Another great post by Pastor Anthony R. Voltattorni over on We are All Beggars:
“It truly does sound preposterous, that the Christian church should be established in this way, founded by poor beggars and their offensive preaching of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, who had been mocked, spit upon, slandered, abused in the most brutal manner possible, and finally crucified as a revolutionary and blasphemer of God, left to die in a humiliating death.” – Martin Luther, Holy Pentecost Sermon 1534, Luther’s House Postils, 154-155
Indeed, how preposterous!
We join this Sunday to celebrate the birth of the Church on the Feast of Pentecost. The day in which those bureaucratic big wigs certainly looked upon these unlearned disciples and thought, “Aren’t they foolish!”
It seems shameful and offensive for these disciples to proclaim Jesus who was publicly killed seven weeks ago. And not only do they arrogantly suggest that they have the truth, that their doctrine is the only true doctrine, but by this proclamation of Jesus as Christ they condemn the learned and wise governmental and religious leaders. They are doing nothing short of pointing the finger and saying “You are the betrayers. You are the criminals. You have denied and crucified God!” Certainly, this should win over no one.
How foolish they must have looked in the eyes of those who are wise and mighty. These nothings, these beggars, trying to plant a church by centering their ministry on the guy who was publicly humiliated, condemned, and executed as a criminal! And they’re not very seeker sensitive about it either. The do no demographic study, they don’t first attempt to get to know the people, to find out their needs or worship preference. They preach the Law heavily. These bunch of fisherman simply call everyone to repentance, the whole house of Israel! And what’s worse is that they point to simple water for baptism as the means for the forgiveness of sins. They don’t even charge money for it! Aren’t they foolish!
Yet, this is how the Church begins.
Hidden under this foolish preaching, concealed in such a weak pattern of doing ministry, lies the wisdom and power of God in the promise of the Gospel which proclaims Christ crucified for sinners. It convicts man in his sin, and it points to Christ alone for salvation. It cares nothing for financial gain, or popularity, or power. It has no attraction, no program, no campaign, no model to follow, except Christ alone delivered and received in Word and Sacrament. It’s an extremely foolish model for ministry, and yet it is the only one we are given to use.
“So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacrament was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given. He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. This happens not though our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.” – Augustana V