10 September 2012

Homily for Installation of Pr. Dean Herberts

Joshua 1 / 1 Cor 3 / Luke 24

Dear saints of St. Paul’s Ridgeway or Norlina or wherever we are (the GPS doesn't seem to know either!), what joy today!  Today you receive a new pastor. That’s the Lord’s idea, you know, not something you or anyone else came up with on their own. The office of the Holy Ministry is all Jesus’ doing. Jesus sends Dean Zachary Herberts to you today and He gives him his marching orders.  He’s to be Jesus deliveryman in this place, forking over to you and to all those whom the Lord of the Church will call into everlasting life in this place, the good gifts that He won for you and for all by His suffering and death on Calvary’s tree and by His glorious rising from the dead, forgiveness bigger than all your sin and life bigger than any death you will ever have to face. Your Jesus loves you and so He sends His deliverymen to bring you His gifts.
Homily for Installation of Dean Herberts 

That means, of course, that you are not his boss. For if you were his boss and he had some hard things to say to you, you might just ditch him. Run him off. Many is the church that tries to live like that. But that’s not the Lord’s way. You see, Jesus sends him to you to speak the hard word at times. To call you to repentance when you are tempted to be playing “I’m the boss” or when you’re wandering off into the byways of sin and death, away from the Lord and His good gifts. He sends this man to call you back, to call you home. So Dean answers first and foremost to His Lord and only secondarily to you.

Now, Pr. Herberts, you know perfectly well that doesn’t leave you the boss anymore than it left them the boss. The whole bossy way of being and doing church is of the devil through and through. He’s into slaves. God’s into free children. And Jesus doesn’t want you to be a slave to your own selfish desires anymore than he wants them to be slaves to their desires. Jesus is all about freedom.

So Joshua in the first reading today. What a task! The folk who’ve been wandering in the wilderness all those years. It’s his job, laid on him by the Lord, to get them into the promised land. Youch. You see where this is heading, don’t you? You’ve got a similar task laid on you: bring them into the promised land. But how? Same way Joshua was to:  “This book of the Law, of the Instruction, the Torah of God, shall not depart from your mouth.” Ah, THAT’S how: you will speak the Word to them that brings faith and faith will see them home. The Spirit of God who inspired the words lives in the words, living and active, giving trust in them and so freeing people from slavery and bringing them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. He sends you with the word that sets free!

But you can’t be speaking that word if you’re not letting live in you. For it to come tripping out lips it needs to be planted deep in your heart and in your mind. Oh, there are many ways that Satan would trip up the ministers of Christ’s church, but none is so effective as keeping them busy. So busy with this meeting and that meeting and the other that they no longer live in and from the words of Jesus. You hear me out, my beloved Dean: do not let one single day pass in your ministry when the Word of God is not opened, read, prayed, meditated on, munched on, devoured and lived from! Then you will not be afraid. You will have good success.

NOT success in the way of the world, maybe. Numbers and such. You may, but you may not. Penecost moments do happen: from 120 to 3,000 in a matter of hours. But as often as not, it's more like we heard lately from John 6, where the crowds all left Jesus until it was only the 12 and He asked them if they didn't want to leave too. You remember how Peter answered:  "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!" So growth, then, that’s none of your business. The numbers are His job. Your task is to let the Word live in you and to speak it early and often to those who are already members of your flock that they may remain in faith AND to those outside too, so that “all those who were appointed to eternal life” may believe according to the Lord’s will. 

You did catch that in the second reading, didn’t you? When Paul is shifting the focus from personality, from the greatness of this pastor over that pastor, Paul or Apollos, he asks what a pastor is that someone would build on him? What are they? Diakonoi di hwn episteusate— ministers through whom you have believed. Each one gets the assignment they have from the Lord. One is sent to plants, another to water. But if anything is going to come to fruition, the Lord gets all the credit for that. “but God gave the growth.” So get your hands and mind off thinking the growth comes from you or from some clever District or Synodical program or the latest and greatest methodology that the worldly wise would try to sell you (yes, it always comes at a price - inviting you just to compromise the truth a little on this or that point of doctrine or practice). No. Growth isn’t YOUR job. Let me say that one more time for you to hear it. For the people gathered here to hear it. Growth isn’t HIS job. It’s not YOUR job. It’s God’s. Get your hands off that verb. It’s HIS. He jealously guards that one. He gives the faith “ubi et quando visum est Deo” —where and when God pleases in those who hear the Gospel, as we confess in the Augsburg Confession. And there’s no clever marketing or packaging that can circumvent that simple fact.

So then what is HE to do? Ah, people loved by God, he is put in place, the Lord sends Pr. Herbert to you, to do the task you heard in the Gospel for today: To proclaim from the Scriptures how the Christ was appointed to suffer for you, to die for you on Calvary’s tree, spilling His blood to blot out your every sin, to be raised on the third day for you in a body incorruptible as the promise and guarantee of your own resurrection, and all so that you might be blessed with the gift of repentance (a brand spanking new way of looking at yourself, your life, your world) AND receive the gift of forgiveness for all your sin, proclaimed in His name and so at His command to all nations.

I told you at the start. He’s the Lord’s deliveryman. He’s sent with gifts for you. He’ll be delivering them at the font over your head, at the altar into your mouth, in the pulpit, at the lectern, at your hospital bed, in the classroom into your ears, and at your deathbed. He’ll be there to serve up for you God’s Law to expose and kill your sinful pride and desire to have things your way, and God’s sweet promises to give and sustain in you faith and see you through the darkest days until you shine in the glory prepared for you by your Lord Jesus. What a wonderful Lord you have, people loved by God! What a kind and giving Master! He takes thought to provide you with everything, absolutely everything, you will ever need as you travel through the wilderness of this age to the shining light of His promised land, into the Kingdom that is to come.

That’s what we celebrate today as we receive with thanksgiving from the nail-scarred yet ever living hands yet another in the long line of those He sends to hand over the gifts, and for that all glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages!  Amen.  

1 comment:

Darian Hybl said...

Truer words can not be spoken! St. Paul's is blessed to have Pr. Dean and a God inspired homily as proclaimed! Thanks for sharing!

Pastor Darian Hybl
Emmanuel Lutheran
Goodland, KS