Ordination Sermon for Kent Krumwiede
January 21, 2017 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Truman, MN
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
These verses from Matthew 28 are like a pair of old shoes for you, Kent. As you told me, this passage has been “visiting” you at key junctures in your life….hovering over your own Baptism….on your lips as the script for a worship skit you were in as a Sunday Schooler…and, almost inevitably, on your confirmation day, your Bible verse was this one, the Great Commission.
The more these verse have “visited” you, the stronger your own sense of call has grown, and so it makes perfect sense that today as your life comes full circle, once again, you are under the banner of the Great Commission.
But this is about so much more than good memories regarding all the ways God has been getting at you over the decades….wooing and wheedling and working on you to become a pastor in the church.
You will always “look back” when you consider Matthew 28, but in these next moments I invite you also to look forward, to the many years of pastoral ministry that await. This text is a rich, rich tool-kit for ministry, and you will never exhaust its treasures.
Let me name five of these treasures.
First there is the treasure of honesty humility in this text.
“Humility” might not be the first word we associate with the Great Commission. Some have been uncomfortable with the triumphalistic ring about the whole notion of making disciples of all nations.
It does fire the imagination—to envision Word of Christ encompassing the globe. Reminds me of the old Lutheran Hour Rallies I attended as a kid growing up over by Amboy. The venerable Oswald C.J. Hoffmann would preach a fiery sermon, but only after the “parade of nations”—local folks, arrayed in clothing reflective of all corners of the globe, filing into the arena, all singing: “Jesus, shall reign where ‘ere the sun, does its successive journeys run.” Hard not to get a shiver up your spine—when you sing bold words like those!
And yet there is a tone of sober realism at the beginning of this passage, because it says that the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them (Matthew 28:16). Eleven disciples—that doesn’t sound right---weren’t there supposed to be twelve? But there was a dropout, who abandoned Jesus and skipped out on the apostolic adventure, the Betrayer Judas.
So the eleven remaining disciples arrive at the mountain, and the Risen Jesus is there, and they worshipped him—but some doubted. Isn’t that stunning: the glorious Risen Christ right before their eyes, but some still doubted?
The Great Commission starts with honest humility: a realistic reminder that ministry in the name of the Risen Christ always involves working with dropouts and doubters. It was precisely for such folks, people like you and me, that Jesus came into the world---to call us dropouts and doubters to follow him.
May such honest humility always be your starting point in ministry, Kent. You will do your best work, pray like crazy, preach your heart out….and some will not buy it and others will have doubts. But why should any of us pastors be exempt from challenges that even Jesus faced?
The second treasure in this text is the solid grounding of our ministry, based solely on the saving work of Jesus Christ. The grounding of our ministry—the only reason we even attempt this audacious work—is that the Risen Jesus has death behind him and now sits at the control panel of the cosmos: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Again, what an audacious claim! On Good Friday, at the cross, Jesus seemed utterly powerless. But in the wild unpredictable way that God does business with us—making power perfect in weakness!—the Biggest Loser turned out to be the true Master of the Universe, God’s universe!
Kent, you didn’t get yourself into this business. God called you, and God in Christ will continue to call you. Some days—perhaps most days—that may be the only thing that keeps you going as a pastor. As we shall shortly hear in the rite of ordination: Be of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor in the Lord Is not in vain!
The third treasure in this text is that tiny word: GO. Pastors are persons on the go; they reflect a “going” God,; they serve a church that is on the move.
“Go, therefore….”the Risen Christ commands his followers. “Go!” We never outgrow our need to hear that tiny word, because the longer we live in this world, the easier it is to get settled and comfortable and, frankly, immobile.
The church of our youth, Kent, was a church that emphasized “coming” more than “going.” Come to our church where you’ll come to know God. We’ll even unlock our doors every Sunday and at other times, precisely so that persons can come to God, present themselves before their Creator.
The church of today and tomorrow, is increasingly a church about “going.” And that isn’t some fancy new fad. It is rather about taking Jesus at his word when he commanded his disciples: “Go, therefore…”
A going church is more about people than place, more about moving than settling in. A church that hears Jesus’ “Go!” clearly will be a movement more than an organization. We take our cues from a peripatetic Savior who hardly ever sat still, but was always seeking, searching out sinners, setting them free.
Pastoral ministry that reflects Jesus’ own ministry is about such going, seeking, searching finding and liberating sinners. It is about mobilizing an all-too-often immobile community, just because Jesus told us to “GO!” Get out there. There’s a whole world dying to hear what God has to say, and pastors provide the vocal cords to make that happen and the hands to raise up a whole community of Good News speakers.
So we go….and we move….but this is anything but mindless activity on our part. Jesus’ Great Commission zeroes in on specific, potent ways of continuing Christ’s work on earth. So hot on the heels of Jesus’ command to go comes the fourth treasure in this text, the sharp focus for ministry that flows forth from making disciples…baptizing…and teaching.
The momentum Jesus produces when he commands his people to Go, is purposeful. There’s an agenda here. Disciples who themselves are still trying to get the knack of following Jesus are empowered to start making others into followers of Jesus. The path begins in the water and Word of Baptism, and it continues through a lifetime of feasting on the Word made flesh, in the bread of life, the cup of salvation. The path is widened and deepened as disciples are taught what they need to know to heed the Great Commission.
So you’ll receive some gifts today, Kent. If you’re lucky you’ll get a good walking stick, a baptismal shell, a communion kit (though you may already have one), and—believe it or not!--a few more books.
Now, you and Lisa might think your house already has more than enough books—you’ve finished seminary, after all! But don’t forget that “seminary” means a “seed bed.” All seminary really accomplishes is to give you a good start on a lifetime of learning so that you’ll never run out of things to teach the people of God.
You and I and every other pastor needs to be a disciple always in formation, an administrator of the sacraments who never plumbs the full depth of baptism and the Supper, and one who teaches the faith in the face of your awareness that the more you learn the more you know how much you don’t yet know.
Finally, the Great Commission provides one last treasure for ministry: the promise of our Lord’s stubborn, come-what-may, abiding presence. For all the highs and lows, the ups and downs on pastoral ministry there is one thing you can always count on: that Jesus has your back!
That’s why Matthew’s gospel ends as it began, with the promise of Immanuel, God-with-us (Matthew 1:23). No words are sweeter to the ears of every believer, every pastor, than Jesus final words in this gospel: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
In the name of Jesus. Amen.