High Pastoral Care
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost Trinity Lutheran Church
27 September 2015 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Prayer, praise, confession, forgiveness and rescuing those in error. As a member of Christ’s Church that’s what a Christian is all about. The Christian – the believer – the new creation in Christ — spelled F-A-I-T-H — prays, praises and confesses his sin, hungers for forgiveness and helps those “who have wandered from the truth.” I suppose the entire sermon today has that final point in mind. It’s time to get back to the basics. To bring you back to the truth. So let’s get right to it.
What is it that you’re suffering? What bothers you? Keeps you up at night? What world, national, community or family events trouble you greatly? Are you suffering ridicule and alienation for confessing Christ? Do people call you a bigot or a hater because you’re a Christian? That’s when God teaches you to pray to God all the more. To rely on Him even more. To despair of yourself. You’re not in control. Jesus is. You’re nothing. Jesus is everything.
Brothers and sisters, God blesses you when you suffer! I know, I know, that sounds like complete nonsense, but it is true. God uses troubles in your life to help you! He doesn’t waste anything. God teaches you the utmost of lessons as you suffer. “What could that be?” you ask? It’s this. To trust in the Lord like you never have before in your life. Blessed are you when you suffer!
God uses troubles to put you on your knees. To pray! To depend on Him! Learn from Elijah. “He prayed fervently,” as he and Israel suffered under disobedient and faithless kings. His prayer? No rain in Israel for 3 ½ years and then it would rain. All that prayed for in order to lead the king and all of Israel to repentance and faith. To turn her away from her sins and turning her to the Lord — putting her trust in the Lord for salvation. In that God was praised.
Learn from Savior Jesus who prayed, “Thy will be done Father,” as He faced the passion and death of Good Friday’s cross for your salvation. And then while on the cross still prayed – totally trusting in the Father – “into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Learn from St. Paul who prayed fervently, passionately and ardently three times for the Lord to remove what he called that: “thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan that tormented him.” God’s answer to St. Paul’s pleading was this: Not taking it away Paul! I will let you have it some more. I want you to suffer it for a while. After all, “my grace is enough for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul didn’t argue. He didn’t complain. He praised God and preached these now unforgettable words in the Bible: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)!
Now that’s a mature faith in the Lord. Praying to God. Praising God in the midst of intense suffering. The Lord would work such maturity in you. Through what you suffer! And so you pray! For the Lord’s help! When you’re nothing and Jesus is everything – when you’re praising Him through thick and thin – well – that’s a mature Christian! On a regular basis pray the many Old Testament Psalms of lament and you’ll begin to know what I’m talking about.
Are you sick? That’s when God provides pastors (“elders”) and the church (fellow believers) to care for you. The text speaks of two ways that is done. Again, there’s prayer. And with that God gives the opportunity for confession and absolution.
“Call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” – Elders. Usually in the New Testament that’s the pastor (see Titus 1:5,7; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1:1; 3 John 1; Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28). Many anointings with oil in the Old Testament and the early church. Most likely it was medicinal. In addition, prayer and anointing with oil also meant that you were under the Lord’s attention. His custody. His charge. Or to put it another way: with prayer and anointing oil the person was being committed into the Lord’s hands. Entrusted to His divine Good Friday care. By the church’s pastor! It also meant that your sickness, no matter what it was, did not exclude you from the church, let alone God Himself!
Consequently, the pastoral care of prayer and oil was to be done: “in the name of the Lord.” This is huge! We gloss over that so quickly. When we need the Lord’s help we call upon or invoke His divine and saving Name! His saving and all powerful Name that He gave you as gift in Holy Baptism. Where He gives and puts His Name – He’s there: FOR YOU!
So, when pastoral care is done “in the name of the Lord,” that means that the Lord Jesus Himself is doing it through His called and ordained men. As His instruments. As His hands. As His mouth. All pastoral care is done in the Lord’s Name. The invocation at the beginning of the divine service. Baptisms. Preaching. Speaking the absolution. Benedictions. Blessings. Confirmations. Welcoming or receiving new members. Weddings. Funerals. All done “in the name of the Lord.” That means that the Lord Jesus is speaking. Through the pastor He’s doing. He’s caring. He’s blessing. He’s forgiving. So, when you’re sick: “Call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.”
Then text says: “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up.” When the pastor comes to visit when you’re sick, it is time to turn to the Lord. To depend on the Lord for help. So, as I visit you when you’re sick at home, in the hospital or the nursing home, I come with God’s Word and prayer. I read a psalm or another portion from the Bible. Confess the Creed. Preach a little sermon. And then I pray for you and for your needs.
I pray for you because you need God’s help. You’re sick. Maybe on your deathbed. God’s help comes from the medicines, the procedures, the doctors, surgeons, nurses and other specialists. That’s what God uses. Those are His tools. His instruments in this life for healing and recovery. Ultimately, the prayer of faith that asks and depends on God for bodily restoration is answered on the Last Day when He will raise your body from the graveyard. He will give you a new body – free from sin, free from disease, suffering and death. A body that will live eternally.
In the meantime, you still live in the world and in your sin-infested body. Therefore, God give pastors and fellow believers to hear your confession and to speak Christ’s very Good Friday forgiveness into your ears and hearts.
What are your sins? Don’t deny them. Confess them. Tell the truth. Listen to the text. “And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
Brothers and sisters, I beg you to do this. Stop keeping score. Let go of the grudges. Put to death all your hard feelings. Humble yourselves. “Confess your sins to one another.” Yes, confess your sins to each other as to the Lord Himself. So that you use Jesus properly, namely, as the Mediator or Go-Between that He is! Forgive one another as Jesus has forgiven you.
Good grief, name one thing Jesus hasn’t forgiven you! Go ahead! List it! Spit it out! Oh, that’s right, you can’t! He’s forgiven you everything. He didn’t leave any of your sin out of His bloody death. His Good Friday wounds prove it. In addition, He gives you His Body and Blood in the Sacrament with all of His Good Friday forgiveness that He won for you.
So, with His forgiveness that you are given to speak to one another there is life. Yes, that’s right, life! The past is forgiven so that you can live with one another in the present and also have a future together. Like Jesus you pray: “Father, forgive.” Like Jesus you say: “I forgive you.” Again, where there is forgiveness of sins there is life. And salvation! Now that’s healing!
In the name of Jesus.