THE PASTOR’S CALL
In a world hostile to the gospel, the ecumenical movement is bringing us closer together. The closer Christians are, of course, the oftener the ideas that once separated us, reappear. Among other matters, the several traditions about the relationship between clergy and lay persons have also reappeared. For sorting among the competing ideas, the following collection of quotations from Martin Luther should be helpful for those who trust his judgment as teacher of the Bible.
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” [I Peter 1.9]
“Therefore,” Luther wrote, “we are all priests, as many of us as are Christians.” So we obtain this right and power to teach the word that we have from him, and confess, each one according to his office and vocation. So should and must every Christian teach, instruct, admonish, comfort, punish through God’s word, when and where someone needs it.2
That meant that ordination did not bestow a loftier rank. A pastor is a pastor, Luther taught, only as long as he carries out the office to which he is called.
So I cannot understand at all why one who has once been made a priest cannot again become a layman, for the sole difference between him and a layman is his ministry... .For that fiction of an “indelible character” has long since become a laughingstock. 3
You will ask, “if all who are in the church are priests, how do these whom we now call priests differ from laymen?” I answer: injustice is done those words “Priest,” “cleric,” “spiritual,” “ecclesiastic,” when they are transferred from all Christians to those few who are now by a mischievous usage called “ecclesiastics.” Holy Scripture makes no distinction between them, although it gives the name “minister,” “servant,” “steward” to those who are now proudly called popes, bishops and lords and who should according to the ministry of the Word serve others and teach them the faith of Christ and the freedom of believers.”4
Well-known as “the universal priesthood of all believers,” Luther’s teaching has become famous. His insight has had a lasting influence on both church and society—but sometimes misinterpreted. Some people, for instance, assumed he was simply about democracy. . Brian Gerrish noticed that the term has been used to support a bewildering variety of practices, such as Congregational polity, the Quaker meeting, pietistic ecclesiolae, and the Methodist commissioning of lay preachers. Sometimes, again, it has become associated with such slogans as the right of private judgment or “immediate access to God,” and interpreted so individualistically that any institutional or corporate expression of it becomes unthinkable.5
But Luther was not concerned with the “universal rights” of the American, or, especially, the French revolution. In fact, the “universal priesthood of believers” cannot be understood as a bold assertion of “rights” at all. Quite the opposite! Unlike the revolutionary propaganda, the Bible talks about sacrifice. The New Testament priest is expected to crucify self, as an offering to God.(Romans 12.1, Revelation 1,6; 5.10; 206). The expression, “universal priesthood,” does not reflect the thought of Thomas Jefferson or the American constitution, but, (with Luther) the mind of the Bible.
Baptism. Baptism in emergency by any Christian had been a long-established practice. Luther found nothing wrong with the tradition. (In his time, it was called “women’s baptism,” since it was practiced by midwives. It was opposed by Calvinists, who did not believe baptism was necessary.)
Absolution, not to be confused with psychological counseling, is authorized by Jesus himself in Mathew 18.18.
In the Smalcald Articles (IV) the practice is called “the mutual conversation of brothers.” Jesus’ words apply to all Christians:
Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [Matthew 18.18] Absolution in the mouth of a good friend—spoken in God’s name—is exactly as valid as that of the office-bearer.6
So then Christ shows that we all may forgive sins. Thus the Gospel is preaching which forgives sins. Let the “spirituals” take not from where they take the power alone to forgive sins, for the Gospel makes it clear that we all may absolve. Who will oppress or stop up the Gospel? Whoever now has faith and is a Christian, he also has Christ, and who has Christ, all the goods of Christ are his. Thus he has also the authority to forgive sins. 7
Teaching the Word. Luther had in mind the private sphere. “Care should be taken,” he wrote, “that it [the common priesthood] not interfere with the public office of the pastor. 8 The distinction is reflected in Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession: “It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.”
Without the common will and command no one may take on himself that which is public, Therefore, let everyone who knows that he is a Christian, know for certain, that we in the same manner are priests, that is, that we have the same power on the word and that sacrament, that it is not fitting to appeal to this power without the consent of the whole, or through the call of an authority—for what belongs to all may no one take to himself as individual, until he is called to it. 9
Though we are all equally priests, we cannot all publicly minister and teach. We ought not do so even if we could. Paul writes accordingly in I Cor. 4[:1]: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”10
Therefore some must be chosen and ordained to it, who are suited to preach and exercise themselves in the Scriptures, who carry out the teaching office and who can defend it..11
Accustomed to this deferential thinking, today’s mismanagers of the clerical abuse scandals do not see themselves as ill-intentioned, ignoring the victims of abuse grows out of the ideology that holds that clergy are different from ordinary people. 12
Some writers have observed that Roman Catholic bishops have chosen to prefer the welfare of priests above the rights of children because they believed that priests have a higher rank—that they are better—than others.
Opposition to the notion that ordination is a promotion to a higher rank has led in Anglican circles to the assertion of “Lay Presidency,” the right of lay persons to preside over the sacrament. The word, “president,” however, presupposes that a certain person is present--in Anglican theology, a person with ordained rank. Although psychological or sociological reasons may lead to resentment of the clergy, there is no basis for clerical superiority it in Lutheran doctrine. Thus, in a Lutheran context, it is absurd for lay persons to struggle for their “rights” to preside.
The operative word in Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession, which limits Holy Communion to those with a call is not “preside,” but “administer.”.”
If anyone without a call thinks he must preach, to sense an inner call of the Spirit without being called externally, he is being seduced by the devil’13
Even if you are able to convert the whole world and also to revive the dead, still you should not teach unless you have been called.14
When Luther required that the call be issued by “the whole congregation,” he was not thinking of a single local “congregation,” because he also talked about the necessity of the consent of the church,” “universal consensus,” a wider basis than one single congregation.
One must distinguish the preaching office or ministry from the common estate of priests of all baptized Christians. For such office is nothing else than a public office to which one is commended by the whole congregation, which at the same time all are priests. 15
It is one thing to perform publicly, and another thing to do it in necessity. To perform it publicly is not allowed, unless with universal consensus, or the consent of the church. 16
It is not said: “the sacrament is made through the Word, and therefore I may practice it at home.” For that is not God’s ordinance and command, He wills that the sacrament be offered through the public office.’18
In his famous Letter to the Bohemians, he advised private baptism and teaching—but, since they had no pastors, abstention from Holy Communion.19
For eucharist is not necessary under the peril of [loss of salvation; The gospel and baptism suffice, since faith alone sanctifies.... 20
The Sacrament of the Altar is a means of grace, it is not the only one. .For Luther, Lieberg observes, being deprived of the sacrament of the altar is not to be cut off from God’s grace. “The nature of grace itself plays a role, overflowing richness of grace, which shows itself in many forms.”21
Since God’s grace is otherwise abundant, Holy Communion is not necessary for salvation. He gave the same advice in his letter to Pastor Wolfgang Brauer. 22 - even if throughout their life they did not care or could not receive the eucharist. For the eucharist is not so necessary that salvation depends on it. The gospel and Baptism are sufficient, since faith alone justified and love alone.
The important thing to remember is that most important is not ceremony, but the call. The ceremony we call “ordination,” according to Luther, is a “validation of a previous call.”24
Let everyone, therefore, who knows himself to be a Christian, be assured of this, that we are all equally priests, that is to say, we have the same power in respect to the Word and the sacraments. However, no one may make use of this power except by the consent of the community or by the call of a superior. (For what is the common property of all, no individual may arrogate to himself, unless he is called.) And therefore this “sacrament” of ordination, if it is anything at all, is nothing else than a certain rite whereby one is called to the ministry of the church.25
Our theological tradition has it straight. We do not talk about ecclesiastical orders, but an ecclesiastical office. Here is the heretical mistake of the “Call to Common Mission” The “historical episcopate.” assumes the higher rank of the order of bishops. Lutheran pastors are set aside not because of an “indelible character,” but a different assignment.
“Luther,” Lieberg writes, “understands the concrete office, which is transmitted to individuals, as a permanent institution that belongs to the essence of the church and derives the institution immediately from the divine will and Christ’s institution.”29 He often emphasized that although it is mediated by humans, the call to pastoral office is a call by Christ himself.
I hope that you will have understood so much of Christian (doctrine) that the pastoral office, preaching office and the gospel do not belong to us, nor to some people.. .but alone to God the Lord, who has . . . instituted it.30
The concrete office is by divine right.31