A seminary classmate was installed at Trinity Lutheran Church, Herscher, IL on Sunday. He graciously asked me to preach. Here’s the sermon.
Feeding and tending. That’s what a shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock is given to do. Jesus repeats it three times to Simon Peter. He does so not only to restore him to the Kingdom of God, but also to show Peter what he will do after the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost.
Jesus has already breathed on His disciples and given them authority to loose and bind sins. Now comes feeding and tending sheep. These are not two separate duties. Authority to forgive or bind sins and feeding lambs go together. Jesus sets up the Holy Preaching Office to do these holy things to His holy ones.
That is why Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession in Herscher, Illinois has extended a divine call to The Reverend Eric James Brown, previously of Zion Church in Lahoma, Oklahoma. Today the Reverend Mr. Brown will again say before God and His holy angels, as well as before our eyes and ears, what he will teach and confess. The names of those Symbolic Books perhaps sound foreign to your ears. Nevertheless, they are a correct exposition of Sacred Scripture. Your pastor is under orders to preach and teach nothing novel and foreign to both Scripture and those Symbolic Books bound together in the Book of Concord.
Those are the gimbals of the Gospel for your pastor and for this congregation. Gimbals are a pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object about a single axis. If you’ve seen a gyroscope or used a compass, you have seen gimbals at work. You need gimbals to keep a ship, whether on the ocean or in space, properly navigated. The gimbals of the Gospel show the boundaries of feeding sheep on the pure milk of the Gospel. Gospel gimbals direct the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord, to you.
Pastor Brown feeds the sheep of Trinity Church with the preached Word. Saint Paul makes it clear in Romans chapter ten that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Jesus sets up the ministry of the Gospel by giving authority to men to proclaim His salvation. Jesus could have dropped this good news out of the sky or up through the soil. He instead uses men to give His forgiveness, life, and salvation.
It’s hard to believe because all mankind are sinners. The smart money is on Jesus not using sinners to preach and give the Gospel. Perhaps that is what keeps some people from the Christian faith. How can sinners give forgiveness to other sinners using what seem to be sinful things like the human voice, water, bread, and wine? Why doesn’t He just give us ecclesiastical vending machines or, better still, just directly give the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection directly to me without any middleman? Then we won’t need pastors, church buildings, and all the sinful muck that goes with these things.
Using men like Pastor Brown is the crazy, left-handed, upside-down, backward, completely out of left field thing that Jesus loves to do. Jesus dines with sinners. Jesus only dwells among sinners. He’s totally sinless, yet hangs around the better class of losers. He raises dead people. He calls a thing what it actually is and doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss what people think about it, especially if that thing gets in the way of giving the Gospel.
Jesus sets up the middlemen of the ministry of the Gospel to feed and tend sheep. Sheep are not smart animals. They need to be tended, lest they run free and are taken in by wolves. Pastor Brown, under orders from Jesus Christ, will protect you from the wolves of false teaching. Sometimes he will have to protect you from yourselves. You’ll want to follow every wind of doctrine. You’ll want to chase after what works and what is practical. You will not want to walk the lonely way of the Scriptures. Pastor Brown will be there to preach repentance toward the forgiveness of sins.
Pastor Brown will also be there on the most important days of a person’s life. He will apply water with the Word of God according to Christ’s mandate. He will forgive your sins, both corporately and individually, in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ. He will put the Body and Blood of Christ in your mouth for the forgiveness of sins. He will teach Sacred Scripture in Bible studies. He will preach the blood and righteousness of Christ that covers you and cleanses you from all sin.
Your pastor gives gifts that Christ gives His Church. He has gimbals that keep him, and you, on a steady and sure course. He feeds and tends sheep. He loves sinners redeemed in Christ. He covets your prayers and support as he stands in Christ’s place among you to give these gifts. Today the Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. What’s stunning is that the Lord sees fit to use Pastor Brown to do it.
The Lord has comforted His people of Trinity Church in Herscher, Illinois with a new shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock. No wonder Isaiah bids us to break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. Let’s be bold and substitute “Herscher” for “Jerusalem” and the prophet’s words remains the same.