Bishop and Christian*, July 2017

Why Does the Pastor Read the Readings?

Notice: the title of this is not “Why Must the Pastor Read the Readings.” Which means that this is not about why no one else can or may read the Scriptures in the Divine Service. It is about why I, as the pastor in this place, read them.

It starts with Paul’s instructions to the pastor in Ephesus, with whom I share my name: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). This refers explicitly to the reading of the Scriptures in the assembly of the congregation, as Nehemiah 8:7-8, Acts 13:15, and 2 Corinthians 3:14 make clear. Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy are certainly enough for me. But, it’s true, Paul does not command that it must be so everywhere and always.

The second half of why I read the readings publicly is—as you probably get tired of hearing from me—vocation, vocation, vocation. Must a nurse be the one to check your blood pressure when you go to the doctor? Must a mechanic be the one to check your oil or fluid levels when you take your car in? Must the plumber be the one to undo the pipe that leads from your sink to the ground? Must the pastor be the one who reads the readings? To all of those “musts,” we must say no. There’s nothing that would prevent anyone from doing any of those things. There’s no command or law that rules any of those things off-limits to someone who hasn’t been trained as a nurse, mechanic, plumber, or pastor.

But that’s not really the point. The point is the realm of responsibility that’s been given to particular people for particular things. The pastor has a very limited sphere of responsibility: the Word and the Sacraments. That’s it. Only when it comes to what is spoken from the Word of God and what pertains directly to that does the pastor have an explicit responsibility. About everything else that happens in a congregation, the pastor may—probably does—have opinions. But the pastor’s opinion has no more weight than anyone else’s about a budget, or the church grounds, or schedules and times, or any number of other things that do not fall within the realm of the Word and the Sacraments.

But why does God call pastors to congregations? Precisely to give His people His Word and His Sacraments. This is why the very first two items on the “Supplement to the Diploma of Vocation[!]” that you sent me when you called me to be your pastor say “In the name of the Triune God and by His authority, in order that we may carry out His mission to the world, we hereby authorize and obligate you: To administer the Word of God in its full truth and purity as contained in the Sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and as set forth in the confessional writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as found in the Book of Concord; To administer the holy sacraments in accordance with their divine institution.”

That’s my goal: to do what you called me to do the best that I can do it. The “administer[ing of] the Word of God” includes reading that Word publicly and regularly in the Divine Service. I do not read the Scriptures out of a misplaced sense of having to be in control, or having to be in front, or having to be seen. If you know me, you know that the last thing I like is drawing attention to myself. (Ask my wife: if we have the music up loud in the car, I have to have the windows closed so the people around won’t look at us.) I simply want to carry out my vocation among you: to give you the Word and Sacraments that are Christ’s life for you as you go out each week to do the responsibilities of your vocations.

God has given us each unique, though sometimes overlapping, vocations. Let’s rejoice together in the way that God distributes His gifts to all the members of Christ’s Body, and the ways that He serves all of us through each of us.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

Living Water

 

Video of the Divine Service here.

Bulletin here.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On the last and great day of the feast, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me; and let the believing one come to Me and drink. Because, as the Scripture says, ‘Out of His belly rivers of living water will flow.’” Out of whose belly? Out of the believer’s? No. Because Jesus, John tells us, was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who was about to be given to the believers, but He had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified. The believers are the ones who will be given the Holy Spirit. The believers are the ones who come to Jesus and drink. They are the thirsty ones, whose thirst will be satisfied.

How do I know—in spite of our English translations—that Jesus is speaking of Himself when He says that rivers of living water will flow from His belly? Because there is another great Sabbath day coming in the Gospel of John. Prior to that great, important, significant day—like this great, important, significant day of the feast—the leaders of the Jews did not want crucified men hanging on their crosses and dying. So they asked Pilate to get rid of the bodies. The soldiers, in order to hasten death, break the legs of the one and then they break the legs of the other. But when they come to Jesus, they see that He is already dead. So they don’t break His legs; as the Scriptures say, Not one of His bones will be broken. Instead, a soldier pierces His side with a spear and—John tells us—immediately, blood and water flowed forth. He says, I saw it, and I bear witness to it, so that you may believe. So that you may believe, and come to Him and drink. From His side—from His belly—flow rivers of living water.

Continue reading

Bishop and Christian*, June 2017

164 years ago next month, the very first president of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther, wrote this in the official publication of the Synod, Der Lutheraner:

Whenever the divine service once again follows the old Evangelical-Lutheran agendas (or church books), it seems that many raise a great cry that it is “Roman Catholic”: “Roman Catholic” when the pastor chants “The Lord be with you” and the congregation responds by chanting “and with thy spirit”; “Roman Catholic” when the pastor chants the collect and the blessing and the people respond with a chanted “Amen.”

Even the simplest Christian can respond to this outcry: “Prove to me that this chanting is contrary to the word of God, then I too will call it ‘Roman Catholic’ and have nothing more to do with it. However, you cannot prove this to me.”

If you insist upon calling Romish every element in the divine service that has been used by the Roman Catholic Church, it must follow that the reading of the Epistle and Gospel is also Romish. Indeed, it is mischief to sing or preach in church, for the Roman Church has done this also.

Those who cry out should remember that the Roman Catholic Church possesses every beautiful song of the old orthodox church. The chants and antiphons and responses were brought into the church long before the false teachings of Rome crept in. This Christian Church since the beginning, even in the Old Testament, has derived great joy from chanting…For more than 1700 years orthodox Christians have participated joyfully in the divine service. Should we, today, carry on by saying that such joyful participation is Roman Catholic? God forbid!

Therefore, as we continue to hold and to restore our wonderful divine services in places where they have been forgotten, let us boldly confess that our worship forms do not unite us with the modern sects or with the Church of Rome; rather, they join us to the one, holy Christian church that is as old as the world and is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. (This is translated from Der Lutheraner, July 19, 1853, page 163.)

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”