These were the opening remarks and prayer given as the Circuit Visitor at a congregational meeting to call a pastor. They struck me as both a good remembrance of Reformation Day which the meeting was held on and how Reformation Theology is God’s grace for all of us.
It is worthwhile reminding ourselves in more than a utilitarian way what we are doing here. God typically works through means. Rarely he will work immediately like a Damascus Road experience, but normally through means. He promises himself present for grace in the sacraments, through the means of water, bread and wine. “This water is not simple water only, but the water combined with the Word.” But he also has promised us “all that we need to support this body and life.” And he works his providence for us through means – through the means of our various vocations.
One of those vocations is a pastor. Our founding confession the Augsburg confession reminds us in article 4 – the central article – that our justification comes by grace through faith. And then it moves onto article 5 and tells us “So that we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God …”. The primary means of the gospel and faith is the preaching office.
How is someone placed into that office? Augsburg article 14 tells us that “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be rightly or regularly called.”
That is what this assembled body of Christ is doing. You and me, today, this hour, we are the means that God is using to place a right call. (Or depending upon your deliberation and discernment to hold off, the spirit blows where and when he wills.) This body is a means of the providence of the Father for our good. There have been other means this is accomplished, but this is our polity. The congregation issues the call. The church – represented here by me – acknowledges that it is a right one. That the man called is qualified. That the congregation did not call flippantly, and the call extended is “right”. So when we telephone and send him the paperwork, the man he can be confident not just that it is of human order, but that it is a divine call. That God has used this body as His means of calling.
In a utilitarian sense we are checking boxes. And people are maybe upset that they had to come back. But you came back to be a means of grace. To be the means that God is working through for the good of the church and this congregation.
So in that sense it is right that we should open with a prayer. Please join me.
Heavenly Father, you provide for us in both body and soul. You have sent your son Jesus as our savior, and so that we may attain and remain in that faith, you have established the office of ministry. Your body is now gathered seeking that continued blessing, that the Kingdom might come to us also and that your will be done among us. Let your spirit preside over this call meeting. And bless the deliberation and results. In your son Jesus’ name we pray. [Amen]