“Flesh and Blood Have Not Revealed This to You”
St. Peter & St. Paul, Apostles –
with Ordination of Rev. Michael Bahr
Matthew 16:13-19 (w/ Galatians 2:1-10)
Trinity Lutheran Church, Bluffs, IL
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Greetings, President Bueltmann and Pastor Eckman. May our gracious God continue to bless you as you serve Him in His Church. Greetings, redeemed saints at Christ, Immanuel, and Trinity congregations. May our Savior continue to comfort, strengthen, feed, and nourish you in His Gospel of sins forgiven, in your Baptism, and with His holy Supper, and may He bless you with love for your new shepherd and with his love for you. And, last but not least, greetings, soon-to-be Reverend Bahr. What a weighty thought! Can you feel the onus of the office starting to press down? May our loving Lord Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, bless you in your labors of preaching His Gospel and giving out His gifts in Baptism, Absolution, and Supper.
I am both humbled and honored to proclaim God’s message of mercy for you on this momentous day. I also marvel at the timing. An ordination is a joyous, historic event in any congregation, but especially today for the tri-parish – three congregations in one parish – of Christ, Immanuel, and Trinity. Mike, it’s certainly a joyous, life-changing event for you. After all, today you receive the mantle of the Office of the Holy Ministry, the mantle of serving at the bidding of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the mantle of loving your one flock of three congregations. And here’s the marvel. Today we celebrate this joyous event on the very same day that we remember St. Peter and St. Paul for laying down their lives for Christ and His Gospel. Could there be a message here? Yes, I think so. And a great one!
In today’s collect we acknowledged that “Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of [God’s] Son.” Then we prayed for God’s strength to confess His truth “and at all times [to] be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us.” That, fellow saints in Christ, is what this ordination is all about—laying down one’s life for Him who laid down His life for us. Members of Christ, Immanuel, and Trinity, that is what your pastor will do for you, and what you will do for him. Mike, you will indeed sacrifice yourself—your time and talents, your energy and efforts, your prayers and love—for your flock. No, this laying down of your lives may not take on the form of martyrdom, but it will take on the shape of sacrificing yourselves for one another in Christian love. Let’s hear what this meant for Peter and Paul, and then what it means for you, Mike, and the congregations committed to your care.
St. Peter and St. Paul were both “second-career men.” Peter first worked as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Then the Lord Jesus called him to follow Him and promised that he would “catch men alive” by tossing out the net of the Gospel and bringing them into the boat of Jesus’ Church. Sure, Peter had his problems, his bull-in-a-china-shop personality, his sins, and even his infamous three-fold denial. But as we hear in today’s Gospel reading, he also made the good confession. Jesus asked His twelve disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Oh, and did they know that answer for this seminary exam! “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” But then Jesus asked them, point blank: “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” You see, it’s not enough to know the scholarly answers or the answers in current discussions and publications. Jesus wants to know what His disciples truly believe and confess. So, Peter speaks for the whole group: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Well done, Peter!
Then Jesus gives the real punch line of the story: “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” No, human wisdom did not lead Peter to confess Christ. No, human insights did not serve as the foundation for Jesus’ Church then, nor do they now. Rather, Peter confesses the Truth who comes down from the Father—the Truth-in-the-flesh named Jesus, the Truth who laid down His life on a cross to restore us to life with God.
Then there was St. Paul. His first “career” was being a zealous Pharisee, so zealous that he wanted to hunt down, arrest, and even kill off every pesky little Christian he could find. But, once again, the Lord Jesus got the last word. Our Lord confronted Saul on the road to Damascus and enlisted him—ordained him—to preach the Gospel that he formerly tried to extinguish. In our Epistle reading, St. Paul tells us of his reception by the other Apostles. He “went up because of revelation and set before them the gospel that [he proclaimed] among the Gentiles.” And what Gospel was that? Hear what he says a few verses later: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Paul confessed the same Jesus as did Peter—the Son of the living God, the Christ who saves us, who gives His life for us, and who lives His life in us. For both Peter and Paul, this one confession would consume and shape the rest of their lives. Both Peter and Paul would proclaim this one confession of Jesus the Christ, the Savior of sinners to any and all who would hear it, and even to many who would reject it. Peter and Paul would lay down their very lives for this same confession of Christ crucified and risen. As tradition has it, they both suffered martyrdom in A.D. 67—Peter by being crucified, and upside down at his own request, after all, he didn’t want to be crucified the same way His Lord did; and Paul by being beheaded, after all, he was a Roman citizen. You see, Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, came into our flesh, suffered and died for us, and rose again to forgive all our sins and give us life with God. This Jesus and His message of life and mercy were not revealed by flesh and blood, but by our Father in heaven. This Jesus enabled both Peter and Paul to devote their lives to proclaiming the Gospel and to lay down their lives in confessing the Faith.
Mike, this is the very confession and message of Christ for which you lay down your life, figuratively speaking, here today. You see, flesh and blood have not put you here at the tri-parish of Christ, Immanuel, and Trinity, but your Father who is in heaven, and your Savior who laid down His life for you. Very shortly, you will stand before God and His redeemed people and make some solemn promises. Before you make your ordination vows, pay special attention to these words of introduction: “God gathers His Church by and around His Holy Gospel and thereby also grants it growth and increase according to His good pleasure” (LSB Agenda, 165). God Himself gathers you and His people around the confession of Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s the foundation of His Church—not your brilliant personality, not your diligent sermon preparation, not your wowing Bible class presentations, but the confession of Christ crucified and risen for us sinners. God Himself grants growth to His Church—not by means of well-crafted mission statements, not by strategies modeled after the business world, not even by ginning up some blazing zeal to get people excited about missions. No, God grants growth to His Church at His good pleasure and on the foundation of Christ Jesus, the Son of the Living God. Proclaim Him, confess Him, teach Him, comfort your people with Him and His forgiving mercy, and you will do what your Lord sets you apart to do here today.
Redeemed saints of Christ, Immanuel, and Trinity, I urge you to remember one thing from today. Flesh and blood did not put Pastor Bahr here among you, but your Father who is in heaven, and your Savior who laid down His life for you. Sure, you went through the proper channels of contacting your District President and requesting Vicar Bahr from the seminary, and then calling him to be your pastor. But always remember that it was your Savior who loves you who now puts Pastor Bahr here to serve and love you. After Pastor Bahr makes his solemn promises, you will be asked: “Will you, the faithful, according to the Church’s public confession, and speaking for the whole Church, receive [him] as a servant of Christ and minister of Word and Sacrament?” (LSB Agenda, 167). That applies not only to today’s joyous event of ordination, but it also applies to each and every day for as long as our Lord keeps Pastor Bahr here. No doubt there will be times when you just don’t want to listen to him, especially when he confronts you with your sins. No doubt there will be times when Pastor Bahr makes his mistakes in words and deeds. After all, we pastors are chiefs of sinners, you know. But your heavenly Father and your Savior have still put him here to love you by giving you the good confession of Christ, the Son of the living God. So, pray for him, support him and his family, listen to his Christ-centered teaching, and be comforted by the message of sins forgiven and life with God. I am confident that Pastor Bahr will feed and nourish you with the very Bread of Life who is Jesus Christ Himself.
So, today we join with St. Peter and St. Paul in laying down our lives for the Truth who is the Son of the living God, the Truth who is Christ who loves us and gave Himself for us. After the Ordination Rite, our Lord will again come to us in His Body and Blood, the same Body and Blood that was broken and shed on the cross, the same Body and Blood that sustained Peter and Paul to lay down their lives in martyrdom. May this Body and Blood forgive us and give us the life of Christ here and now. May this Body and Blood strengthen us to lay down our lives to confess Jesus Christ in our day. May this Body and Blood strengthen you, Pastor Bahr, and you, dear saints at Christ, Immanuel, and Trinity in the forgiveness and life of Jesus. May this Body and Blood of our crucified and risen Savior be the focal point and the beating heart of your life together for many years to come. After all, flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Amen.