage in religious acts, mostly so that they can
bring themselves up to God. Religiosity
is a disease that afflicts every sinner born into this world.
We need to look beyond whatever human activity we see and hear
this afternoon. We need to
go to Godís written Word Ė the Holy Scriptures Ė in order to
understand what is taking place among us today.
Listen to the inspired words of St. Paul recorded by St. Luke in
heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the
Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he
has purchased with his own blood. Acts 20:28
Everything belongs to God: the
man, the word, the church, and the blood.
man belongs to God. David
Thompson didnít appoint himself as pastor of this congregation. You didnít hire him. God
sent him. This is the clear
teaching of Godís Word. The
inspired words of our text for this afternoon were spoken by St. Paul
the Apostle to the pastors of the Christian congregation in Ephesus.
St. Paul says here that the Holy Spirit made them overseers of
the congregation. He gave
them a single command: feed the church of God.
God sends the pastor. We call it a divine call, but the Bible uses the word send. St. Paul writes in Romans 10:14 Ė 15:
God sends preachers to preach. Jesus sent the apostles directly. The pastors in Ephesus were not sent directly by Jesus.
They were put into office by the church.
But St. Paul tells the pastors in Ephesus that the Holy Ghost had
them overseers of the church. When God sends His minister through the activity of the
church it is no less God sending him than if Jesus spoke directly to him
as He did with the apostles who were the original ministers.
When a congregation calls a man to be her pastor it is God who is
calling that man because God has established the pastoral office and has
entrusted that office to His church.
It is God who sends this man to you.
You know this not because God whispered in your ear and told you
to call him or because God whispered in David Thompsonís ear and told
him to accept. You know
this because God has established the pastoral office in and for His
church and has given His church the authority to entrust this office to
men who are faithful to His word. Of
these men it is as St. Paul says in our text: the Holy Ghost has made
them overseers. The man
belongs to God.
word belongs to God. God
sends the preachers to preach what God wants them to preach.
Why? The purpose of
preaching is always faith. Iím
not talking about a generic faith that acknowledges the existence of a
good god that gives us good things.
Iím talking about the Christian faith, the faith that believes
that for Christís sake all our sins are forgiven, we have peace with
God, we stand righteous before Him, and we have eternal life.
The reason the preacher must be Godís man is because unless God
sends him and defines for him the gospel he is to preach, he will
invariably preach whatever it is that peopleís itching ears want to
hear. Where the gospel is
not preached, there can be no faith, no hope, no forgiveness, no eternal
Neither the pastor nor the
congregation he serves can ever afford to forget that the word the
preacher preaches belongs to God. Listen
to what Luther says in the Large Catechism about the work of the Holy
Spirit. He writes:
you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe in him and take
him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on
our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. The
work is finished and completed, Christ has acquired and won the treasure
for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work
remained hidden and no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain,
all lost. In order that this treasure might not be buried but put to use
and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in
which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this
treasure of salvation.
he does not cause the Word to be preached and does not awaken
understanding in the heart, all is lost. . . For where Christ is not
preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call, and gather the
Christian church, and outside it no one can come to the Lord Christ.
He is not Godís man if he does
not preach Godís word. Faith
comes from hearing the word of God.
This is why preachers must preach it as God wants it preached.
The salvation of souls is at stake.
The minister doesnít decide
what his job is. The
congregation doesnít decide what the ministerís job is.
God has already decided. After
Jesus died on the cross to take away the sin of the world He purchased
treasures. He rose from the
dead on the third day with treasures to give.
These treasures are forgiveness of sins, peace with God, freedom
from guilt, deliverance from death and every evil and everlasting life
in heaven. Jesus has given
these treasures to His church on earth.
They belong to every single Christian.
Jesus also established the office of preaching the gospel and
administering the sacraments of Christ.
The man to whom this office is entrusted is called a pastor, but
the Bible uses various titles to refer to the pastor and the job isnít
about titles, anyway. Itís
about preaching, teaching, guiding, convincing, warning, rebuking,
encouraging, and comforting Godís people with Godís word.
It is an office of oversight.
The pastor is to watch over the entire flock.
The authority of this office is nothing more and nothing less
that the word that belongs to God.
church belongs to God. Pastor
Thompson, this is not your church.
Members of Immanuel, this is not your church.
This is Christís church. He
is the one who bought it. When
the pastor thinks the church belongs to him he will impose his own will
on the congregation, confusing his will with the will of God.
When the people of the congregation think that they own the
church simply because they own the property where the church gathers
together they will impose their will on the pastor, thinking that the
church is a democracy instead of the body of Christ.
No, the church doesnít belong to herself and she doesnít
belong to the pastor. She
belongs to Him who bought her.
Much of the conflict within congregations or between pastors and parishioners comes about because people ignore this fundamental truth. For the pastor the fact that the church belongs to Christ and not to the pastor means that he will always subordinate his own personal notions, ideas, goals or preferences to what is it the best interests of the congregation. For the congregation the fact that the church belongs to Christ and not to herself means that they will honor the pastor who feeds them with Christís holy word and sacraments and will not judge him by whether or not he meets this or that social or personal need. The church isnít a religious social club for likeminded individuals. It is the body of Christ. He bought her. She belongs to Him as a bride to her husband because He purchased her with His own blood.
blood belongs to God. What
a wonderful truth! It is
deeply offensive to this world, but a precious doctrine for souls that
cry out for pardon and yearn for the forgiveness of sins.
The blood belongs to God. Jesus
is no mere man. His
crucifixion on the cross was the crucifixion of God.
God chose to be shamed before His creation.
Think of it! This is
what the church is worth! It
has the value of Godís own blood.
God has no blood.
He is a spirit. Men
have blood, not God. But
when God the Son became a man Ė when He was incarnate by the Holy
Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man Ė a personal union took
place. God joined Himself
to our flesh and blood. Jesus
is true God and true man. He
cannot be divided into two persons.
He is one Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary is the mother of God. God
died on the cross. A man
stilled the storm, raised the dead, and fed the five thousand.
All that Jesus did and does was done and is done by Him who is
truly God and truly a man.
God shed His blood for you. Why? Why would He shame Himself before the world? For one reason: to bear your guilt and to take it away. Guilt is far, far, worse than shame. It doesnít seem that way, but it is so. Shame gains its strength from the attitudes of men. We are shamed when people look at us with contempt and stand in judgment of us. Shame deals with how the world sees us. We love the love of the world and so we run from shame. But guilt gains its strength from the attitude of God. We are guilty when God looks at us and sees our sin and stands in judgment of us. Guilt deals with how God sees us. But since we cannot see God we think that we can cover up our guilt from Him. We foolishly think that by denying it we are avoiding it. But it cannot be denied.
This is what Godís man must
preach Godís law to Godís church gathered here in this place.
He must preach it with painful specificity and the full severity
of Godís offended majesty. He
must do so because itís not enough that we appear good before our
neighbors. We must be righteous before our Creator.
And it is only for sinners that Godís blood was shed, and so it
is only sinners who know they are sinners who can receive the
forgiveness that flows from that blood.
It will be to convicted and guilty sinners that Pastor Thompson will proclaim the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ from this pulpit Sunday after Sunday. And you will come. You will come with your sins burdening your conscience. God will forgive you and forgive you and forgive you again. He will do so through His words spoken by His man appointed to watch over His church. Those words will convey to you the benefits of Godís blood, even as you will join your pastor at the altar to eat and to drink the body and blood by which we are all set free from guilt. Honor this man that God sends to you.
Pastor Thompson, donít forget
why you are here. God sent
you here to speak His words to His church.
Preach the blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, and know that
that blood was shed for you. No
man deserves the honor of serving as a pastor in Christís church.
But God makes us worthy to be ministers of the New Testament, not
engraved in stone, but sealed by the blood of God.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus