You’ve been Warned

This is for pastor’s only. If you are a layman, turn around now. I’m not kidding. I’ve shared such thoughts below in Bible classes and it bothered some. I can’t blame them. It bothers me. But you don’t need to be bothered at all. Turn back now. Don’t click the read more.

This is from the introduction to a companion volume in Luther’s Works titled 16th-Century Biographies of Martin Luther. “’Master Antonius Musa, paster in Rochlitz, said to me that he once made a heartfelt complaint to the doctor that he was unable to believe himself what he preached to others. ‘God be praised and thanked,’ replied the doctor, ‘that this happens to other people too. I thought this happened to me alone.’ Musa was never able to forget this consolation his whole life long” (xciv).

I was consoled when I first read this in 2019. I have often chalked up such doubting and unbelief to Tertullian’s maxim: I believe because it is absurd. (See my blog “I Believe because it is Absurd” posted November 16, 2015. It’s within the 10-year window so this is repeating not citing myself.) On the face of it, according to the canons of religion and reason, it is absurd. No science could prove the faith, but the blind see it. No healthy person could want anything to do with the Physician who was blind and a deaf as Jesus (Isaiah 42:19). Only radically diseased people, dead people in fact, need such a Savior as this.

My father told the story – and I honestly can’t remember if he told it as fact or fiction – of two guys in the service. One guy, weekend after weekend prods and pleads with his buddy to come hear this pastor preach. So, finally he gives in and goes. They sit through a service where the pastor preached with much emotion, enthusiasm, say as an ambassador of Christ might have. On the way out, the guy who came along as a guest turns to the others and says, “Do you really believe what that guy is preaching?” His friend replies, “I’m not sure I do, but I know he does.”

I’ve always felt that a pastor ought to communicate that he does believe the news he is preaching is good. He does believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. But I know it doesn’t always feel that way. You men in the pulpit know that very often you’re sick of body and soul as you enter the list to do battle with the Unholy Three. You know that you can’t do this in your strength. This brings us to the Luther’s Sacristy prayer: “Use me as Thy instrument in Thy service. Only do not Thou forsake me, for if I am left to myself, I will certainly bring it all to destruction.”

Very, very often I feel alone out there. But so did Elijah on Horeb, John on Patmos, and Luther in Worms. They weren’t, and amazingly, the Lord was able to bring from their lips His words. Hey, you know the joke. If He can bring it from Balaam’s ass, my mouth’s easy.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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