Faithful Obedience to the King

There’s a book that I use devotionally as well as to supplement our life of prayer around here. Its title is Minister’s Prayer Book. It is a resource of wonderful gems compiled by John W. Doberstein. I read something in it yesterday that I wanted to share with you. It was just one sentence from a man by the name of Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was a late nineteenth and early twentieth century journalist and Calvinist theologian. Now, don’t worry. I’m not going rogue on the LCMS, but rather, just as with our Lutheran Service Book where we take the good hymns from across history—from inside and outside of Lutheran tradition—I am taking a small piece of something good that was said. Here it is:

“An office-bearer who wants something other than to obey his King is unfit to bear his office.”

Kuyper was speaking of pastors in particular. And he’s right. If pastors venture into the Office of the Holy Ministry seeking anything other than to be faithful to Christ no matter the challenges, they are disqualified. But then as I read this, reality set in. God calls sinful human beings—men—into this office. Human beings are sinful. I speak from experience. In my sinful flesh, like you, I am more than capable of finding myself seeking something other than obedience to Jesus.

So what to do? Am I disqualified? No.

At the heart of the sentence, and in its fuller context, is the intent to warn pastors to wrestle with the flesh, being certain that Christ’s way dominates in the pastor’s efforts. How does this happen? By clinging to His Word. When I feel as though I should do things my way, or preach what I want, or act in the church in a way that seizes authority from my Lord and strays from His Word, I must be certain to remember to be led by the truest authority—the One I serve who gives and guides by and through His holy Word.

In a sense, it’s the same for you. The Word of God shapes you, not the other way around. When you don’t like what it says, contemplate the premise that its ways and wisdom will always far surpass the ways of Man. That means you. That means me. We don’t like to hear this because, sometimes, it hurts. But for the Christian, I would surmise that more often it has the potential for stirring joy. Either way, remember that it is good and it is best. Why? Well, that’s a rhetorical question. We both know the answer.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Some of you probably already knew this, but Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets. She had an incredible grasp of language; and not only that, but she could string together a necklace of words with such uncommon precision, and pair nearly every phrase with incredible rhyme schemes, that it’s hard not to appreciate her skill. I have her entire collection of works, and I must say, I visit with it often. And even as I read her poetry knowing that she wasn’t necessarily a Christian—although she grew up in a Christian home and was influenced by Christian tradition—her words ring true in many ways, whether she realized it or not. For example, a personal favorite of her lyrics goes something like this:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

I like that. Hope perches in the soul and never stops singing its song. Sounds like the hope we have in Jesus, if you ask me. By the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, hope lives and breathes and moves within us even as we face days of both sunshine and rain, of blue skies and clouds. Or as Saint Paul says in Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

One more time: “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (v. 2).

I like that. It speaks of hope as it flows from God’s glory. You and I know by the Holy Word that the truest form of God’s glory is seen on the cross in the death Jesus Christ for our forgiveness—at least that’s the way Jesus talked about it (John 12:23-33; Mark 10:36-38, and others).

And I like this, too: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Here Paul makes sure we understand that our hope in the suffering, crucified, and risen Savior is never to our shame, but rather it is the wellspring of God’s love that actually pours into our hearts to steady our resolve and sturdy our grasp of the only One who can save us—Christ, the Son of God!

May this hope continue to be yours as the summer days roll in. Remember to hold fast to the means by which God feeds and sustains this hope—Word and Sacrament ministry. You need this stuff. I need this stuff. The whole world needs this stuff. Why? Because it has what sets hope in the soul where it can sing and sing and sing, never growing tired of its joyful song of salvation.

Deepest of Sorrows

I read a portion from Luther yesterday that still rings today. With regard to the Gospel appointed for last Sunday from John 16, he writes: “There are many kinds of sorrow on earth, but the deepest of all sorrows is when the heart loses Christ, and He is no longer seen, and there is no hope or comfort from Him.”

I expect that most Christians would nod in agreement. And why is this? Because by the power of the Holy Spirit for faith through the Gospel, they know things that the rest of the world doesn’t. They know that without Christ, there is no hope. They know that apart from Him, there is the extreme incapability for joy in the midst of this world’s terrors. They know that to separate from Him is to be starved of the nourishing forgiveness and grace that He desires to give in order that we would be His own and live under Him in joy.

When the heart loses this, there is emptiness.

Summer is coming. With that, there will be many opportunities set before each of us to take a break from being where Christ is given through Word and Sacrament for the strengthening of faith and the fruits of comforting hope. As always, I encourage you to remain faithful in worship attendance. Be where Christ is with His gifts. Don’t hide Him from yourself or your family. And if you know you will be away, do what you can to find an LCMS church and be present there for worship. Of course, if you need help with this, let me know. I’ll find a place for you to visit while you’re on vacation, at a tournament, or visiting relatives. It would be my pleasure to do this.