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In the Place of Christ: The Key to Understanding the Office of Pastor

April 30th, 2010
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I bump up against it more often than I care to admit. There is around an ever lingering low-church, Pietistic, sneering disdain for the office of pastor, as if this office were optional for the congregation, or merely a nice “extra” for the priesthood of all believers. Such a foolish notion! Sheep and shepherd, shepherd and sheep. That’s the way our dear Lord has gifted His church. Blessed Martin Chemnitz gives but one beautiful reason Christ gives us pastors, for the sake of His Blessed Sacrament:

So in the action of the Eucharist the minister acts as an ambassador in the place of Christ, who is Himself there present, and through the ministers pronounces these words: “This is my body; this do, etc.” and for this reason His Word is efficacious. Therefore it is not a man, the minister, who by his consecration and blessing makes bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but Christ Himself, by means of His word, is present in this action, and by means of the Word of His institution, which is spoken through the mouth of the minister, He brings it about that the bread is His body and the cup His blood. — Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Examen* II:229

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  1. April 30th, 2010 at 22:18 | #1

    But what makes a pastor different – aside from function – from any other believer? It seems that saying “in the place of Christ” implies that we do need more than one “mediator between God and man.” And how does one support this role scripturally?

    • May 1st, 2010 at 04:19 | #2

      The pastor is called by God, to this office of service [which is what "diakonia" means], by Christ, through the Church, for the sake of Christ and the Church. Alden, there is no talk in the Chemnitz quote of “mediator.”

  2. Mike Mapus
    May 1st, 2010 at 07:04 | #3

    Pastor McCain,

    What of the use of lay readers or parishners who give the childrens sermon? I ask this because, this was big in my old ELCA congregation 10 years ago. I now see this creeping into our own LCMS congregations. I personaly don’t agree with it, I think that is part of the pastors role of exercising the Office of the Keys. Or am I overstating the role of the pastor?

    Thanks

    • May 1st, 2010 at 07:13 | #4

      I have never been very clear on the purpose of such things either. What bothers me about the use of laity in the conduct of the Divine Service is the underlying assumptions that seem to motivate some to adopt the practice; namely, that these practices are how “to involve the laity in worship.” Which could not be more of a wrong assumption. The laity *are* involved in worship precisely as they … worship! They are the royal priests of God offering up their sacrifices of prayer, praise and thanksgiving. The pastor is merely the servant of Christ facilitating the laity’s reception of Christ’s gifts and responding to Him with their worship and praise. The point of the Divine Service is not to be “doing things in the chancel.” That’s my .02.

  3. Mike Mapus
    May 1st, 2010 at 07:16 | #5

    @ptmccain

    I agree, thanks.

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