Always Warn Your Pastors – A Sermon for Trinity IX – Second Series

Texts: Luke 12:32-48

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ- Amen

Saint James writes, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (3:1).”  This verse captures the dramatic and climactic conclusion of our Gospel lesson this evening.  The last half of our Scripture lesson is a jarring wake-up call and stern warning to teachers and pastors, leaders in the Church, to take their callings soberly and seriously, with reverence for God and love towards those whom He has given us to serve.  As Jesus himself summarizes, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”

            Through the Call of the Congregation God the Holy Spirit and you faithful Christians entrust us, your pastors, with much: the teaching of pure doctrine, the catechesis of your children, the preparation for marriage and solemnizing of those marriages, the spiritual care, visitation, and instruction of the sick and dying, and the Christian burial of the same.  And these are just a few of the duties. Add in the unique and special callings of our teachers to model Christian conduct and cultivate faithfulness among the little lambs of this flock and you will understand our frequent and constant requests for your prayers.

            The ominous warning of Jesus – the advice of Saint James – it’s a wonder we have any teachers in our schools and pastors in our churches.  Pray the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into His vineyard, and pray that God equip and strengthen them for the many and great tasks at hand.  And you too, support and encourage them.  God’s gracious hand has provided them to you to give you the Kingdom and to preserve you in it.  As Martin Luther warns in the Large Catechism, if churches and the parishioners despise the teaching, reject true preachers, and will not heed the message of Law & Gospel then they will receive from God as their punishment false preachers who preach the lies that the people want to hear, further hardening their hearts unto judgment.  We’ll hear more about that this coming Sunday…

            Tonight’s Gospel lesson could be broken into two or three parts.  I’ll go with two and divide it up this way – (I) there is encouragement and warning to all Christians in verses 32 – 40. (II) And in verses 42-48 Jesus amplifies the warning for anyone who is a leader in the Church, be that person a pastor, a teacher, a lay-leader, whoever has been entrusted with much that is to be given to the Flock of God in this place. 

            So let us turn our attention first to the precious little flock whom Christ the Good Shepherd redeems.  “Fear not!” He says.  The Law’s demands are high and damnation is the threat.  This you know and are right to be stricken with contrition.  But do not fear God in servile fear as if we are a conquered people terrified of a Tyrant and hating Him.  God and His Law do not strike you as an enemy conquering you, they strike as a Father lovingly, gently disciplining His beloved Child.  The FATHER has chosen you, election in Christ, to inherit the Kingdom as Sons. 

            What need do you have of all the earthly mammon and treasures now that you have inherited the glory of Heaven and all that mammon can never buy? “God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).”  So sell it, use it for the good of someone other than yourself.  You have the power and love and self-control that the Spirit fosters, because truly your treasure is something otherworldly and there your heart is also. 

            And following this encouragement Jesus adds a warning to the whole flock of God. Verses 35-40 remind you not to delay or hesitate.  Be ready for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  When He calls you not to be afraid, but to live as children of a heavenly kingdom He means Right. Now.  When He calls you to crucify your wealth and put it in subjection, service to God and neighbor, He means before the hour is too late.  So be like watchmen, standing ready to defend the house from robbers and ready to open the door for the master whenever He might return. 

            In Jesus’ day wedding celebrations could go on for days, so the servants really would have no idea when their master would return.  That’s the point.  You don’t know so be ready.  And look at the blessed role-reversal in verse 37.  It’s as if Jesus had a distinctly Lutheran understanding of the Divine Service- I’m being tongue-in-cheek- the truth of course is that we Lutherans merely confess Jesus Christ’s own understanding- Those who come to this church worthy and well-prepared with faith in the Words of Christ find their Lord dressed as a servant, preparing a feast for you. He comes in the bodily presence of the Sacrament and He serves you- Divine Service. 

            So now we turn to the stern warning that Christ gives for Simon Peter and all who hold office in the Church.  Notice that our Lord hardly answers Peter’s question, not directly at least.  Instead Jesus launches into a parabolic warning and admonition against the Spiritual Abuse of the fellow servants placed within our care as pastors, and teachers, and the other leaders of the Church.  God is watching over His Church and He will judge with greater strictness those who have been appointed Stewards of the Mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1).  He will judge us on our faithfulness and our wisdom. 

            Are we faithful to the vows that we made when called into Service of Christ and His Church?  Perhaps we should together as pastor and people review those vows more often.  Thankfully we rehearse the Teachers’ vows as often as a new teacher joins us and to a lesser extent each new school year when we use a dedication rite.  Are we faithful to God’s Word and the purposes for which He has established both His Church and the Offices in it? 

            And then, are we wise in office?  Since the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom I would strongly urge you not to run too far or fast into the business world and practical wisdom.  That is a part of biblical wisdom and we do need greater evaluation and training in the Church for her servants to be effective in their callings.  But first and foremost we must all remember that all worldly wisdom fails if it is not rooted in true Reverence- the Fear of the Lord.  All other best practices that we can import from secular fields will trip and fall and shatter on the Rock of Offense that is Christ Jesus; IF we do not have ever before us the proper Fear, Love, and Trust in Christ Jesus.

            Many denominations and confessions of Christianity have strayed from confessing the Inerrant Word of God.  In fact they openly deny it.  Instead they teach only the thoughts of man.  Many have rejected the resurrection of Jesus Christ and so they have no true faith in His ascension, His reigning at the Father’s right hand.  That means they have ZERO expectation of His return in glory- they are so clearly the servants who think their master is never coming back, so they beat their fellow servants to a bloody pulp with false doctrine, human wisdom, political platforms…honestly the preaching and teaching resources that are published and taught at the seminaries of Mainline Evangelical Protestantism read like the DNC’s national political platform. That’s not an accident, it’s by design. 

Yet many sit in the pews week after week and take the beating because they do not recognize this form of abuse.  It’s called Neglect.  They are being told lots of things that they like to hear.  But they are hearing no Law for repentance and no Gospel for salvation.  That is spiritual abuse by neglecting to give them the proper food at the proper time- the Law when rebuke is needed, the Gospel when consolation is needed. Woe to those preachers and leaders who so abuse the people of God by withholding the Truth of God’s Word in the arrogant assumption that Christ will not physically return in Glory to judge the world. 

For those of us who are serving in a church body that still confesses the Bible and the Creedal faith, we are not off the hook.  The warnings here apply to us as well.  We may not be getting drunk on a reduction of the Gospel to a mere “Jesus lets us do whatever we want, so go ahead with Gay Marriage, Abortion, and all the culture’s evils.” Thus we may not be cut to pieces with the Unfaithful.  But we ought to take the warnings to heart in verses 47 and 48 regarding the severe and lesser beatings – the greater and lesser judgments that come on those who are set in positions of authority in the Church.

These are the verses that keep your pastors up at night- and sometimes lead pastors to leave the ministry in pursuit of other callings.  Pray for your pastors.  Pray for us to be faithful and wise.  Pray for the pastors of our Synod to be bold and manly enough to ACT according to the Will of God.  We know what His Word says about the things we are constantly confronting- open communion, cohabitation, fornication, divorce, desires to fit in with the culture and hide our Lutheran faith and worship under a generic American veneer – we must be ready and act.  Pray for us and hold us accountable now so we do not face the beating in the judgment. 

Still other pastors and teachers may fall into the lighter beating or lesser judgment which is described in verse 48 as a Sin of Ignorance – simply not knowing and so acting against God’s Will.  May God preserve us from this as well!  May we hold one another accountable, always learning and growing in God’s Word, being edified or built up in the Truth that we might not fall in this judgment. 

Dear Christians, you hear how Jesus teaches you about life in this Kingdom.  We can summarize both halves of this lesson by saying, “let us not take it for granted- this great treasure and deposit we have been given in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Together let us learn and grow in the faith.  Let us pray for one another, support one another, and console each other with the Gospel of our Forgiveness in Christ.  Without Him we would be lost, so let us ever keep one another in Him and His grace. Amen.