Below is my manuscript for my sermons on Sunday, October 15. We are in week two of a five week series focusing on themes for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The lessons were 1 Peter 2.4-6, 9-10 and John 14.1-7. Recordings from the three services are above, each had some audio issues. I've also included my Small Talk (Children's Sermon) from Emmanuel.
I'm not happy with the finished message. If you compare any of the audio versions to the manuscript, you will see I strayed and went into materials I read but hadn't committed to paper. I still have two more tries at this as I will be leading services at two assisted living facilities.
EDITED 10/15/17 at 255pm: I forgot to include a link to the Living Lutheran article.
Have you ever wondered what the difference between a pastor and a priest is?
It is at the center of one of the issues added early in the Reformation.
A priest is an intercessor, someone who intercedes on someone’s behalf. As a priest intercedes, they speak on behalf of those for whom they are advocating. They get between that person and the one in authority.
This practice changed along the way for the God’s chosen people. Early in Genesis, God spoke and interacted with Adam and Eve, Noah, and Abraham and Sarah. God wrestled with Jacob. But when the Israelites were being brought out of slavery in Egypt, things changed. God spoke to Moses, and only to Moses. Interacting with God was dangerous. Moses had his face shine after talking to God. People died when coming in contact with sacred things, such as the Ark of the Covenant.
So within the people of Israel, a priesthood was established. The tribe of Levi was set aside to be priests. They prayed on behalf of the people and spoke directly to God. Once a year, the Chief Priest would go into the Holy of Holies, the part of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer up prayers of forgiveness in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. This was a special honor, and terrifying one, as well. Just in case God was displeased, or if the priest did something wrong, a rope was tied around his ankle. Should he not come out in a reasonable time, they would use the rope to pull his dead body out of the area.
Priests were people set aside for this responsibility. Priests could intercede on your behalf. Other holy people, such as saints, and Mary, the mother of Christ, could intercede on your behalf, and so people would pray to them, asking them to pray to God on their behalf.
And Martin Luther disagreed.
Luther said we have only one mediator between ourselves and God and that is Jesus Christ who lived, died and was raised so that the intercession on our behalf has been done already. Christ is the only intercessor we need. Why should we pray to the saints to ask God for what we can ask of God directly?
Luther instead argued that we are all part of a royal priesthood, that we all have access to God, and we should use it rather than casting our burdens solely on the priests.
Luther didn’t believe that each of us should individually be a priest, but that collectively, as the Body of Christ; we do this priestly work together.
In his letter, Peter writes that God has chosen them, called them to be the church. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”
By the grace and glory of God, we have been called out of the darkness of this world, out of the darkness of our sin in order to be a light for ourselves and others, reflecting the light of Christ Jesus. We are to be a beacon of another way to live, to shine by sharing what has been given to us by God.
Our priestly duties are to intercede for one another, both with God and within this world.
One of the things that I am learning the more I read of Luther’s works is how radical and extreme is his call to care for the neighbor. If you remember from the Small Catechism, he extends the Eighth Commandment’s prohibition of baring false witness to not just telling the truth, but to “Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”
He extended this to taking care of the neighbor as well. Luther’s objections to the sale of indulgences that I talked about last week went beyond the theological to the economic. The money spent on indulgences was better spent to take care and provide for your family. Or, if their needs were provided for, you could use that extra cash to provide for another family whose needs were unmet.
There is an article in a recent issue of Living Lutheran magazine that I describes what I’m getting at. In the first five years of the Reformation, Luther and others established a Community Chest of funds that could be used for “financial support for orphans and poor children, dowry support for poor women, interest-free loans, refinancing for high-interest loans, education or vocational training for poor children, and vocational retraining for adults. Health care was added later, as the Common Chest funded the services of a town physician and paid the cost of hospital care and other treatments.”
Luther said our good works are not needed for our salvation, but through them others may be saved. This neighbor-love is central to what he saw in the Bible. Over and over and over, we are told to care for one another. But when we choose to turn away, we are denying the world the gift that we are.
It isn’t just our gifts that our reluctance can deny the world. If we do not help those in need, we deny the world the gifts of those who cannot give of themselves because they have a full-time job just surviving to the next day. But if we help and share and give, the world becomes more blessed by the blessings coming from others.
In the Large Catechism, Luther also expanded the Fifth Commandment, you shall not murder. He argued that it is not just prohibiting taking a life, but it is a call to preserve life. “If you see anyone who is suffering from hunger and do not feed her, you have let her starve.”
Being a royal priesthood means that we intercede for each other, not just with prayers, but with ourselves, with our gifts, talents and abilities, with our hearts, minds, souls and bodies. That we live out the command Christ gave during his Last Supper, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Shortly after giving that command comes the passage we heard as our Gospel lesson. Even after all they have seen, heard and experienced, the disciples still don’t understand. They want to know God. Even knowing what dangers have befallen those who have dared to enter God’s presence, they want to know God.
And Jesus tells them that they do. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also.” Being in the presence of God can be terrifying. But being in the presence of God is also being in the presence of pure love.
Being a part of this priesthood means we have to share in both. We are in the middle, between God and a grieving, hurting world, and move between the two. We take the love from God, and give it to those who need to know they are loved. We take their pain, worry and concerns and give them to God, trusting in God’s mercy.
Being a part of the priesthood of all believers is an extension of understanding that we, the Church; we, all believers, are the Body of Christ here on Earth, and we are responsible for continuing the work and being the example that he was. That we are to lead lives of generosity, care, compassion and radical love, not just to ourselves, but also to others, to those who love us, like us, don’t know us and despise us.
As followers of Jesus Christ, as those claimed by God in our baptism, as those made in the image of God, our royal priesthood is to do the work Christ modeled. We are to live a life worthy of this gift. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. We are saved to serve. We are forgiven to give of ourselves.
We are called to stand in the middle. What an amazing place to be. AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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