Monday, September 23, 2013
For you and with you...
“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:
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.