Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Pastor as *Seelsorger*

From George Henry Gerberding, ‘The Lutheran Pastor’ - http://gnesiolutheran.com/the-importance-of-seelsorge/ (Note: Seelsorge is a German word meaning "the cure of souls")

It all has to do also with seelsorge. His office, call, private and public life all look to seelsorge. His gathering, building, moulding, and guarding his church is seelsorge. His work and acts in the house of God are seelsorge. But it all looks to and is more or less seelsorge; seelsorge in regard to his parish as a whole. Even those acts that have to do more directly with the individual still pertain to the general work.

When he baptizes a babe, by the act and by his words he instructs and admonishes all who are present; so when he confirms a catechumen and administers the Lord’s Supper. Even when he unites a couple in marriage it ought to be seelsorge, not only for those who stand at the altar, and for whose souls he will afterward care, but the ceremony itself is an object lesson and a sermon for all. And so with all his ministerial acts. They are blessings to those on and for whom they are administered, and solemn lessons for all who are present.

Seelsorge ! What a beautiful and expressive term. We have nothing to correspond with it in English.

It means the cure and care of souls. Souls are sick, sin-sick. They need to be cured and cared for. This is what a pastor is for. He is a seelsorger. What an honor ! What a privilege ! What a responsibility !

But there is not only a general, but a special and private seelsorge, e.g., a care for the individual.

It is seesorge in its narrower sense, this individual soul-cure, that we shall now consider. The pastor is not only the shepherd of the flock as a whole, but also of every individual sheep and lamb...

Deyling (in Walther) thus: “An evangelical pastor is bound not only to instruct his hearers in public, but he must instruct them privately whenever he has an opportunity; he must bear each upon his heart, and, according to the disposition of each and the different circumstances, apply to everyone entrusted to him what will further his salvation. For the teachers of the Word are called pastors, shepherds (Eph. iv. 11). Therefore, they must take care not only of the whole flock, but also of every sheep in it . If, then, one of these has wandered, the shepherd seeks it without delay, brings it back to the fold, strengthens it and heals it. The minister of the Word is stationed by God to be a watchman for the church, after the pattern of Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah (Isa. Hi. 8; Jer. vi. 17; Heb. xiii. 17). How could he be said to watch if he did not keep an eye on every part, on every member of the congregation? Further, a minister must give an account of the whole congregation entrusted to him. He must carefully inquire into the life of everyone, and instruct everyone, both publicly and privately. Pastors again are called bishops, i. e., overseers, and are commanded to oversee the flock, as well singly as collectively (Acts xx. 28; 1 Pet . v. 2). They are also called workers together with God. As now God is concerned not only for our salvation in general, but for the salvation of every particular man, so His co-worker, the minister of the Word, is bound to the same.

Cowherds and shepherds know everyone of their beasts and are interested in each; why should not the shepherd of souls bear on his heart the souls bought with the precious blood of Christ? So Paul did not cease to admonish everyone not only publicly, but specially from house to house (Acts xx. 20, 31; 1 Thes. ii. 10). Such visitation from house to house and such admonition is part of the duty of a minister. John Chrysostom, in his Thirty-fourth Homily on the Epistle to the Hebrews, emphasizes this, saying, ‘Thou must give an account of everyone entrusted to thee, men, women, and children. Think in what peril thou art! It is a thing to be wondered at, if one priest be saved.’”

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