(The CLCC is one of the many confessional groups that regularly posts on this website. Their past posts are archived on the “Regular Columns” page.)
Before Christ ascended into heaven he told the twelve: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28)
He promises us to be with us all personally. How does He do this? He comes to us through His Word and His Sacraments. He enters our lives by adopting us as His children when we are baptized. Through the water and the Word He gives us His name, the name Christian, and He uses our called pastors to do this. The Apostles were the original pastors for Christ’s church when He ascended into heaven. Jesus ascended into heaven, but He still is with us always, just like He promised. He comes to us in His True Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper which He instituted on the night that He was betrayed. He offers us forgiveness and life through both of these precious Sacraments. God uses His ordained servants of the Word to feed us. They are the ones He was speaking to when He commanded them in John 21:17 “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. ” Pastors are doing what they are called to do through the church on this earth when they give us the Sacraments. They are feeding His sheep.
Our souls are also comforted and fed through absolution which we receive weekly in the Divine Service of the Word and in private absolution whenever our hearts and consciences are burdened. We can know we personally have Christ there with us offering us forgiveness through the words of our pastors that act in His stead and by His command. John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
As well fed people we are stronger for all that we encounter in our daily life, because we are in the world, but not of it. Well fed people are better able to defend their faith and confess it to others in confidence. In order to be well fed, of course we also need to hear the Word. We hear the Word on Sundays when the pastor reads the lessons for the week, and especially when he preaches to us both the law and the gospel. The law needs to kill us, so then the sweet news of the gospel is even sweeter. It helps us to know that we are truly forgiven sinners. That Word is also present in the liturgy and in the hymns that we sing. The Divine Service gives us strength to face all the temptations and trials we may face all week. Remember, Jesus is the Word, so He really does come to us through it. We read in John 1:1″ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Being daily in the Word is also important for our life. We have Jesus right there with us every day as we read, study, and pray for His guidance and grace during the week.
By the following Sunday our gas tanks are running close to empty again, so we want to go again to be nourished and fed. Hopefully we receive the best that Christ can give us through hearing pure doctrine taught. Sometimes we convince ourselves we aren’t being fed by the liturgy. How can that be? How can Gods word, which the liturgy so beautifully presents, not feed us? How we feel doesn’t matter all that much; what does matter is that we believe and cling to the promises of Christ. If we are feeling hungry, it may be that we are focusing on our self too much and not on the Word and Sacraments being given to us freely. Christ gives us all that we need for this life.
The task of Christian churches on this earth is to preach Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins to us, and to baptize and teach us, because then we, His people, are better able to serve our neighbors in love. The church also is to go into all the nations to baptize and teach them through establishing new churches all over the world. Then these new Christians will do the same for their neighbors.
Today we often forget the last part of the Matthew verse and think it’s enough if our neighbor even gets a little bit of Jesus. What does Jesus say? He says to teach them to obey all that He has commanded. That means that good catechesis of the faith is extremely important, especially in the world we live in today. If people only receive a little bit of Jesus, which Jesus do they get? Remember, even the Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have a Jesus. The Jesus that they need is the Real One who was crucified for our sins and rose from the dead for us. Only then do they receive the Jesus that comes to us personally through the special gifts He freely gives us.
Jeremiah 23:28 “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD.”
Ephesians 4:14 “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Titus 1:9 “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
1 Timothy 6:3-4a “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. ”
1 Timothy 4:6 “[A Good Servant of Christ Jesus] If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.”
So, as we seek to be true to Christ we should support and encourage our pastors to preach and teach only pure doctrine, to remain faithful to the vows they took to stay true to the Word and the Lutheran Confessions when they were ordained, and to follow good practices in order for that to happen. We need to appreciate them for all they do in service to us.