Monday, September 23, 2013

For you and with you...

St Augustine once preached to the people of Hippo, 'for you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian.'  It is a marvelous phrase that comes from a powerful sermon, preached upon the anniversary of his ordination.  A longer snippet of that sermon and the context for the quote is:

“What, though, is to be dreaded in this office, if not that I may take more pleasure, which is so dangerous, in the honor shown me, than in what bear fruit in your salvation?  Let me therefore have the assistance of your prayers, that the one who did not disdain to bear with me may also deign to bear my burden with me.  When you pray like that, you are also praying for yourselves.  This burden of mine, you see, about which I am now speaking, what else is it, after all, but you?  Pray for strength for me, just as I pray that you may not be too heavy.”

“Where I’m terrified by what I am for you, I am given comfort by what I am with you.  For you I am a bishop, with you, after all, I am a Christian.  The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace; that one means danger, this one salvation.  Finally, as if in the open sea, I am being tossed about by the stormy activity involved in that one; but as I recall by whose blood I have been redeemed, I enter a safe harbor in the tranquil recollection of this one; and thus while toiling away at my own proper office, I take my rest in the marvelous benefit conferred on all of us in common.

So I hope the fact that I have been bought together with you gives me more pleasure than my having been placed at your head…” 

Augustine seems to have it about right.  The Pastor (Bishop at the time of Augustine had more in common with how we might use Pastor than with the idea of a vast diocese and hundreds of priests serving hundreds of congregations) has his office not for his own sake but for the sake of those whom he serves.  For you I am a Pastor. The Augsburg Confession seems to have this in mind when it says in Article IV:

Article V: Of the Ministry.

1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.

The sacramental character of ordination (which the Confessions themselves affirm (Article 13:12 of the Apology):  If ordination be understood in this way, neither will we refuse to call the imposition of hands a sacrament. For the Church has the command to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us, because we know that God approves this ministry, and is present in the ministry [that God will preach and work through men and those who have been chosen by men] is sacramental because of the "for you" nature of the office itself.

 But the office lives in tension with the man, baptized and set apart as a child of God, with all the baptized.  In other words, by becoming a Pastor through the ordination of the Church and its conferral of the authority of the means of grace, the Pastor does not somehow relinquish or release himself from his identity as a baptized child of God, set apart by water and the Word, and in whom the Spirit has worked to impart faith.

You note this in the liturgy when the Pastor at the Invocation signs himself with the sign of the cross along with all the baptized and not over them or at the same time in the creed when he signs himself with the sign of the cross as one voice among the many voices made one in the confession of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith.  In addition, the threefold signing of the cross (over mind, lips, and heart) at the reading of the Gospel remind the Pastor (and the Bishop) that he is not merely the speaker of the words of Christ but one to whom those words are addressed.

I also find this profoundly connected to the Sacristy Prayers of Dr. Martin Luther:

Lord God, you have made me a pastor in your church. You see how unfit I am to undertake this great and difficult office, and if it were not for your help, I would have ruined it all long ago. Therefore I cry to you for aid. I offer my mouth and my heart to your service. I desire to teach the people. And for myself, I would learn evermore and diligently meditate on your Word. Use me as your instrument, but never forsake me, for if I am left alone, I shall easily bring it all to destruction. Amen.


O Lord God, dear Father in heaven, I am indeed unworthy of the office and ministry in which I am to make known Your glory and to nurture and to serve this congregation.  But since You have appointed me to be a pastor and teacher, and the people are in need of the teaching and the instruction, be my helper and let Your holy angels attend me.  Then if You are pleased to accomplish anything through me, to Your glory and not to mine or to the praise of men, grant me, out of Your pure grace and mercy, a right understanding of Your Word and that I may also diligently perform it.  O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, shepherd and bishop of our souls, send Your Holy Spirit that He may work with me to will and to do through Your divine strength according to Your good plea- sure. Amen.

--- Quoted from The Pastoral Care Companion, pg. xviii, CPH © 2007

 For many years now it has become fashionable to emphasize the Pastor more as with the people and for the people.  Some use this as good cause to depart from the tradition of vestments.  Funny, though, vestments are designed to minimize the Pastor as a person and to emphasize the office the Pastor holds.  Perhaps it is a sign of the times and our faux egalitarian sense that we want a Pastor down off the pedestal and no better than the rest of us.  Perhaps it is also a sign of how uncomfortable we are with the idea that God comes to us in means and that the authority of the means of grace are conferred upon the Pastor by the Church.  Both must live in tension and, for the wise Pastor, neither will gain dominance over the other.  I am who I am for the sake of the people given to my care for the Gospel purely preached and the Sacraments rightly administered but I also am one who lives under that Word, by the grace of God visited upon me in my baptism into Christ, and fed and nourished at the Table of the Lord where I commune as a member of the body even as I commune others in His name and at His behest.

The people need Pastors and Pastors have this office for the sake of their people.  It is this genius of complementarity that is at the heart and core of the ministry and of the Lutheran Confessions as they describe this Office and order its responsibilities.


Carl Vehse said...

The sacramental character of ordination (which the Confessions themselves affirm (Article 13:12 of the Apology"

Not really, except in a Loeheist's dreams. Ap.XIII.12 (along with an earlier double negative, "not unwilling," is written as a suppposition, not stated as an article of doctrine that ordination is actually a sacrament or has "sacramental character" This was made clear by the writer himself in his Treatise, seven years later, when he stated (Tr.70): "For formerly the people elected pastors and bishops. Then came a bishop, either of that church or a neighboring one, who confirmed tho one elected by the laying on of hands; and ordination was nothing else than such a ratification."

Rev. Joshua Hayes said...

Fantastic quote from Augustine. Thanks.

William Tighe said...

Regarding this:

"This was made clear by the writer himself in his Treatise, seven years later, when he stated (Tr.70): 'For formerly the people elected pastors and bishops. Then came a bishop, either of that church or a neighboring one, who confirmed tho one elected by the laying on of hands; and ordination was nothing else than such a ratification'."

how is a Lutheran to respond (disclaimer: I am not a Lutheran) when a citation such as that quoted in the above-reproduced excerpt is adduced as "proof," when what it asserts is, and can be demonstrated to be, palpably false as an historical claim? That is to say, is it dogmatically true for Lutherans despite its historical status as a "howler" of the first rank?

Chris Jones said...

Not everything in the Confessions is of equal value, nor to be treated in the same way. What is clearly intended as a dogmatic statement (e.g. "We believe, teach, and confess ...") is of dogmatic authority in the Lutheran Church; but what is included as argument intended to persuade, as explanation, or as information in support of the dogmatic statements, is of value only to the extent that it is helpful or persuasive. Certainly historical "evidence" that is not historically true has no dogmatic standing in the Lutheran Church, just because it is found in the Confessions.

I'm not clear as to exactly what it is in Dr Strickert's quote that you find to be a "howler." Is it not true that in the earliest times local Churches elected their own bishops? And is it not true that the one elected was ordained by the neighbouring bishops (i.e. the bishops of the regional synod to which the local Church belonged, presided over by the Metropolitan)? Or is it the notion that this ordination was nothing more than a ratification of the local Church's election that you object to? If the latter, then your objection is of a theological character, not an historical one. The historical fact of the ordination of bishops by the bishops of the region is, I think, well-established. The interpretation that sees that as nothing more than a ratification is problematic, I agree. But it is a theological disagreement, not an historical howler.

To Dr Strickert I would say that the words of Melanchthon in the Treatise prove rather less than he is making of them. There is no conflict between what Melanchthon wrote, and regarding ordination as having a sacramental character. Certainly even when the local Church elected her own bishop, the neighboring bishops vetted the man elected to ensure that he was orthodox in faith and practice, and otherwise fit for the office. To the extent that their role was to "confirm" the election, that "confirmation" was anything but a rubber stamp, but a critical mechanism for excluding false teachers from the sacred ministry. The fact that ordination by neighboring bishops served as a confirmation or ratification of the new bishop's election doesn't mean that this ratification was unnecessary or meaningless, and it does not mean that the rite of ordination by which that ratification was signified had no sacramental character.

The point of this passage is to defend Lutheran presbyteral ordination, versus episcopal ordination; whether or not ordination is a sacrament is not at issue in this part of the Treatise. So the nisi talis comprobatio was not meant to exclude sacramental ordination; it is meant to exclude the necessity of ordination by a bishop rather than a presbyter. The nisi talis comprobatio is not saying "it's only a ratification, not a sacrament"; it's saying "the neighboring bishops aren't choosing the new bishop (the local Church does that), they are confirming the orthodoxy of the man chosen." Melanchthon (in this passage, at least) is not saying anything one way or the other about whether ordination is a sacrament.

Chris Jones said...

To be clear on the point I was trying to make with Dr Strickert:

Melanchthon is right that ordination by neighboring bishops served as a confirmation of the local Church's election. However, that does not mean that a man elected by a local Church but not confirmed by the neighboring bishops is nevertheless a "rightly called" pastor and may serve anyway. He is not; and I do not think Melanchthon was trying to claim otherwise.

Even today in the Missouri Synod, confirmation by the wider Church is necessary before a man called by a local congregation may serve as pastor. For us it takes the form of seminary education, confessional subscription, and placement on the Synodical clergy roster. And the capstone of that process is ordination by the pastors of several neighboring Churches. Apart from that process -- including ordination -- no man may serve as pastor in our Churches.

Carl Vehse said...

"Apart from that process -- including ordination -- no man may serve as pastor in our Churches."

But only by human (synodical) ordinance, not divine institution. And that official position of ordination is stated in Walther's Thesis VI, on the Ministry.

Chris Jones said...

You are entitled to your opinion, Dr Strickert, and so was Dr Walther. But Dr Walther's theses are not part of the confessional basis of our Church body. No member clergy, and no member congregations, of the LCMS make a confessional subscription to any writings of Dr Walther.

only by human (synodical) ordinance, not divine institution

I beg to differ: 2 Tim 1.6.