Note to readers: the candidates prepared for the Office of the Holy Ministry within the LC-MS will be given their calls next Tuesday in St. Louis and Wednesday in Ft. Wayne.
Less than a week from now and you’ll hold papers from heaven. No, I don’t mean LSB. I mean the sending call from God to serve Him in some corner of His Holy Church. You’re not ready and you’re certainly not worthy, but orders are orders, and that is all there is to it. Come next Wednesday, or whenever, it is too late to seek an Aaron to speak in your place. You’re Aaron. When the General says, “march,” we march, whether both boots are on or not. When He says, “Attack,” we give it all we’ve got, even if that isn’t much. Because we are not generals. We do not pick our battles. We are privates. We are thrust into battles of which we know little, often not even where the enemy is or what his real strength is, but we know that our General is good and the battle is already won. So if we are to be sacrificed or used for a delaying tactic or abused by blundering colleagues and ungrateful sheep, or if we never understand what happened at all, sobeit. He is good. He gives the orders. We sally forth: ready or not, worthy or not. OK: not. Just not, but ordered nonetheless, and that is what matters.
And since He is good, we go and we trust that He will work it altogether for good, and we, unprepared and unworthy though we are, we shall reap the rewards as though we were worthy men of valor and fame, for worthy is the Lamb who has put on sheepskin, taking the wolf’s own tactic, to fill the wolf’s mouth and save us. Does He send us out as lambs among wolves? Are we killed all day long for His sake, like sheep for the slaughter? Then He honors us for there is no greater honor than to follow in the way of the cross and to suffer a fate, even an unjust and painful fate, like unto His own.
Sadly, those honored by God in heaven are mainly dishonored on earth. The red martyrdom of confession is rightly held up among us, but the more common, and more secret, white martyrdom lasts longer, is more destructive, and brings more danger to the soul while being almost completely without honor or glory. The church on earth is full of sinners. They are a confused, selfish, and stick-necked lot with plenty of their own crosses. They judge in the way of the world. They look for success. Those who are honored among us, perhaps without exception, are those who demonstrate things that the world also loves and honors: charisma, intellect, or talent of some sort. Those whom God honors, and who are suffering terribly, often in secret, are generally unnoticed and unappreciated, or, worst of all considered to be paying for their own sins and faults. Kyrie Eleison! We were too weak for that.
Your orders are coming. It could happen to you. OK: it probably will, it almost certainly will. For not many of you are impressive, no matter what your mother thinks. Don’t bother planning speeches about how God has sustained and helped you. Don’t bother explaining how you did the right thing and it worked. No one on earth cares.
"Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us Wisdom from God, Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'"(1 Co 1:26–31 ESV).
There is that. Thanks be to God, there is that: Christ Jesus has chosen you to shame the wise. He has chosen you. He sends you. He is good and He knows what He is doing and the battle is already won. Because He lives, and this life, these orders, are temporary. They will not last forever. The battle is already won. It is. It is over. Finished. Complete. Perfect. And He lives. He does: He lives. Your sorrow, your burdens, your secret suffering shall not endure, but He, the Word of the Lord, endures forever. He does not forget and the secret sorrows of His ambassadors make for ballads in heaven that will be sung forever.
God bless you. Welcome to the Ministry.