EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
Beware False Pastors
July 22, 2018
Don't Take My Word For It
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You shouldn't trust me.
Pastors lie. We omit. We leave things out that should be left in and we put things in that should be left out.
Pastors worry about what you think. We don't want to rock the boat and risk our jobs. It's not so much that it's a cushy job; it's that we don't like change and then we like it too much. But we pull our punches, thinking that it's best for the church, when it's probably because we're scared.
So don't trust your pastor.
But you need to trust someone. And yes, you need to trust in someone.
Someone who has no one to trust in is someone who isn't really living. They drift without purpose or hope. And so everyone needs to trust in something. But what you put your trust in is the key.
You can put your trust in some pretty awful things. For some, the something is carnal pleasure, wine, women, and song. For others, the something is the screaming belief in murdering babies, but only when you really need to.
You can also put your trust in some good things. For some, the something is family. For others, the something is the synod, our national church body. For still others, the something is their pastor.
Don't trust family.
Don't believe in the synod.
Don't take my word for it.
Instead, take Jesus at His word. When He says to you through your pastor, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” take Him seriously. It's true. When Jesus says that wretched liars are forgiven, and by grace and by His blood we are judged by Him to be truthful, it's true.
His good word gives you a family that is eternal.
His good word gives you a congregation where the truth is preached.
His good word gives you a pastor who speaks not his own word, but the word of Christ, your dead and risen Savior for you.
And that is how you know the good pastors from the bad ones. Not by how we look. Not by how young and energetic we look; not by how old and wizened we appear, but by what we say.
Jesus said: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. You do not gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, do you? So then, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15–20, Evangelical Heritage Version)
Words are the fruit of a preacher. And if those words don't ring out the truths we confess in the creeds, how there is a Father who preserves us, how there is a Son who saves us, how there is a Spirit who makes us alive, then the preaching is bad fruit. This doesn't mean every sermon has to include a “brief summary” of everything in Holy Scripture, but these core truths on which our lives depend must there, always in the background, and often front and center.
And always in focus is the One you need to trust. The One who looked into our hearts and saw thorn bushes and thistles—bad plants—and yet still resolutely and mercifully chose to be conceived, to be born, to suffer, and to die for you. And this One calls you to be cut down and be grown anew: a branch on His vine, bearing grapes, good fruit.
This is the only way a pastor can be good; this is the only way any Christian can be good. But hey, don't take my word for it; take Jesus': “I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him is the one who bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers. Such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you continue to bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:5–8, Evangelical Heritage Version)
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God!