11 June 2007
AC XIV in Action!
Our former vicar, Charles Lehmann, was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry last Saturday. Here's a pic of the new pastor (love the maniple! - I think I see a D.K. Brunner and Son outfit there) and the outstanding homily that was delivered by Pastor Cage. Here's AC XIV in action, folks. Beautiful! Enjoy.
The Reverend Peter Cage
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
Ordination of Charles Lehmann
Zion, Beecher IL (9 JUN 07)
All of heaven is interested in what is happening in this place. All of heaven with its unending, continuous praise of Christ is on to what happens here tonight. As the Father has sent His Son, so His Son, this Christ, is sending ... now ... another in a long line of those bound by divine arrangement with the ministry that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to His apostles-Sts Peter, James and John, and Paul and those who came after, to Silas, Timothy and Titus, to Mark and Luke and all faithful pastors and teachers long before you, Charles. It's good to be a little frightened with this-and in awe of what happens tonight before the LORD God of Sabaoth, before Whom even the seraphim veil their faces.
There's an order there. And God putting you in an order, ordering you. And so an ordination. But I suppose it must seem--even to the experience of those of us who have been part of one or more ordinations -to be something kind of ord-inary. So we're not terribly surprised that some cars are driving past and not stopping or taking much notice. Charles, the world cares more about Paris Hilton than you. If they gave it much more thought-I suppose they'd hate or at least laugh at why we're here tonight. And the vast majority of the city of Fort Collins, CO would never even notice if you don't show up. The world's got their orders, too, whether they realize it or not, from their Prince. But in the face of all this satanically influenced indifference and opposition, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church rejoices. God is doing something. And in this company your bride-to-be, your mother and father, your friends and family-and old pastors have gathered to pray and to hear, too, as you are bound up under orders.
As a former military chaplain, I know a little about orders from that side of things. You don't go anywhere without orders-paper with your name on it that tells you where to be and what you'll be doing there. Tonight the church gives pause, and heaven rejoices because God is ordaining, God is giving a man set apart for His Church. Putting now this one under orders. And what God does is marvelous even more so when our senses aren't especially dazzled by the goings-on.
Christ gathers His church in this place [with Prs. Rock and Moldenhauer] with great regularity week after week, and tonight for this. Shepherd and sheep you've been gathered. Heaven and heavenly things right here on earth no less-heaven just beyond what your senses can fully take in. God speaking and giving and serving from His Word and altar and putting into beggar's hands and ears and mouths--ours. And as the promised gifts are given by Him, again and again, we say, "Amen," "yes, yes, it shall be so." And special this night because a son of this congregation is being ordered into the Office of the Ministry-for which the whole Church is thankful. Soon you will take your vows, this church and people who know you well will speak with the church catholic and give the "Amen" to what is done. And what God is giving for His Church this hour will be received by His Church.
Like that. That what God has done in giving a pastor He has done well despite the sometimes messy look of things in the years and the process of how you got to this moment and that chair on this night, and the rather humble, ordinary appearance of the whole thing. Now the world who refuses Him who speaks from heaven will just ignore what is happening tonight in Christ's Church-this thing that God is doing among us and for us. Well, to be honest we scarcely believe it ourselves. That God's things happen in a place like this amidst people like us. At an altar and font. From a pulpit. In a place like Zion in Beecher IL, or Grace in Muncie, IN or Peace With Christ in Fort Collins, CO. But like Christ, none of these places are floating out in space. They are locatable, earthly places you can point to and be at, holy ground where He has been promising Himself and delivering Himself up for dying people all along-long before any of us. These aren't airy abstractions but body and blood places-God in flesh, God-with-us places. Immanuel. Incarnate. All those good words! In a place. In His Person. Heaven and earth are full of His glory. Sounds so terribly important. So life-and-death, and then life ... again. It is. God has made all the arrangements, speaks every gracious word, washes every infant, serves every communicant real flesh and blood. God's service to sinners-He is unwilling to let me sink into real hell with my sin and death on. He sends His Son. A serpent-Crusher. A Die-er and Riser. An Absolver and Life-Giver. It is His public ministry amidst His Church. It is never done in secret, though the God of heaven and earth does come gently and even plainly:
in the preaching of the Child born of Mary, and hidden-ly in the tap water that gave you birth "from above", and in mere bread and wine delivered by a very plain and ordinary man with the Word. A man with a Word ordered by God. One set apart not for all the other things that need doing for us, but for these things that God Himself is doing. All this is so because the Giver of the gifts declares it so.
And all this in a world and culture where so many things are advertised and promised but are not so at all. This should make you, Charles, humble at all your personal inadequacies, and yet supremely confident in the One who makes you a pastor and sends you. 'Cos what God promises, God is doing. And for the Church you serve, in the place you will serve, they too can be confident that what is done by Word and Supper is done not by a man, but by the God-Man Jesus Christ. He has promised.
By this act, this ordination, tonight you lose some of your freedom. At your installation later on you'll be bound up even more. It is not up to you what you will do or where you will do it. God has seen to that. Check your orders-your call that tells you where to go and who you must serve, and your vows will tell you what to do: preach the Gospel and serve the Sacraments. You haven't taken these things like a thief, you are being given them to do now. Under the obligation of your ordination into the Holy Christian Church now, and the people you will serve now. And as the liturgy says it so well, you will speak the words and work the works of Christ as a pastor of His Church. Not by your virtue, but by virtue of your office as a called and ordained servant of the Word. You will forgive sins, and preach the Gospel of our Lord's completely unfair and untiring mercy. You will instruct the uninstructed. You baptize the un-baptized, absolve those who are sorry for sins [and retain the sins of those who are not], and distribute the Body and Blood of Christ into their mouths, care for the sick and the homebound with our Lord's sacramental gifts ... in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Always in that Name and never your own--none of these things are yours, but you are to give them!
For you are sent not to merely tell "about" Jesus, "about" the Gospel, "about" the forgiveness of sin. You are not a conveyer of "God-information". God gives the pastor to be in a place, to embody the Gospel in His office. To handle a Law that always accuses and really kills real people, and a Gospel that enfleshes God's mercy and life for sinners. As Christ, their dear Lord, deals with them Himself.
This is heady, breath-taking stuff. And Charles, you are not up to it. You're not that special. No man is and you will learn repeatedly how frail you are. St. Peter talks big but denies Christ in the courtyard when a young girl puts the pressure on. Great St. Paul wants the title "chief of sinners" and maybe he deserves it. And who are you among these? So like every other, you must live from that same Word you preach, from that same Body and Blood that you administer, and in those same holy waters with which you baptize. Forgiveness in your ears and hands and mouth, and so in your heart and life, for this vocation into which God is ordering you. And God has gifted you for His work-like always. How terrible if He did not! Things from outside of you (thanks be to God), that come without any merit or worthiness in you. To deliver Christ.
Speaking the Word of God-pointing to Christ--is something every Christian has the freedom to do. But you are not so free. Now you must do it. Obligated to preach-and soon-bound to a place and to a people in a way that very few are. It is a blessed work. Not a slavery-it is a dear and noble task--but "woe to you if you do not preach the Gospel" to God's people in the place God puts you. It is the greatest place on earth because it is where God is bringing salvation in a ministry He has created and given and is present in.
Over thousands of years and in a thousand thousand places it is the Holy Ministry established by God-the same in every time, land and culture. It is all so terribly un-hip and counter-culture in the most severe way, but it remains forever: the Office of Christ, His ministry, His gifts, His blood as a ransom for the many. By His arrangement and choice. Jonah took a boat in the opposite direction and was dragged to the bottom of the sea in a fish before he understood God's arrangement. Galileean fisherman were taken out of their boats, left their livelihood, while a father looked on in astonishment. John the Baptist from his conception was given to be a prophet, and finally given a prophet's reward of dungeon and decapitation. [Isaiah thought it best if he just die on the spot.] But God has His way.
This day you will be ordained by the laying on of hands and receive the gift for the office He has readied you for. A gift not from any man, but from God, for His ministry. It won't make you any better or change your character-it is for the Church. The Spirit breathed on the apostles sent that first Easter like you are sent. The Spirit by which Jesus was conceived in the Virgin Mary when He took on our flesh. The Spirit who led Him into the desert for 40 days. The Spirit which He gave up when He bowed His head and breathed His last on the cross. The Spirit the now risen Lord pours out on His apostles, for His Church. To do what? The very thing Jesus is always about: forgiveness for sinners. And how is the Risen Jesus about it?
By that Easter ordination that night in the upper room. Making pastors, sending what was left of the Twelve on that evening. And now even on this evening. "Even so I am sending you," He says. To forgive. And where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation.
If you find yourself doing something else then "You're wrong!" For He has ordered you for this task-your life is not your own in the way it was before today. You are not here to pursue any personal triumphs or goals, to puff out your chest. The Lord of the harvest ordains you and puts you back in this world for one purpose: to announce that the
apocalypse is now, not just the future; the Kingdom is here, not "up there" someplace; now is the time fulfilled-this is the Day of Salvation. And so you will stand next to bread and wine and proclaim with the Church the same high mystery, the miracle, that John the Baptist proclaimed in the middle of a wilderness: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." The Christ who forgives my sin with the Body and Blood He sacrificed for it. Take, eat and drink right here.
So, of course all of heaven is taking note of what happens here. All of heaven is riveted on Christ at work for His Church. Because this is Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels and archangels. Here is the general assembly of the firstborn, the baptized who are registered in heaven. Here is God the judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect. All those who have gone before, our loved ones who have died in Christ and so are alive forever, worshipping. Here is Jesus the Mediator of the New Testament in His Blood-blood that speaks this best of all sentences to you: 'I forgive you all your sins'. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks from heaven (Heb. 12).
That's God's own description for us, God's promise of what happens at His altar, at a thousand altars like this one. You must expect no less. Charles, you will find your comfort there (so will we tonight)-and so will all the baptized at Peace With Christ, Fort Collins, by whom God has called you into this ministry.
Rest assured (!) that none of it comes from you. God has ordered it like this out of our great mess and confusion so it is done well: He makes a pastor to preach and deliver a crucified Christ for His hearers to hear ... and to have. Of course, heaven is rejoicing, and we with them. Amen.