Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 17, Number 1
In this Issue:
A Meditation for Lent
Love's Determination to Redeem Us
by Rev. Dennis Scholssin
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to You." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."
Near the conclusion of His public ministry, Jesus began to explain to His disciples in greater detail the supreme purpose for which He had come into the world. In love, He was preparing them for what lay just ahead in Jerusalem. He told them that unspeakably shameful and bitter sufferings and death awaited Him there at the hands of His own people and the hands of the cruel Gentiles. We are told in another passage of Scripture that they did not grasp what He was telling them.
This seems strange. Jesus' words were clear and intelligible, plain statements of fact. What hid the meaning from them was their own false and selfish hopes. Wishful thinking hindered them from facing reality. It seemed unthinkable to them that He who had power over leprosy and blindness and storms and death itself should ever be in the power of enemies. Surely He would be able to disperse them with a word. They were still looking for Him to establish a kingdom very much like the kingdom of this world.
They had witnessed and experienced the compassionate love of Jesus during the past three years, but they did not yet begin to grasp the greatness and the power of divine love.
The time came in Jesus' life when He set His face toward Jerusalem, and nothing could deter Him from going and accepting the bitter suffering which awaited Him there. Nothing could cause Him to turn aside. Our theme is: LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM US.
The time had come for Jesus to take His disciples away from the surging crowds where there were so many distractions. Here in solitude, Jesus sought to instruct and prepare them for what lay ahead. The bond between them needed strengthening.
He had intimated to them before in somewhat more vague terms that He would be taken from them. He had spoken of the temple of His body which would be destroyed, and which He would rebuild in three days. Love does not cause unnecessary shock and pain, but seeks to lead others to face and accept reality in the kindest way.
But the time had come for the disciples to be told plainly what lay ahead. Jesus knew that they were still so worldly-minded. They had just recently argued about who would have the favored place in His kingdom. He understood how hard it would be for them to face reality. They were only human and thus beset by human weaknesses.
So now Jesus took them aside and plainly said: "I must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." Here was LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM MANKIND.
However, they were not at this time able to see this. His words seemed to pass over the heads of all of them except Peter. He at least partly faced what Jesus had said, but everything within Peter rebelled against it. He felt compelled to speak out.
Peter knew that there had been growing hostility and jealousy on the part of the leaders of the people, but it never dawned upon him that it would lead to the actual murder of their Master. This seemed like utter foolishness to Peter. Isn't it the natural thing for men to shun perils and dangers? Do men not try to circumvent such things? And if there is actually this danger facing Jesus in Jerusalem, why go? Why is Jesus saying such a ridiculous thing: "I must go to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed"?
So Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, saying: "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to You!" If there really is danger there, then by all means let's not go to Jerusalem. You have many friends with whom You could stay. Go to these friends and stay with them until the hatred in Jerusalem diminishes. You've made such a good beginning. Who will establish the kingdom of God if You die in Jerusalem?
Peter's thoughts were so human and seem so reasonable to us humans. He meant it well. He really believed that he was giving Jesus good advice and rendering Him a service of love in deterring Him from this journey to Jerusalem. He didn't realize that he was putting his will in direct opposition to the will of God. With the best of intentions, Peter had become a tool of Satan. He was an instrument of Satan, as the serpent had once been, tempting Jesus to turn aside from the great purpose for which His Father had sent Him into the world.
Jesus listened to Peter's arguments. Will He be deterred by this disciple who means it so well? Will He weaken in His determination to carry out the work He had been sent by His Father to do? This was a very real temptation. It was the temptation to take the "easy way." It was like the temptation to turn stones into bread to appease His hunger like the temptation to jump from the pinnacle of the temple so that people would be impressed by this display of power rather than won by a selfgiving ministry of compassionate love like the temptation to gain all the kingdoms of the world and their glory by bowing to Satan.
So now once again the temptation is: "Why go to Jerusalem when there are so many other places You could go and find friendship and hospitality? Life is precious. Why sacrifice it willingly?" And if we could look into the Savior's heart as He heard these words, we would understand that even for Him, this was a temptation. He knew the bitter agony of body and soul that lay ahead. He knew the terrible depths from which He would cry, "My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?" Might it not be possible to build the kingdom of God by just remaining in the company of these disciples and teaching them? Might people not just be able to live according to His teachings, and thus enter eternal life? Would it really require His death for man's salvation?
Will Jesus yield to the temptation? Will Peter's seemingly logical and well-meant arguments weaken Jesus? This was a crucial moment. Humanly speaking, He could have said: "You're right, Peter. Let's avoid the danger in Jerusalem. Let's go elsewhere and continue healing the afflicted and preaching." This would have been humanly possible, but it would not have been divine.
There was no wavering in LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM US. Perfect love made Him victorious in all temptation. He even spoke severe words to His well-meaning disciple: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."
Why wouldn't Jesus turn aside from the path that led to Jerusalem? There is only one answer, and it is this - INFINITE LOVE FOR LOST SINNERS. It was love for us that determined His course. He must go! Love would not permit Him to save Himself and see mankind perish. It was love that caused Jesus to rebuke Peter so sternly. Those words Jesus spoke to Peter sound harsh, but let's not forget that Peter was tempting Jesus to turn aside from the greatest work ever accomplished in the world - the work of redeeming sinners.
Wouldn't it have been better if Peter and the other disciples had said to Jesus: "If You say that it is necessary for You to go to Jerusalem and to suffer and to die there, we trust that You know best and are guided by Your Father's will. We'll go with You. We'll stand by Your side, and we'll be willing to suffer with You and for Your sake. You have loved us, and we will love You and stand with You." But these disciples were so human just like you and I. They didn't see the great purpose of God in the suffering and death of Jesus. They didn't see in Jesus LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM MANKIND.
Now we are not merely to marvel at Jesus' love and at His determination to go to Jerusalem. We are to follow Him. As Peter's thoughts that day were so human, inspired by Satan and not by God, so also we are tempted by those thoughts of selfishness - of sparing ourselves of taking the "easy way."
But the soul that has seen LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM MANKIND and has in faith received this love will more and more put those human thoughts, inspired by Satan, behind him. It is the spirit of selfishness that always whispers, "Spare yourself." It is the spirit of Christ - the spirit of unselfish love - that moves a person to take the path of Christian responsibility. It is LOVE which is the power within constraining a person to make those sacrifices which will benefit another. It is LOVE which moves a person to give of himself for the sake of Christ and his neighbor. It means sometimes giving up some of those pleasures we like, and taking that time to channel something of the love and compassion and understanding of Christ into a life that has become burdened by fear or guilt or self-contempt or just weariness.
In Christ was LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM MANKIND. This love of Jesus is the only power that can lift us out of the rut of human selfishness to that richer and fuller life of selfsacrificing love.
This is why we go with Christ to Jerusalem each Lenten season. We want to look upon that love again and again so that our hearts are warmed and moved by it. We face reality, and thus we know that we will not reach those heights of perfect love that brought Jesus to the cross. But the more we see LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM US, the more we will grow in Christ. In His fellowship, the old selfish heart dies a little more, and our thoughts, emotions, and actions are hallowed by His love.
If we would follow Christ in spirit and in truth, then we cannot take the course of least resistance. We need to seek and to follow that way of life in which He would lead us.
It is an indisputable fact that the love of Christ has kindled faith and love in many hearts. All the works of Christian mercy and charity are the fruits of this love. Great and noble sacrifices have been made for Christ's sake. Why? Because He in love sacrificed Himself on the cross for sinners.
We have to confess that we have many times failed. We saw the path of duty before us - we weighed the cost - and then we shrank back from our Christian duty. Sometimes it was because we were just lazy. Sometimes it was because we feared the ridicule of the world. Sometimes it was because we loved ourselves more than Christ and our neighbor, and chose to gratify ourselves with some pleasure.
Jesus may not ask you and me to lay down our physical life for His sake as a martyr, but He does ask you and me to love Him. Why? Is this simply an arbitrary demand? Not at all. He asks us to love Him because only if we love Him will we follow Him. And only if we follow Him can we find the abundant and fulfilling life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. But to love Him, we need to look to Him again and again and see in Him LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM US.
We said that only in following Christ can we find the abundant and fulfilling life. Satan would have us believe that happiness can be found in gratifying self, but this is an absolute lie. I would like you to think for a moment. Can you think of one single self-centered person you know who is a happy person? Tell me, when do you feel happy and fulfilled? Is it when you are selfish and self-centered? Or is it when in love you forget about having your own way and seek to understand the feelings and meet the needs of another? Tell me, do you like yourself when you live selfishly? Or do you like yourself when you give of yourself to others in love and walk that pathway of responsibility in life upon which Christ would lead you?
Jesus said that He must go to Jerusalem, there to suffer and to die and to rise again. These words show us LOVE'S DETERMINATION TO REDEEM MANKIND. Amen.
Rev. Dennis Schlossin is a retired Lutheran pastor and lives in Duluth, Minnesota.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
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A (Not So) Modern Heresy On the Rise
by Justin Lonas
"Heresy" the word sounds so medieval, something that bothered Spanish inquisitors and overzealous bishops but has no relevance to modern life.
Merriam-Webster's dictionary gives two flavors of definition for the term. The first, "adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma, denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church, or an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma" conjures up images of black-hooded thugs gleefully sharpening axes, coloring the Church as ruthlessly intolerant. The second, "dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice, or an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards" puts the burden of proof on the dissenter.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word arrived in English in the 13th century, from old French "heresie", a derivative of the Latin "haeresis" that Christian writers used to refer to unorthodox groups or doctrines (hence meaning #1). The Latin, however, comes from the Greek word hairesis, "choice" (a participle of hair??mai, "to take for oneself, to choose"). The word appears a few times in the book of Acts, often translated as "sect", and refers to the various divisions within Judaism (e.g. Sadducees, Pharisees, and even early Christians).
For our purposes then, we’ll say that heresy represents a willful departure from a historically accepted, scripturally verifiable truth, limited to "top tier" doctrines (i.e. differences of interpretation over such issues as eschatological chronology, worship practices, etc. do not constitute heresy) and to those who claim to be a part of the Church (unbelief found in culture at large is "lostness" rather than heresy). From that stance, heresy is as abundant and important as ever for Christians to be on guard against. Heresies also have, historically, produced the clearest articulations of orthodox theology (e.g. the Nicene Creed), and they are still opportunities for believers to reaffirm and sharpen their commitment to and understanding of Scripture.
One particular heresy seems to be growing in influence and popularity (and going unnoticed) these days— the concept that Jesus’ sinless earthly life is the source of His eligibility as a sacrifice for our sins and of the righteousness that justifies us before God.
Mark Herringshaw posits this in his book The Karma of Jesus (Bethany House, 2009), with the following syllogism: "I reap what I sow— Karma. I sow trouble; I get trouble. If someone lived a perfect life, would they have perfect Karma? Jesus lived a perfect life. He offers to exchange lives with me. He takes my trouble—my Karma. He gives me His consequences—His Karma. I can accept His offer." Ironically, he suggests that some Christians will probably view his statements as heresy in the preface to the book.
You probably just did a doubletake and thought to yourself, "Heresy? I thought that was the core of our faith!" Look a little closer, however, and you'll see taht the statement draws a false conclusion from the facts. Jesus’ sacrificial worth and righteousness are products of His deity, just as His sinless life was—to attribute the work of salvation to 33 years of sin-free life alone subtly opens the door to removing Christ from the throne of glory.
If Christ’s sacrifice "counts" for any reason other than the fact that He is God, then God could have simply created a man to be born of a virgin (taking care of original sin) empowered him to live a perfect life (taking care of committed sin) to satisfy His holiness. If that was all it would have taken, why would He have bothered to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14) and to empty and humble Himself (Phil. 2:6-8)? In other words, did our atonement really have to come through Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, alone?
Old Testament prophecy is clear that the Christ, the Lord’s anointed one, would not simply be sinless, but would be God Himself. Isaiah 7:14 says that the child of the virgin would be named "Immanuel" (God with us); Isaiah 9:6 calls Him "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace;" Isaiah 53:11 says that "by His knowledge, the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities." The righteousness of Christ belongs to Him from eternity past; He needed to add nothing to it for it to be complete.
The New Testament is likewise filled with references to Christ’s Deity as the means of His redemption. Paul most clearly states this in 2 Corinthians 5:21: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Numerous other places imply it strongly, such as the adoption theme of Galatians 4:1-7 (a sacrifice of sinlessness alone wouldn’t provide a way for us to be sons of God), the consistent theme of Christ being "in us" in Ephesians 3:16, Colossians 1:27, etc. (only the Spirit of God could abide in our hearts and lead us), and His ongoing role as both our sacrifice and priest in Hebrews (only God could be both).
Most importantly, the resurrection and reign of Christ, with His glory tied to His submission to the cross, proclaims that our savior and Lord have been one and the same for all time. A sinless sacrifice who was not also fully God could never have been raised from the dead and exalted as a co-ruler with God. The hymns of Revelation 5:12-13 proclaim it beautifully, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." His sacrifice did not just pay our penalty, but defeated death and Satan (Heb. 2:14, 1 Pet. 3:22, etc.)—only God could do that. The incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was His eternal plan to bring Him ultimate glory—there could never have been a substitute.
Even from a philosophical standpoint (using logic that flows from what we know of God and His character from Scripture), it makes sense that only God Himself could have been the sacrifice. A created sacrifice could never truly restore the fellowship of God with His creation because it would’ve shown God only to be exacting in His holiness to the point of cruelty, creating a being completely undeserving of death for the sole purpose of killing him. Only by demonstrating the ultimate in love and taking our penalty onto His own shoulders and raising Himself by His power could He cancel the power of sin and restore us to Himself. In that sense, the act of incarnation itself (the "emptying and humbling" of Christ) becomes a significant part of atonement, as the inseparable Father, Son, and Spirit voluntarily broke from intimacy in order that Christ could identify fully with man and become a suitable sacrifice.
Moreover, even if a sinner could be redeemed by the sacrifice of another's sinless life, that only represents a "one-to-one" trade. The magnitude of human sin could never be satisfied by a created sacrifice—infinite penalty demands an infinite payment in the form of Christ's "oncefor-all" sacrifice.
To suggest that Jesus earned the righteousness that He now bestows on those who call on His name for salvation undercuts the whole narrative of Scripture. Penal substitution without God’s giving of Himself strips the atonement of its place as a defining act of mercy, and it removes Christ from the position of power, glory, and intercession He holds after His resurrection. It fits the "legal transaction" understanding of salvation, but misses the larger point. Jesus was the "sent one" who lived a sinless life, but that is only half the story.
I’m not suggesting that Herringshaw or anyone else who espouses this viewpoint is claiming that Jesus is not God (or even remotely trying to). I don’t doubt that He is a sincere believer who is seeking for a way to incarnate the Gospel to a very confused generation. However, using this line of reasoning, as I’ve attempted to show, is a very slippery slope. We cannot forget, in the contextualization of the Gospel that takes place in each culture and for each generation, that the message itself is a stumbling block, even after it is freed from its cultural baggage. We can never make the Gospel fully palatable to an unbelieving worldview — it always demands conversion.
This approach doesn’t downplay substitutionary atonement or imputed righteousness, and all those doctrines that are supposedly insurmountable hurdles for postmoderns; instead it dabbles in the oldest deviance from orthodoxy by tinkering with the most fundamental of truths: that Jesus Christ was, is, and will always be God. Jesus is not simply the Way, not just the pathway to God; He is the Truth and Life too. Scripture makes that more than plain and our worship as believers is to be directed to Jesus in conjunction with the other members of the Trinity. As Athanasius and others through the centuries have consistently re-affirmed, our faith and hope rises and falls with the deity of Christ.
This, like most other heresies, rises out of our honest desire to grasp the mysteries of God—in this case of the mechanism of salvation. However, Satan capitalizes on our yearning, tempting us to replace faith with explanations and leading many astray from the truth. For this reason, we must always proclaim the vibrant truth of God and be ever vigilant against error, never willing to let believers make the "heresy" of choosing any alternate path.
Reprinted from Disciple Magazine, vol. 1, issue 1, 12/14/09. Justin Lonas, editor. http://www.disciplemagazine.com
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The Call to Christian Ministry In The Light of Recent Discussions
by Rev. Ralph Spears
The ‘Call’ has been sacred in the Christian Church since the time that the Lord himself called ‘the twelve’ by name and mentored their internships in ministry in the style of Isaiah 42, "I have called you by your name, you are mine!" The Call of the Prophets seems to follow the same model as that of the Patriarchs. Abraham became Scripture’s hallmark of Faith by his answer to his Call – "and God reckoned it to him as righteousness!" No less important, is the Call to a reluctant Moses and Jeremiah as well to Amos and Ezekiel because the concept of the Call is carried into the New Testament beyond the personal Call of the Apostles to their successors where Paul reminds those to follow "the Calling to which you were called - in Christ Jesus." His letters to Timothy especially the second edition, is often seen as a practicum of advice which has made this four verse letter especially endearing of the three "pastoral epistles" - to many Christians who, "follow in the train" of ministry, whether ordained or not.
These ‘Callings’ although quite varied over time, from preaching and exhorting in the cases of Paul, Jeremiah (and many others), to the leading of a forty year expeditionary force (Moses) to a calling of engineering and building as in the case of Noah; are taken quite seriously and seen as a sacred trust. In fact these become almost an outline of the gifts of the Spirit by writer Paul who had the most traumatic and phenomenal experience in being knocked from his horse, seeing the Light and hearing the words of the Lord himself. Even though his celebrated experience was sudden and decisive - Paul needed more than three years - roughly the tenure of seminary training, to assimilate and reflect on that experience before he began his signature ministry of missionary journeys.
One thing is clear – this Calling comes from God although man often struggles with it. If it is ‘real’ it can come only from that Source of all good and perfect gifts, above. (James).
A State official in New Jersey by the name of Yilvisaker, a Lutheran pastor’s son, once confessed to a Convention of Lutherans that he began to have doubts about the Call when - as he said - he saw his father pace the floor all night deciding whether or not to accept a Call that he himself had engineered. This is an indication that this sacred process is not without complications especially as man tweaks and twists it.
On the other hand, many of us, have found that the Call carries itself forward to irresistible consequences as we may consider doing something else with our lives, but cannot leave it alone because it does not leave us alone. Even Dr. Martin Luther a professor, writer, musician and theologian found his greatest compulsion in functioning as a pastor. This ministry Luther commended and clarified by saying that a pastor should be well trained, called and ordained – "for the sake of good order" in the Church. Luther also believed that ordination was not a permanent or lasting order but dependent directly on serving a Call to ministry.
A more recent example would be Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together) who was safe as a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City until drawn back to minister in Germany under the Nazi regime. An old friend, Dr. Poff, shared with me several years ago - that when Bon-hoeffer announced this decision to his fellow professors at Union including men such as Reinhold Neibuhr, they begged and reasoned with him not to go back to a certain death just as Peter did with Jesus and others did with Peter, who said that he must ‘go up to Rome’. Bonhoeffer also authored Letters and Papers from Prison describing his ministry until the inevitable did happen by special order of Heinrich Himmler, just as Germany was being liberated on the 9th of April 1945. Pastor Bonhoeffer had written in 1939 that "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die!" Such is the dynamics and the tradition of the Call!
In the latest discussions about Ordination, who can or should be ordained especially in Lutheran circles; there has been a great inversion of thought and confusion about this sacred office. The Call hardly comes into consideration in the contemporary discussions about Ordination. [It is important to remember the fine discussion of the Call in our last edition of Table Talk by Dr. John S. Erickson.]
The Call does not come from man to satisfy some ‘itch’ that he might have perceived from worldly manipulation. The Call comes only from God, and being ordained should come ONLY after a Call to ministry has been realized. Ordination after all, is not a right as some voices would have it, but a privilege. Ordination is not to be imposed by groups empowered by nothing more than an intellectual, political correctness so that they can feel some noble but false sense of fulfillment. This especially when they have no appreciation of the Call from God that sets one aside for ordination and ministry to others in God’s Name.
Besides that, the Church as a sanctioning body, has never before, ordained a person’s foible. Isn’t there something missing when we hear about ordination of ‘gays,’ or ordination of women, without hearing implied anywhere that they are first "Called?" Some have argued that being Called is implied - but it is obvious that such an important ingredient of the process has been lost or forgotten. In the rush to embrace "diversity" especially in the ELCA (well outlined in the writing of Prof. James Nestin-gen for instance) a Call is hardly necessary. Achievement of diversity has long been an end in itself in this body; a word, by the way, not prominent in any Scripture or Creed.
Some years ago I met the divorced wife of an old acquaintance, a pastor at my father’s funeral who informed me that she was pursuing ordination and ministry because it had better benefits than teaching high school, which she had done for the previous twenty plus years. She reasoned that she could do the job of being a pastor if her former husband could - and at the same time come out better at the time of retirement as a pastor than as a teacher.
Fifteen years ago a young man interviewed with us in the LMS-USA for eventual ordination, by first applying to a long established Lutheran seminary in the South. He was told eventually by this seminary’s registrar - in a deep bow to diversity – that if he was "gay" he could be assured a place in the next beginning class but if not, he was not welcome. The bewildered fellow pursued rather, a graduate degree in the field of social work.
These stories are an outrage and unfortunately, they are not isolated. This is a fault of the seminaries of the Lutheran Church, which have lost or greatly diminished any serious consideration of the Call. Rather the church has become artificial to the core, one good reason that ministry in the Christian Church has become weak and inconsistent. Respect for pastors, naturally, has suffered as well. In an increasingly man centered world in many ways, there seems to be a growing and prevalent doubt that God really does Call men and that those who still believe in that long and noble tradition are rather old fashioned and delusional.
Much depends on the seminaries, boards and agencies of Christian denominations to discern the movement of God in the lives of those who respond to a Call and help them focus and nurture the Call, because that is only the first step in polishing the ‘gem’ and producing a pastor. The candidates must then comply with the conditions of the body that would ordain them to Gospel ministry. It is NOT automatic. Perhaps the call that they feel can be answered in a more relevant manner that may be no less important to the Church than the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
The Church body is responsible to monitor the seminary candidate for doctrinal orientation, ethical and moral fitness. First, does the potential pastor really believe the living Creeds and all aspects of the Lutheran Confessions in a way that is not legalistic but in a freedom of understanding? Does he live a Christian life in so far as he is able?
Second, will he be one who can interface with a congregation in moral fitness and be a proper representative that will stay clear of undo controversy so that the congregation might easily look up to him as shepherd, confidant and role model? As Paul said in his first letter to Timothy, he must be "above reproach!"
The featured speaker at our seminary commencement was a professor who explained that at the large school where he was the primary counselor, his job was to help men OUT of the ordained ministry. As a spiritual counselor he patiently and respectfully helped candidates to work through what it was that they felt as a way of clarification and direction.
As seminarians, we were interviewed, admonished, counseled and tested as well as encouraged a bit during our experience there. We had a retiring Professor, Dr. E. E. Flack, who often repeated his quaint saying - that being a Pastor was "a rich experience" and although it was humorous at the time, he was right. Like most seminarians we were required to take a ‘test drive’ as well in the form of at least a year’s internship before graduation to see how the Office of Ministry fit. A good friend, the son of a pastor, graduated from a rather prestigious Eastern Lutheran Seminary and went directly into Air Force intelligence, explaining to me much later that he came out of that seminary believing nothing. He made the move rather than going into research as an expert in the Ugaritic language as he had been encouraged to do by a kindly professor. Many heartaches were thus avoided.
An article in Biblical Archeological Review a short time ago, concluded that a high percentage of Biblical Scholars, have little or no personal faith. Occasionally there are pastors of that same persuasion who slip through. It has been estimated that one in ten – some would say one in five – pastors are lacking in conviction and for this and other reasons, walk away from the ministry in the first six or seven years.
In a poignant account from the Gospels, Jesus says to His Apostles that "the fields are ripe unto harvest." "Pray," He said, "to the Lord of the harvest that He may send laborers" into the fields. The Call goes forward still from the Father to look to the need(s) of the world and respond according to the Call made upon us. It is at times a complex and difficult job, but overall His "yoke is easy" and his "burden is light" - "for those whom he calls – He justifies" and even "glorifies." Rom. 8:30
It is the responsibility of the Church then to ordain – PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLED first and foremost, to equip them to serve, and, seeing ever the need in the world, to "pray to the Lord of the Harvest!"
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