A sermon on I Peter 5:1-4, for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, July 4/7, 2019.
Sometimes there are times when a pastor looks at a text on which to preach and wonders, “How am I going to handle this?” Often it comes because of a difficult section of Scripture presents itself. How will this be delivered for the congregation to understand? How can the truth, which the Holy Spirit wants to get across, be brought to light in an easy and applicable way? Sometimes the pastor comes to a lesson wondering how they will ever fit everything in a fifteen to twenty minute sermon. So many precious gems of Scripture need to be mined for the people to understand. What will be gleaned one week, and what will have to wait for another Sunday?
Today, a different difficulty exists. Peter speaks about the work of elders, or pastors, of various churches. If a pastor preaches too much about the work of a pastor, it tends to put the pastor on a pedestal. The pastor wants to toot his own horn about how God wants pastors to be treated and revered. The sermon becomes very one sided so the congregation quickly tunes out. On the other hand if we just skim over these words, we can easily put down the important work of God’s called servants. So how will a pastor handle this? I struggled with this. I thought about choosing another lesson to preach on, but that would be taking the easy way out. We will go through these verses not only looking at it from a pastoral perspective, but the work of spreading God’s Word is all of our jobs.
Church Work is Our Work
- It requires a willingness to serve.
- It has eternal rewards.
Last week we heard about discipleship. This calling is not for the faint of heart. We learned of Paul who was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, left for hungry, and suffered many other great pains. Jesus’ disciples, you and me, face many difficulties and struggles in life. However, it is exactly for the weak that discipleship takes place. The strength comes not from us but from God.
This week the theme shifted to God’s servants carrying out their ministry. God called Ezekiel to proclaim his words to the nation of Israel. Whether the people listened or failed to listen, Ezekiel had to speak. These were not the words of the prophet, but they came from God. In the gospel lesson Jesus sent out seventy-two. They preached. They proclaimed law and gospel. Those who rejected the messenger rejected the one who sent them.
Our second lesson has heartfelt words from one of the most famous apostles of Jesus, Peter. Peter appealed to all the elders. Peter was not unaware of their struggles and hardships. Peter walked with Jesus. He learned lessons, oftentimes the hard way. Jesus scolded him by saying, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23), when Peter did not want Jesus to go to Jerusalem, for it meant suffering and death. Peter denied knowing Jesus not once not twice but three times when Jesus needed him the most. Peter hurried to the tomb on Easter morning only to leave wondering what the empty tomb meant.
Peter witnessed so many miracles. He listened to the teachings of Jesus. Despite his weakness, Peter carried out his duty as an elder faithfully. He knew what all these other elders needed to hear. As they worked, as the Last Day drew ever closer, when God’s glory would be revealed for all to see, Peter encouraged his fellow elders with these words.
“Shepherd God’s flock that is among you, serving as overseers, not grudgingly but willingly, as God desires, not because you are greedy for money but because you are eager to do it” (I Peter 5:2). God has called pastors to be overseers of the congregation. At every ordination and installation service the pastor promises to carry out their calling faithfully. Congregations call their pastors to give their full time to publicly proclaim God’s Word and administer the sacraments. Through these Means of Grace God sends out his Spirit to create and sustain faith. It is only through the faithful preaching of God’s Word that the flock will be able to spot and avoid all the false teachings that so easily entangle.
With all of this in mind it might make the calling very difficult. The pastor might roll out of bed looking at their work as a job that needs to get done. The devil makes the duties feel mundane. The devil wants the job to become an unending checklist leaving the pastor feel like a failure. The sinful nature laments about another day that dealing with whatever comes up.
God’s servants do their work willingly. They are eager to carry out the responsibilities before them. God calls them to this position. God places them at that particular church or school for that exact time to carry out his work. The pastor does this willingly. It is also a position that the worker leads by example. “Do not lord it over those entrusted to your care, but be examples for the flock” (I Peter 5:3).
Leading by example is the best way to lead. The pastor does not want to preach one thing, but their life follows a different path. They will want to live their lives so that they will be examples to their congregation. Again this has to be a willing service and not a forced attitude.
The reason the pastor is so willing to do this is because of the important work that they do. They proclaim Christ. They handle the precious truths of Scripture that changes hearts. They will lead by example for they do not want anything to detract from the message of forgiveness through faith in Jesus. They are willing to carry it out for they proclaim a timeless message.
We have been speaking much about pastors, now comes the danger which I mentioned before of tuning out the sermon. This is where it really hits home. Church work is our work. Yes, the main thrust of Peter’s words is towards pastors. However, God has also placed all of us in positions to share God’s Word with others.
Parents have the tremendous opportunity to lead by example and oversee their children’s faith. Many times parents do not take this responsibility seriously. Parents bring their children to be baptized, but they forget all the rest. They will let their kids decide on where or how they want to worship. They do not bring their children to church, Sunday School, or make use of our school. Even the example of a parent’s prayer and devotional life might not be that great.
Parents need to be willing to oversee their children’s faith lives. This never stops. From birth to baptism to confirmation to graduation to adulthood parents continue to pray for their children and remind them of God’s love. Parents never stop worrying about the faith life of their child and going on to their grandchildren. They care so much for they know how important faith is. They are willing to spend countless hours in prayer and encouragement for they know the importance of this work in the family.
God might have placed someone in a situation where they can profess Jesus to their neighbor, friend, or acquaintance. People might look at our example of how we live and have questions. Are we ready to give an answer? Or are we more ready to give them the run around?
Church work is our work. The pastors equip. All of us should be willing to proclaim God’s Word. Some of us might have a family member that has been straying from God and his Word the last couple of years. We might know of a good friend that we have not seen for many months or years here at church. Church work is our work. We will proclaim to them the good news of Jesus. We will welcome them back to church. Why will we do this? Peter answers this question.
Peter already warned the elders not to be greedy for money. A much greater reward awaits all the elders who faithfully carried out their work. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive an unfading crown of glory” (I Peter 5:4). Peter knew the day was approaching. Jesus would come back. On that day Jesus will give all his believers the victor’s crown.
No greater reward can be given. At funerals pastors remind those people mourning the loss of a friend or loved one about the great victory that has been won. Some get the privilege of claiming this reward before us. All of us look forward to this great reward.
The pastor strives to keep this reward in front of all his flock. The pastor faithfully proclaims the gospel for this very reason. The pastor desires to see all the members of his congregation receive the crown of victory that Jesus won for them. It weighs heavily on a pastor, as it should on all of us, when people take their faith for granted or looks to enter into heaven by their own works or by other means.
The devil he tries to undo all the hard work. He works hard to get people away from the gospel message. He loves it when people take God’s Word for granted. He longs for the time that we place a job or sports above God and church. He twists God’s Word to suit what people want to hear. He wants people to blur the lines between what is sin, and what it is not. The world wants us to question the reward waiting for us.
This is why we need to hold strong. This is why a pastor’s job is so important to proclaim law and gospel. Sin needs to be pointed out, so a person can repent. Grace needs to be proclaimed, so we know that Jesus paid our debt. This message needs to go out so that all people can hear that wonderful news.
Church work is our work. Everyone needs to proclaim law and gospel. Are we willing to have a person lose their crown because we do not want to speak? Are we willing to have harm come to faith because we are not willing to warn? Church work is our work. We will continue to proclaim God’s Word so that all may know his name. Our work is to proclaim Christ, so that his kingdom might be enlarged. Our work is to proclaim the gospel, so that all may know of the reward given to them.
This brings up one last important part of this section. Pray for the leaders of the church. There are many volunteers that give of their time to carry out the mission and vision of the church. Pray for them. Pray that their work might be a joy and not a burden. Pray that God may bless the plans they lay out for the church.
Pray for the called workers of the church. God has placed them as overseers of the flock. Pray that God may be with them. Pray that God would make their work a joy. Pray that God would give them the courage and boldness to proclaim his Word no matter what the cost might be. Pray for their families that often times sacrifice so many things so that a pastor can be by the bedside of a dying member or a teacher helping a student who needs extra attention.
Pray for the future workers of the church. Pray for the four members of this congregation that are training for the full time service in the ministry of the church. Pray for the hundreds of people at Martin Luther College studying to become pastors, teachers, or staff ministers. Pray for the students at Luther Prep and Michigan Lutheran Seminary that God might lead them to consider full time ministry.
I am sure that all of you have heard about the pastor and teacher shortages. Right now over one hundred vacancies are in need of pastors. Teacher vacancies are around the same. Pray that God may continue to fill the pulpits and classrooms. Encourage a young person who might have the gifts to consider the ministry. Pray that God may use them.
The work never stops. The fields are ripe for the harvest all over this world. Church work is our work. We should all be willing to step up and proclaim God’s Word. This needs to be done for the rewards are eternal. What a joy it is to share in the work with this congregation, our area congregations, and all across our synod, as we work together and pray together for God’s will to be done. Church Work is Our Work. Amen.