For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 25
As I was preparing to go out on vicarage, a veteran pastor told me that my preaching would improve over vicarage as I got to know the people better. His point was that as I understood the pains and struggles of the hearers that I would be better able to apply Law and Gospel to their lives. The art of tending the flock is knowing how best to bring the Word to bear for the sake of flock, both individually and corporately. A shepherd who knows well the needs of the flock is better prepared to bring God’s Word to the flock than the most gifted orator.
Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Beware of posing as a profound person – God became a baby.” Congregational flocks need shepherds who know their sheep well. This knowledge is important in the same way that knowledge of the Scriptures is vital for one who is called to shepherd the flock. Preaching is not about impressing the flock, but about bringing to them the truth of God’s Word as it wounds and heals, kills and makes alive.
Pastors are not called to impress one another with our brilliant insights or “turn of a phrase.” Pastors are called to deliver the goods of Law and Gospel to those among whom God has placed them as shepherds. Far more important than blog posts are the words of a pastor spoken at the bedside of a saint, who will soon rest with the Lord. More comforting than the historical exposition on Christian burial practices are the words “Christ is risen! Alleluia” spoken at the graveside. More profound than the latest “theological take” shared on Facebook are the Word of Absolution spoken to a penitent sinner at a kitchen table.
Shepherds bring God’s Word to the flock on Sunday mornings, but also in so many other ways throughout the week. More important than spending time trying to be profound is the time we spend actually with the sheep, young and old, wounded and straying. The pastor’s study is an important place for him to be during the week, but ultimately, he goes to where the sheep are to bring them the Word of the cross. We never make the Word of God profound. Rather, it is in its seeming foolishness that comes its power. Nothing seems more foolish than God coming down to earth as a baby and dying a criminal’s death. But that is the profoundly simple message that we proclaim from the pulpit, in the classroom, in the hospital, at the coffee shop, and everywhere the flock is found.
Prayer – Almighty and everlasting God, by Your Holy Spirit, open our hearts to the preaching of Your Word that we might find comfort and strength in the message of Christ and Him crucified; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan
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