4th Sunday after Pentecost, (July 6, 2014)
St. John Lutheran Church, Reinbeck, Iowa
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
(Luke 24:44–49, Romans 10:14–17)
The Ordination of Rev. Troy W. Peperkorn
TITLE: “I Will Be With You”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter twenty four, as well as the epistle from Romans ten.
Today is a great day in the Christian Church, and especially for you, the saints gathered here at St. John’s Lutheran Church, and for you, Troy. Today Christ’s promises are kept once again. Today the words He spoke to His disciples so many years ago continue to be fulfilled in your very ears. Today is the culmination of years of prayer and careful study on the part of soon-to-be Pastor Peperkorn. It is the culmination of years of sacrifice on the part of many to come to this point, when he is ordained as the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church. What a great day! We are all blessed to be here and rejoice in God’s mercy this day.
When God came to Moses in the burning bush, Moses was not exactly excited about being a prophet and deliverer to the people. He had one objection after another. They won’t listen, they don’t trust me, they don’t know God’s name, I can’t speak well. To the last one, the Lord said, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”” (Exodus 4:12 ESV)
When God called Jeremiah the prophet, Jeremiah was not exactly excited about his calling as a prophet. Hear this little exchange between the Jeremiah and the Lord:
“Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”” (Jeremiah 1:6–8 ESV)
Later in our Old Testament reading, God said to Jeremiah, “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.” (Jeremiah 15:19 ESV)
Your vocation, your calling, Pastor Peperkorn, is to be God’s mouthpiece to these, His people. God cares deeply for His people. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and rise again from the dead for their sins. As Jesus Himself said,
““Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46–47 ESV)
That is the content of your preaching, teaching, and indeed your very life in this place. Repentance and forgiveness. Law and Gospel. Sin and Grace. Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen from the dead. You are here to teach people who God is by proclaiming His saving Word to them.
But God cares enough that He is not satisfied to only send a book to them. God does not text His people with the greatest news of all time. He doesn’t Facebook them. He doesn’t even call them on the phone. St. Paul does not say, “so then, faith comes by reading.” In this place, God has called and sent you as His mouth. He does this because of His great love for these, His sheep, His bride, His people.
But for you, this day, God speaks a word of promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:20 ESV) Now this isn’t a pie-in-the-sky promise. This is not mere wordplay. This is not God saying “I will be in your heart, so that every time you think sad thoughts, I will remind you that I’m really here.” No, this is God delivering the same promise to you that you will now deliver to His people. I will be with you.
But how is God with you? For every beautiful sunset there is a tornado. For every birth there seems to be a death. For every joy there is sadness. God’s promises, His enduring presence for you, are not bound to your experience. Experiences change. Emotions come and go. Feelings are just that, feelings. God does not bind His promises to you in how you feel about Him. He binds Himself to you in His Word.
God’s Word is the great, precious jewel of the Lutheran Church. It is what will sustain you when you don’t know what to do. Now God’s Word does this not by answering every tickling tricky question that your confirmation students will throw at you, or your Bible classes. God’s Word sustains you be grounding you in who you are as a Baptized child of God, and in who you are as the called pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church.
If there is one thing that I have learned as a pastor, one piece of advice that I would give, it is that you get really, really comfortable with the words, “I don’t know.” If our Lord’s Word speaks to it, well and good. But if the Scriptures don’t give you an answer, resist the urge to make up answers. I know, it sounds a little silly. But your people will learn to trust you, and you will want to be there for them, to answer all of their questions, especially the hard “why” questions that come in times of sorrow. It is at that time that you will be tempted to make up answers. But those words, “I don’t know,” free you from being God, and keep you being a pastor. You aren’t Buddah sitting upon a hill doling out advice to all who come and seek your great wisdom. You are the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church, here to proclaim good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. And that is a far, far greater thing than having the answers to all of life’s questions. This also means that when you say “Thus says the Lord,” they will know that it is from the Lord and not from your own heart.
Okay, back on task. God promises to be with you by sending you His Holy Spirit through the Word. It’s why we wear red on this ordination day. As God’s man in this place, it is your gift and your privilege to release people from their sins, to comfort them with that same Word of promise which sustains you, to exhort them and call them to repentance when they sin, and to bring Christ’s saving love to bear on this community. Our Lutheran forebearers in the faith put it this way:
1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake. (AC V)
So that we may obtain this faith. Today, dear people of God, the Lord’s promises to you are fulfilled once again. Today God places His man in your midst to give you His Son, Jesus Christ. His lips will speak Law and Gospel to you. His hands will baptize your children and grandchildren, and will give you the precious body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. He is not perfect. He’s a sinner. I’m sure you’ll learn that soon enough. But God is merciful, and knows what He’s doing, and has delivered Pastor Peperkorn to you so that you mayhear and delare the praises of Him who calls us out to darkness into His marvelous light. Receive him as Christ’s man in your midst, love him and his family, for they are here for you. God will see it done, and will draw you up into Him on the Last Day.
So now, Pastor and congregation, come to the Altar of God with prayer and thanksgiving for all His mercies. come and receive Him who receives sinners and eats with them. Come and kneel before the Lord, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Come, for all things are now ready.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.