Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Why doesn't the Lutheran Church its pastors priests, as the Roman church does? Because we believe in the priesthood of all believers. As "the saints" does not mean just a few heroes of faith who have gone to heaven, the priests of Christ are not only ordained ministers of the church, but the whole people of God. We are all God's saints in this world, so, too, we are all priests.
What is a priest? A mediator between humanity and God. As Christians, children of God by adoption in baptism, we have only one Mediator between us and God the Father. No need to pray to the Virgin Mary or the saints in heaven. Jesus Christ is our High Priest, because of His sacrifice of his own blood, once for all. We were lost in our sins, now only through faith in Christ we are saved.
As we can call God Father only in the name of Christ, we may pray to God only in the name of Christ and God hears us. God does not hear the prayers of those who do not believe in Christ, but we can pray for them. We may intercede for them. We are mediators between the world and God in this sense.
Priests offer sacrifices. Nobody has to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, since the last propitiatory sacrifice of Christ on the cross. However, we can offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. When we sing in worship of God, this is a sacrifice of praise. When we offer our thanksgiving in prayers, these are sacrifices of thanksgiving. The offering is also a sacrifice of thanksgiving, to share the blessings of God for us with our neighbor through the work of the church.
This is our worship: praise, prayer and thanksgiving as responses to the gifts God gives us, especially in the Word and the sacraments. We have received grace and forgiveness of God in its fullness in holy baptism. Through baptism God has called us his sons and daughters. Every Sunday after confession, we receive forgiveness of present sins into which we have fallen, and the strengthening of our faith in the lord's Supper. The sermon is also public proclamation and teaching of the Law and the Gospel, which is the very Word of God proclaimed in the sacraments.
These are "the mysteries of God" of which St. Paul speaks in our text for today. Well, what do these words mean? "Let men regard us as the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."
The special power that our Lord Jesus Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive sins to the penitent, preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments is called the office of the keys. This authority acts as a key that opens heaven to those who believe in Christ.
This office belongs to the whole church, but, look, not all believers are qualified to be "stewards of the mysteries of God." The Church, by Christ's command and as His instrument, must call pastors to publicly exercise the office of the kyes in the name of Christ and the church. To administer the mysteries of God, the church should call men who are personally and spiritually qualified to be pastors.
According to 1 Timothy 3:1-2, a pastor should be above reproach in his conduct, the husband of one wife, and lead a serious, thoughtful and respectable life. Please note, the Roman Catholic church does not allow their clergy to marry, but the Lutheran Church does. Marriage is not mandatory for a pastor, because among the apostles, Paul did not have a wife, but Peter (supposedly the first pope) did. At any rate, the pastor must not be a man with many women, a drunkard or not greedy for gain (Titus 1:7).
Above all, Paul says in our text for today, "it is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful." Fidelity is to his oath to God. The Lord called the apostles to leave their nets and follow Him to become fishers of men. Not all believers have to do that. You may glorify God in this community, at school, at work, in your family. You should not abandon your family and friends to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. But this is implied in the commitment to be a pastor.
And Paul says the pastor does not report primarily to a human tribunal, but to God himself. In the Corinthian church were those who challenged the authority of Paul as a pastor and preacher. But his authority came from Christ. "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord."
The Augsburg Confession says no one can preach and administer the sacraments in a Lutheran church without a legitimate call. That is, after preparation and examination, endorsed by the assembly of believers, including other pastors, in the rite of ordination. After ordination, but theh pastor cannot be dismissed except for teaching false doctrine; open immorality, or physical or mental disability. On the other hand, the pastor should not resign his post for more money or his own pleasure.
We found the example for a pastor in the Gospel for today (Matthew 11.2-10) in the person of John the Baptist. Why does John was in prison? He called all to repentance of their sins, no matter their socio-economic status. He denounced King Herod for his unlawful marriage, so Herod threw him into prison and then killed him. But John had borne witness to Christ previously, and even in jail and under the threat of death, pointed his disciples to Christ. This is the commitment of a pastor.
May the peace that passes all understanding be with you forever. Amen.
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