04 June 2014

Helpers of Joy

I think it was in Proper Distinction that Walther mentioned what a beautiful practice it would be for pastors to take as their initial sermon text 2 Corinthians 1:24: "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand."

The preaching office is not there for dominion, for lording it over (and nor is it there to BE lorded over as though the congregation or members in it were lords of the pastor!), but it there to be help to the people of God's joy. The great task before the men in the office of the ministry, then, is helping the people of God into an ever fuller appropriation of that joy that is theirs through Baptism into Christ. What a calling! What a life!

A friend and I were talking today, though, about a situation we hear more and more of: a lay person (maybe not the most faithful in church attendance) who came into grievous trial, hospitalized, and yet unvisited. No "helper of her joy" came to her side, to swaddle her in the promises of God's Word as she faced her end. Her husband chose to bury her from his church, rather than from her own Lutheran parish where she seemed to have not been deemed worth bothering about.

How can we be helpers to our peoples' joys if we do not enter into their sorrows with visits, conversations, prayers? What on earth can a pastor think is more important to do than to attend to the needs of the sick and dying and "help their joy" by the sweet promises of the Word and the gift of the Savior's body and blood to a blessed end?

What new vigor would come into our churches today if all we pastors remembered this high calling, saying to ourselves: I am sent here by Christ to be helpers of my people's joy, for they stand by faith.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I understand that - of course, the cynical part of me thinks, "I wonder if anyone even told her pastor she was in the hospital." A lot of time there is this terrible fear of not wanting to bother the pastor.

It must be busted down.

William Weedon said...

Yeah, in this instance the fellow knew. But what you say is often true.

Anonymous said...

If the Pastor did know . . .

Sheesh! Simply no excuse whatsoever.

But so often, the "Pastor' is the last to know, and becomes in the eyes of many a jerk through no fault of his own.

Sad, but true.

Pax - jb