INI + AMEN.
This is more of a meditation than a sermon per se, and it’s fitting that we’ve gathered as brothers today. Not only is it good to continue to rejoice together in the Easter season, but we’ve also had two commemorations that apply to us pastors especially. One was yesterday, and the other one is today. Yesterday was the commemoration for Johannes Bugenhagen, Martin Luther’s own pastor in Wittenberg. Today we commemorate and remember the great theologian Anselm of Canterbury.
Bugenhagen was a faithful pastor. He had to be, right? What would Luther have written or said or done if Bugenhagen wasn’t? Surely, he would’ve been removed. But Bugenhagen was faithful. He helped with liturgical reforms in Denmark. He was a close comrade of Luther’s. He helped Luther often, and if Bugenhagen was gone, Luther would help him. I’m sure Luther liked Bugenhagen because he would preach Christ crucified and raised for sinners. They were friends. Luther called Bugenhagen “Pomeranus” because he was from Pomerania. He like Luther stood in the footsteps of Paul, as all pastors do, as you and I do, standing to proclaim Jesus crucified and raised for sinners. Bugenhagen was a gift to Luther, and Luther knew it. But Bugenhagen had his faults as we all do. But the Lord uses us anyway. Luther, on January 26, 1533, lets us know about one of Bugenhagen’s faults: “Every high priest should have his private sacrifices. Accordingly Pomeranus sacrifices his hearers with his long sermons, for we are his victims. And today he sacrificed us in a singular manner.” (AE 54.179) Luther preached 30–45 minutes. Kind of the pot calling the kettle black.
Anselm is also very important today. Especially considering our text: “We preach Christ crucified.” Paul says, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Anselm some 400 years before Bugenhagen and some 1,000 years after Paul preached and taught a Jesus of cross and empty tomb. Anselm was a monk, and monks had lots of time to meditate on Scripture, and, through his meditation on Scripture, Anselm came up a very clear understanding of what St. Paul says here in 1 Corinthians. God’s honor is offended by sin, and so man is under condemnation. Man cannot save himself from this state of dishonor. Only God can do it, and God did. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was crucified to pay for our sins. He was raised for our justification. All of this was our salvation. He takes our dishonor as His own, and gives us His honor. It’s quite true that Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God”—our salvation.
This is the message we are all given to preach. The Lord’s called us to do it. We are to preach like Paul does: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It’s what Anselm meditated upon, preached, and taught. It’s what Bugenhagen preached and taught, even to Luther. But it’s not just for those we hold in high esteem. It’s for all. As Paul says, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” Indeed, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
This preaching of Christ crucified is for all people, even for ourselves. We can’t forget that. In the Peter Jackson movie Return of the King there’s a scene that I always think of. Jackson bases his movie of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book Return of the King. The scene involves a man name Aragorn. By birth he is the true king of the Kingdom of Gondor. Aragorn’s been a rogue and vagabond most of his life. Now, he’s pondering what to do next in order to save not just his kingdom but all of Middle Earth. The Elf King, Elrond, comes bringing a very important sword back to Aragorn. The sword had been broken and shattered, but it needed to be whole. Elrond had it reforge—the pieces were mended. At this Aragorn should be happy. The sword is the key to victory, but Aragorn is still downcast and worrisome. Elrond says to him, “I give hope to men.” Aragorn’s reply is: “I keep none for myself.”
“I keep none for myself.” That I think is something we all tend to do as pastors. We’ll preach to all our flock, to everyone the good news that Jesus Christ has been crucified and raised for them. We’ll preach that through His life, death, and life again they have victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil, that they have a loving heavenly Father. We speak but forget to listen, even to ourselves. We must not put up our walls to this preaching of Christ crucified. It’s our victory too. We also are in Christ Jesus “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” This isn’t just for other people. It’s for you and me too.
We stand in a long line of preachers. Paul says to the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Anselm preached and taught it. So did Bugenhagen. We do too, but we also need to hear it. For Jesus who was crucified and raised is also our Savior.
INI + AMEN.