Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Authority, Pastors, and Christians

So, I have been working on my sermon on Matthew 8:1-13 - which has gotten me thinking about authority. Authority, in the Scriptures, is almost always tied to the proclamation of the Gospel. Indeed, as a Pastor, I have been authorized to preach and administer the Sacraments - that is my calling.

This is a calling that is often under appreciated and mocked today. The Office of Pastor is often disrespected (even sometimes by the men holding that office). But my job, my duty, is to forgive the sins of people, all and any who are repentant - I am to be a professional forgiver.

We need to refocus our thoughts on this. We need to move away from the other ideas and duties we have started pinning on pastors. A Pastor's job is to forgive sins - everything else is secondary.

However, I do also fear that sometimes, in an attempt to re-establish the focus on the roll of the Pastor as the one who is to absolve, that we will be tempted to swing to far. While I have been given this authority to preach, to proclaim forgiveness, to absolve the person who confesses any sin to me, to give our our Lord's Body and Blood... I am not the only one in this place called to forgive or speak the Word of God.

Every Christian has as his possession the Word of God and the authority to use it in his own life for his neighbor's sake. This doesn't mean everyone is a "minister" - don't go do your own fly by night church. Every Christian, in their own private and personal life can and should speak God's Word of forgiveness to those people that God puts in their life.

Some might ask where they are given that authority - that in an effort to emphasize the authority and Office of the pastor would diminish what all Christians have. Consider Galatians 4:7 - "So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."

We are sons - we are those who have the possessions of the house - all that the Father has is ours, ours to use. God's love - that is yours now - use it in your own life. God's Word - that is yours now - use it in our own life.

What then is the difference between the normal Christian and the pastor - nothing but office - I am called and appointed to do this publicly, to preach and teach publicly to all what every father ought to teach to his family. I am called to teach of God's love, the same love that one neighbor might instruct another in. And I am called to administer the Sacraments... that's the big distinction - those are communal things - to be baptized is to be baptized into the community, to commune is to commune with the community (hey, those words are related!). As I get to oversee the community, that's my purview.

But other than that - every Christian can speak God's word, every Christian can forgive, for forgiveness is given simply through God's Word. These are not in conflict, but they compliment. If you ever put or pit pastor against laity, you go beyond and against the Scriptures, which gives to us both the authority of every Christian as well as the authority of the Office.


Phillip said...

In support of your authority as a pastor, I'm in favor of enabling you to administer the Sacrament every week.

aletheist said...

What a difference it would make if all Lutherans--if all Christians--would view their pastors as "professional forgivers" above all else! Sadly, we too often fail to recognize our greatest need as human beings, let alone the means that God has provided to address it and the men whom God has called to administer them to us.

Mike Baker said...

There is no greater feeling for any Christian than to see the relief and hope rise up in the heart of a convicted sinner who has just heard the Gospel knowing that God's Word of forgiveness was spoken through your mouth by the power of the Spirit and has lifted a heavy burden from your brother or sister... especially when you consider how deeply you know that feeling in your own life. And so for this reason (on top of clear instructions from Holy Scripture) we should encourage and lift each other up with the anouncement of the forgiveness of sins. All Christians should be ready with this important and joyful task.

But the binding of sins, the overseeing of discipleship, the administration of the sacraments, the preaching office, and the vexing of consciences is a terrible and heavy burden which should be reserved for the called and ordained pastor alone. So great is this responsiblity that it should be trusted only to those who are trained, qaulified, and called to be undershepherds in the stead of Christ Himself. The pastor alone is qualified and chosen to deal in such difficult matters and all others should respect his views. It is not something that anyone should be eager to steal from him.

So, in matters that are free, let us all be free to use them... but, in matters that are burdensome, let the one who is called bear the load.