Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What Are Pastors for, anyway?

This question was recently asked in a Facebook group made up of ELCA Lutherans, lay and clergy, I'm in. There were several different sorts of answers offered. Here's what I wrote — and since that group is going to be closed soon, I figured I ought to put it in a place that won't disappear:
Key to the question, "What are pastors for, anyway?" especially from a Lutheran perspective, is Article V of the Augsburg Confession.

"To obtain such faith [that is, the faith described in Art. I-IV] God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. And the Gosepel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this.

"Condemned are the Anabaptists and others who teach that the Holy Spirit comes to us thorugh our own preparations, thoughts, and works without the external word of the Gospel."

What are pastors for? The Faith. The Gospel. The Means of Grace (of which the ministry -- that's flesh and blood pastors, not some platonic ideal of "the ministry" -- is one).

While Christ is The Good Shepherd, pastors are also shepherds of their flocks, and we confess that this is something instituted by God.
And, as I acknowledge when I teach Ordination as a fourth sacrament for Lutherans, what I wrote there is a good way to get Lutheran pastors debating.

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