Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.
We Are Watchmen!
Here is a sermon for all Christ's servants of the Word, and those who hear them, as it was preached to the pastors of the Utah Circuit of the Missouri Synod's Rocky Mountain District during Matins of their January winkel at Trinity, Layton. You can give it a listen by clicking the mp3 link provided above or read the preaching manuscript below.
FYI, there are a couple things in the preaching not in the manuscript.
"We Are Watchmen"
TEXT: "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18 If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 20Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul." Ezekiel 3:17-21
Dear Brothers in Christ,
We are watchmen over the House of Israel, Christ's holy Christian Church, His beloved bride, and the souls entrusted to our care who make up the body that is the flesh of His flesh here on earth having become one with Him in Holy Baptism.
As watchmen over His beloved bride we are entrusted with the care of the ones who are each members of the one whom Christ loved . . . and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27
Therefore, watchmen, 1This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
We are not here to entertain them. We are not here to massage or heighten their feelings of self worth, or spirituality, or even about their church for that matter. We are not here to get as many people involved in the worship service as possible beyond their vocation as hearers. (Truth be told, as a rule, we probably have way too many people doing way to many things when it comes to the public worship service.)
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1
We are not even here to be winsome.
1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Whether somebody likes what we have to say and do, or even whether they believe it or not is, frankly, not our concern.
"Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. 11And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD,' whether they hear or refuse to hear." Ezekiel 3:10-11
Which means, since also the true church is invisible, we are not to measure our success by visible growth. As Paul writes: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
No, the primary task of the watchman pastor, not just in preaching, but in all of his pastoral, watchman ministry is to be trustworthy—i.e. faithful in delivering that which was first delivered to him, rightly distinguishing between Law & Gospel:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13
In his treatise on "The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Walther writes:
"When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. [And, I would add, often are threatened with termination or starvation if they do not yield, and are even tossed aside in favor of men who will yield and make concessions for the sake of peace and the pleasing of human appetites and desires.]
"But, [Walther continues], in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!" [p. 28, Fourth Evening Lecture, Oct. 3, 1884]
So, dear watchmen of the Lord, we are here for one reason only—to feed the members of Christ's beloved bride the pure Word and Sacraments of our Lord, not just the parts that we or our people like to speak and hear, but all of it and to do so according to His command as per that great commission statement so often used to do exactly the opposite in the name of outreach or casuistry.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
This One who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, sent forth first prophets many of whom were stoned and killed for the very message they delivered; and then apostles, all but one of whom were also executed for their preaching--
• His prophets as His forerunners to speak boldly and with authority on His behalf, as He tells Ezekiel at least twice, once in Chapter Three (our text) and then again in Chapter Thirty-three.
• His apostles for the same purpose with the same authority as He tells Peter three times:
"Feed my lambs." . . . "Tend my sheep."" . . . "Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." 19(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me." John 21:15-19
Clearly, we are not here to make things easy for ourselves either; to choose our battles or pick the hill of our choice to die on. Again, we are here for one reason only—to feed the sheep of Lord's pasture the pure Word and Sacraments of our Lord, not just the parts that they or we like, but all of it and to do so according to His command, with His authority.
16 "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18
For us 21st century watchmen, this stewardship of the mysteries on behalf of Christ for the sake of His people, and the discipline towards those who have not yet been taught the faith once delivered to us--or who have heard and reject some part or another of it--comes together at the Lord's table, where we stewards, watchmen, and pastors are given to make the hard decisions for which we make the big bucks.
AC XXIV: on The Mass--No one is admitted to the Sacrament without first being examined.
AC XXV: on Confession--Confession in the churches is not abolished among us. The body of the Lord is not usually given to those who have not been examined [1 Corinthians 11:27-28] and absolved. 2 The people are very carefully taught about faith in the Absolution.
This might well be a hard thing as far as the consequences we may have to bear, along with our families, but as St. John Chrysostom noted, "The floor of Hell is littered with the skulls of bishops and priests." [who were less than faithful and trustworthy in their God given roles as watchmen.]
I like this paraphrase of my friend from Texas, Pastor Joshua Sullivan better, but it is still a hard pill to swallow.
"The chancel steps are littered with the bones of faithful priests who would not give into this rank heresy but would rather die defending the honor of Christ's Bride."
But being a faithful watchmen, as dangerous as it might end up being, is not particularly difficult as to the actual duty.
4And he said to me, "Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— 6not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. 7But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Ezekiel 3:4-7
And in being the faithful watchmen--as we "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." [Jude 3] so that all those delivered to our care as seelsorgers might "come to the knowledge of the truth . . . [about the] one God, and . . . one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," [I Timothy 2:4-5]; and as we deliver everything that God has breathed out upon us that is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the [men] of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" [2 Timothy 3:16]--we ourselves feast most sumptuously. For we get at least a double portion in that what our people hear in our preaching and teaching we hear as well. What we deliver at the Lord's altar we receive as well. And if we are preparing faithfully, every sermon and every lesson preaches and teaches to us first.
1And he said to me, "Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." 2So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. 3And he said to me, "Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it." Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. Ezekiel 3:1-3
Yes, my fellow watchmen, feast sumptuously on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God, that we have been taught, and continue to be taught as we study the Word and our Lutheran Confessions of the faith to prepare our sermons and Bible studies, and as we learn from one another. 10For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 11Command and teach these things. . . . set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:10-16
Dear Brothers, we are watchmen over the House of Israel. It is not easy. It is not glorious by worldly standards. But the burden is light when you remember that it is the Lord's burden. And as we are given to carry the cross that is His glory, it is He that carries it for us. Indeed He who carried our sins to Calvary, is carrying us all the way. He who wore a crown of thorns for us, gives us that same crown to wear for a time. But there is a better crown to come for those who remain faithful unto death as our circuit brother St. John of St. George told me recently, "You are going to wear the crown in heaven - don't forget that!"
God grant it to be so for each of us and the beloved people we are given and blessed to serve—in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.
Send Rev. Kurt Hering an email.