Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, that I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke it is easy, and my burden light. Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
There were then in the church that was in Antioch certain prophets and teachers; Barnabas, and Simon whose name was Niger, and Lucius Cyrene, and Manahen, who had been raised with Herod the Tetrarch, and Saul. Ministering these to the Lord, and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: Separate Barnabas and Saul for the work for which I have called them. And having fasted and prayed, they laid hands on them and sent them. Acts 13: 1-3
In Antioch of Orontes, the third largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria, Egypt, the first Christian community grew where most were of non-Jewish descent. It was in Antioch that Jesus' followers were first called Christians (Acts 11: 19-30). The city became the center of Christian missions, especially Saint Paul's three mission trips. The story of Antioch's first mission begins with a list of five names of church elders there. The former is Barnabas, as the man to whom the congregation really owed its solid establishment, and the latter is Saul, later known as Paul. It was the will of the Holy Spirit that Barnabas and Saul be consecrated and sent to other cities to publicly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With God's will thus revealed, the congregation held a solemn ordination service. Having fasted in preparation for the event, they joined in urgent prayer that God would bless and prosper the two chosen servants in their work, and then laid their hands on them in a sign of blessing and official appointment. This was the method of separating or delegating them to the office of publicly preaching the Word of God and administering the sacraments.
We use this method today in the Lutheran Church. Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession, one of the defining documents of our teaching and practice, says that no one should be allowed to preach publicly and administer the sacraments without a legitimate call. This means that there are no self-appointed preachers. It is not enough to say that I feel that the Holy Spirit calls me in my heart. The missionary must be prepared, examined, and publicly placed in the pastoral office with the Spirit using the church as his instrument.
But the Lutheran Church does not consider ordination as a sacrament. It does not confer any special grace on the ordained. Our Lord instituted the office of preaching and administering the sacraments, but no particular ordination rite. Although the apostolic church dedicated men to this ministry through the laying on of hands, it is not necessary for a valid ordination that the laying on of hands be received from a bishop who is supposed to have received the laying on of hands directly in an unbroken line back to the apostles. Although ordination generally involves other members of the clergy, the right to call and send missionaries belongs to the entire church, the people of God, not just the bishops. Because the authority of the pastor or bishop is not in his own person, but in the Word of God in which the Holy Spirit is active for the renewal of earthly life and to lead to eternal life with Christ.
Almighty God, your faithful servant Barnabas did not seek renown, but generously gave up his life and possessions to support the apostles in their ministry. Grant that we may follow his example by leading a life devoted to charity and the extension of your gospel. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, always one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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