Homily for Trinity 3 - Doctor Norman Nagel (Text: 1 Timothy 1:12-17)
In the name of Jesus.
It's amazing what turns up Sunday by Sunday in the Scriptures we hear read. Take today. We could spend a happy time with the Gospel. In this congregation, I've been told, no one can get away with saying, "Oh, we know all about that business of the lost coin and sheep." You have gotten in the way of being surprised with what more and deeper there is with the lost sheep and the lost coin than you ever imagined. And that can also hit you in Bible study, or when the pastor visits you, celebrating some special gift and occasion. Or when you are sick, or dying.
So you have a pastor. That was our Lord's idea, which is where today's epistle comes in with talk of ordination. So let's run with the epistle. If you'd rather have a sermon about the gospel, sorry. Be sure to be here, then, next year, third Sunday after Trinity. Besides you can always count on more from your own pastor than you can from any one-shot preacher. However, a one-shot preacher may have one usefulness. If your pastor preaches the doctrine of the Office of the Holy Ministry, some may suspect he's puffing up himself.
Actually, you see, Holy Ordination does exactly the opposite. It gets the man out of the way of what the Lord puts him there for as His instrument. As Dr. Luther says, "It is the Lord who ordains and makes ministers." And weightier than Dr. Luther is the Apostle Paul, who has only the Lord to thank that he is a minister.
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who enabled me because he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, an insolent man. But I obtained mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."
That's where it's at. "In Christ Jesus." As a place, that is where He is doing His Christ Jesusing. Since He is the only one who does that, what is going on there is only by His doing. And what's the first thing to say about Him and His doing, and where it is going on? "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."
Paul not only had no score; he was clearly in negative, in minus territory, well below zero, a blasphemer and a persecutor. The Christ Jesus whom he confesses is the one who reached down below zero, rescued him, and - would you believe it? - put him into the ministry. That's enough to bowl Paul over.
But he isn't stuck there with himself. He is talking for the sake of those who are Christians or who are being drawn toward being Christians. Look, if He's such a Lord Jesus as can reach down to where I was, well below zero, you can surely count on Him, you can surely count on Him to do that for you. He saved "a wretch like me."
You've all sung it, but do be careful. Are you drawing attention to yourself or to your Savior? The Apostle points to the Savior: the one who has done the saving job. The only one. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. If you are not a sinner, don't play pretend and make a mockery of the liturgy; of the Savior, whose liturgy it is.
The liturgy begins before the Lord, in His name. We are sinners; there's no denying it. But are baptized. He put His name upon us with the water. There's no denying that. He will not deny that although we may try to get rid of it to our peril. The Lord runs the liturgy with His name. Out of His name, He speaks to us, and we say back to Him what He says to us. That this is what is going on is clearly confessed when the Lord speaks His words to us by the use of the mouth that He has put there for His speaking it.
Now it's not because we figured out it was a good idea to have a minister doing that. It is the Lord's idea. Ours by His gift and mandate. No one may dare to speak same as the Lord speaking, unless the Lord has put him there to do it, as the Lord's instrument for what He, the Lord, is having to say. You are being spoken to by the Lord, by what He is saying and delivering with His words. "It's not my two bits with" says the pastor. "By virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
In the name means He is doing it. And doing it in the way that He has given for it to be done. To say "office" is to say "instrument" is to say "the Lord is doing it." His doing, according as our text puts it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He did that. Answered for our sins in our place. At Calvary. And then, as we read at the end of the Gospels, He arranged for the salvation He had achieved Good Friday and Easter to be delivered. He instituted the office of the holy ministry. And that continues on as He puts men into it. If there's no one put in, it's not going on.
His putting Paul in is where today's Epistle begins. Today we are celebrating His putting in, some 20 years ago, him upon whom He put His name in his baptism some twenty years earlier, named William, of the lineage of Weedon, and now called to be your pastor at St. Paul's.
The Lord doesn't let things float. He achieved salvation. He sees to its delivery. Proclamation, Baptism, Absolution, Lord's Supper. And for these to be going on, He instituted the Office of the Holy Ministry, as the Augsburg Confession so clearly confesses. To say "office" is to say "instrument", to say "instrument" is to say "the Lord is doing it." Or the other way round. To say that the Lord is doing it, is to say that His instrument is doing it, to say that the Office He instituted is doing it. The Office He put William Weedon into and called him to be your pastor at St. Paul's.
Did Pastor Weedon baptize you? You can say that. It wouldn't have happened unless somebody did it. But you confess, rather, with the Large Catechism, we see a man's hands doing it, but it is done in the Lord's name. That is, HE is doing it. Only what the Lord does can we be utterly sure of.
Lots of things, then, of His doing to be giving thanks for today, tomorrow, next Sunday. And next year's Third Sunday after Trinity, expect some surprises with the lost sheep and the lost coin. Then, there's heaven coming. That's where the Epistle's doxology swings us up to: "To believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."
In a moment we'll be pulled into doing that with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. The Lord who gives 20 years has always lots more that He is leading us onto. Open your mouth wide, says the Lord, and I will fill it. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.