Sunday, March 13, 2016

Putting words in God's mouth. . .

We live in a dangerous time.  Our people want us to explain the unexplainable God and to make reasonable the unreasonable God so that they can comprehend Him, predict Him, and, of course, control Him.  And we preachers are so desirous of pleasing our hearers that we are severely tempted to do what they want and put words into the mouth of God. We do it all the time.  After a while it is easy and even pleasing to do so.

God does many things for which we have no explanation.  He has given us no insight into His psyche so that we can extrapolate and speak where He is silent or unpack His word where it speaks mystery to our ears, minds, and hearts.  When natural disaster strikes some, we want to be able to explain why without simply invoking the science of weather or earthquake, etc...  When natural disaster spares some, we want to be able to explain why -- not in terms of what we know but in the realm of the murky mind of God.  We love to speak about God being in charge but we really don't want a God who is in charge unless that means He is in charge of protecting us, preventing harm from coming our way, and providing what we do not deserve but clearly desire.

I have been to funerals of young moms or dads in which the preacher sought to comfort us with the presumption that God needed this parent more than his or her children.  I was once being interviewed on air when it an earthquake hit Japan and as we went to commercial break the interviewer told the audience I would explain why God smote the pagans.  I have desperately wanted to be able to mine the mind of God when disconcerting and tragic events happen (near and far) and I am sure every pastor has felt the same desire.

But.... yes... there is always a but.  Apart from the Word of God (Scripture) and the Law and Gospel, we have no secret clue into the mystery of God's ways.  The only sure word we have to say to others is the same word we have to say to God -- what He has first said to us and with an "Amen" behind it.  God has not given the proclaimer or the prophet the right to add or subtract to and from His words.  He has done exactly the opposite and woe to him or her who presumes to speak where God is silent or refuses to speak where God has commanded.  The Lord has called the preacher to preach His Word, in season and out, and promised that through this Word He will accomplish His purpose.  The Lord has not gifted the preacher (or pastor) with the right to speak his own opinion as the edict of the Lord.  The pastor is not necessarily the brightest bulb in the room but he ought to be at least the most faithful -- speaking what God has spoken and silent where God has not.  And the people ought to at least recognize when opinions are being flaunted from the pulpit instead of the Word of God and give those opinions the same weight they do the opinions of others (not the Word of God).

The preacher (pastor) stands in God's stead to speak what God has spoken and do what God has commanded.  Sermon and sacrament form the nucleus of this authority as well as the boundary.  When the pastor absolves, he is NOT speaking on his own but in the stead and by the command of the Lord (John 20:23, among others).  When the hearer does not heed or accept this absolution, then the hearer is rejecting not the pastor but God Himself.  Where God has spoken and what God has commanded, we have no choice but to speak and to listen.  Where God has not spoken and where there is no command of God, we dare not bind the consciences (thus saith the Lord...).

We have got to stop putting words in God's mouth and calling them His and we have got to stop being reticent about saying what God has commanded.

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