Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Yoke of the Office

Being a pastor is hard. Not just hard work (although it is that, or at least it should be), but hard spiritually, hard emotionally... it's just hard. Now, I'm not whining, mind you. What do you expect from an office under the cross? They don't call it a yoke for nothing! But here's the thing: It's hard dealing with sin and sinners. And that's exactly what the pastoral office is. It's an office dealing with sin and sinners. It's all about retaining and forgiving the sins of sinners (John 20:22-23). And it's even harder to be in that office when you, yourself, are a sinner in need of that forgiveness.

It's hard to tell people things they don't want to hear. It's hard to preach the Law. We always want to skip the Law, excuse sin, and jump right to the Gospel. But such gospel is really no Gospel at all. That's hard. It's hard to be faithful. It will get you the cross everytime. Men will crucify you when you speak the truth in love. They will hate you on account of Jesus' Name. Your own familiar friends will desert you and betray you. A father will be against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. I always wonder what it did to Jesus in John 6 when He spoke the truth, and many of His disciples said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (v. 60; ESV). And "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him" (v. 66). That's the yoke a pastor bears, too.

But the thing about the office is that it's above, and in a sense, removed from the individual bearing it. When the pastor speaks a hard Word of the Lord, and that Word is rejected, the individual in office only bears the rejection by consequence. It's really the Word that is rejected. And the irony of the cross is, it's an honor to be rejected with the Word. That's not the way the world thinks, but it's the theology of the cross. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12). This is the Gospel of our Lord. Praise to Thee, O Christ!

Of course, what is true of the Office is true of all Christians when they are called upon to be faithful. And the promise is the same. They are blessed. They are blessed because they are baptized into Christ, the Crucified, and have the honor of being rejected with Him. Being a Christian is messy. Being a Christian pastor is even messier. I once read a very partisan sermon against the so-called "purity cult" in the LCMS (of which I, apparently, am a part... another slur that I would contend is a "blessing"), the premise being that we members of the "purity cult" couldn't handle the messiness of being a Christian, and didn't believe in the Christ who comes in the midst of our messiness and takes our mess upon Himself. To that preacher I must respond, Friend, you can't be a faithful pastor and not be messy. You can't be a faithful pastor and not know that Christ comes into our mess as one of us, only without His own mess of sin, and takes our mess upon Himself. But He doesn't just come to play in the mud with us. He comes to clean us up. And as another preacher once put it (this one with whom I wholeheartedly agree), "Scrubbing is always near violence. That is why dogs and small children don't like baths." That's the theology of the cross. It's not pleasant. But it is good. And it is necessary.

The answer to the cross is the cross of Christ. Jesus comes into our mess to pull us out of it and clean us up with forgiveness and new life. It isn't pleasant because we're comfortable in our mess. That's why it's hard to be a pastor. We're Jesus' hands in the world, pulling sinners out of their mess and scrubbing them. Some will reject that. But not all will. The Holy Spirit has His hand in this. Not all left Jesus when He spoke His hard Word in John 6. Not all leave Jesus when He speaks His hard Word today in preaching. The Holy Spirit works faith when and where He wills in those who hear the Gospel. So though being a pastor is hard, it is the best job in the world, and carries with it as much joy as sorrow, a great blessedness, a real blessedness (as opposed to the fake blessedness of the theology of glory), a blessedness that is by grace alone. It is a blessedness in forgiving sinners. It is a blessedness in being forgiven as a sinner (that's why every pastor should have a father-confessor). This blessedness is cruce tectum, hidden under the cross. It is already ours, but it is not yet apparent. But it is real. It is as tangible as water, bread, and wine. It is seen by eyes of faith.


Blogger Jim Roemke said...

Amen, and amen, dear brother. I am so very blessed to have a support like you so near. The cross is hard, being under it and "scrubbed" by it is impossible without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And our biggest enemy is our own sinful flesh and the sinful flesh of other pastors like the one you mentioned. May we ever hide under the glorious cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Thank you, brother Jim. You and your dear wife are a blessing to us as well, and we are very thankful for you. Our Lord gives us great joy, even under the cross.

8:14 AM  

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