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En trofast tjener

03.07.2007
Biskop Rüdiger Minor talte til ordinantene og oss alle på ordinasjonsgudstjenesten under Årskonferansen. Her kan du lese hans tale i sin helhet på orginalspråket.

En trofast tjener

































Biskop Rüdiger Minor på talerstolen søndag 24. juni. Hans tolk på ordinasjonsgudstjenesten var pastor Roar G. Fotland.




FAITHFUL SERVANTS; BOUND TO PEOPLE, FREE IN THE LORD


Sermon at Norway Annual Conference Ordination Service,


June 24, 2007




If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. (1 Cor. 9:16-23)

Instead of an introduction, I would like to read to you a letter, written in London in 1783 to a man by the name of Robert Carr Brackenbury. It is a kind of first reaction and confrontation to the Biblical text for this sermon:

"London, January 10, 1783.
Dear Sir, - As I expect to remain in London till the beginning of March, I hope to have the pleasure of spending a little time with you before I set out on my spring and summer journeys, which I shall probably continue as long as I live. And who would wish to live for any meaner purpose than to serve God in our generation? I know my health and strength are continued for this thing. And if I ever should listen to that siren song, 'Spare thy life,' I believe my Master would spare me no longer, but soon take me away. It pleases Him to deal with you in a different way. He frequently calls you not so much to act as to suffer. …
I am glad you are still determined to do what you can, and to do it without delay… Commending you to Him who is able to save you to the uttermost, I am, dear sir,
Your affectionate friend and brother,
John Wesley."

John Wesley wrote the letter at the age of almost eighty years. It is his translation of St. Paul's account of the apostolic ministry – and his personal answer. It speaks of the foundation and of the challenge of our faithfulness – speaking of its freedom and the obligations:

Faithful Servants: Bound to People, Free in the Lord


I. The gospel is our destiny.
En trofast tjenerThe gospel lays a necessity upon our lives. Only here St. Paul uses the Greek word anagkh – "destiny, fate." The gospel is so sovereign, so unconditional – there is no escape. This, however, does not happen because of fatal consequences, that would not leave any room for decisions. It is just this decision that makes it unconditional, - an obligation is laid on me, otherwise, woe to me.

This is the destiny of the gospel. We may discuss other possibilities besides faithfulness. They all will lead us astray. Finally all other "possibilities" prove to be impossible.
In an old Methodist pastoral theology, I found the following sentence: "If you could imagine or desire to be happy in another vocation flee from this ministry today!" Because this belongs to this faithful service, it claims us totally for He claims us totally: Jesus Christ.

It can be dangerous to speak of this claim. Allow, please, a personal example: In 1991 I was preaching an ordination sermon in the East German Conference. It was on Isaiah 55:1-5: See, you shall call nations that you do not know. This is a quotation from that sermon: "You will be overwhelmed with wonder to whom the Lord will send us." It was less than half a year later that I found myself with an assignment to assist in the evangelization of Russia.

Although St. Paul discusses here, whether a servant of Christ should get money for his/ her work or not – this is not the main issue.
We do not offer our services like a commodity to the highest bidder. We do not have a claim on our earnings. It would be utter unfaithfulness – a falsification of the gospel – if we would sell our services. The gospel would become a commodity that is up to our control, but in reality it is a power and we are under its control. What then is my reward? asks St. Paul, Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge.

II. Freedom is the reward.
I am here to witness that there is nothing but the gospel that provides freedom. This has been our experience in Eastern Europe from the last few decades. When our young people had been called before committees and meetings of prosecutors, many of them stood there free in mind and free in the spirit. And they have overcome despite of the power and violence that confronted them.

May I turn directly to you my colleagues, the pastors and to you, those who will be ordained; Friends, I know of no other vocation, of no other "trade" that enjoys a freedom as we ministers do. I mean that in its full sense, not merely "spiritually." And I have learned that in a society that had some difficulties in defining freedom, to say the least.
However, the question is, are we faithful to this freedom?

St. Paul's answer is classic. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. St. Paul does not define his freedom in connection with circumstances and things, but in connection with human beings. He binds his freedom to people, to persons, because he has got his freedom bound to the gospel.

A pastor, who would lead a life in his study and in the pulpit only but not in connection with the people, this pastor would be unfaithful to his/ her calling.
A congregation, celebrating worship in a beautiful liturgical setting, a high mood of spirit, a comfortable warmth of the heart but without involvement; this would be unfaithful disciples.

Of course, we object to such a description. It is not our intention to lead such a life as ministers and as churches. Why – then – is it so often the reality?

The apostolic message tells us, involvement means change. And we should not expect others to be changed first, but I am, we are to be changed. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. We have not been called to be faithful to ourselves in the first place but faithful to the gospel, and that means faithful to others.
The change has a direction: the other person, who should be won (and finally even changed). But he or she should not be won for me; God will win both of us in this process of change.

III. Faithfulness to the gospel makes us free from ourselves and from a partisan spirit.
I have become all things to all people. What kind of a person is speaking here? Is this an actor, who knows how to play on every stage? A person, who knows how to deal with everybody, to please everyone, to adjust to each situation?

From St. Paul we learn that there is on thing that never could be adapted, the message. St. Paul adjusts himself but he does not adapt the message. This is a clear warning against the temptation to tell the people what they like to hear in order to get them.

This is true for the whole church in its relationship to the world. And it is at the same time the warning against using the gospel to justify my own position and my behavior.
In becoming all things to all people, St. Paul comes close to the position and the place of all of the different groups he is dealing with, the Jews, those outside the law, the weak. However, he does not necessarily share their standpoint and their point of view. To the opposite, he tries to draw them from the battle lines. He wishes to win them.
Faithfulness to the gospel, therefore, does not mean to be faithful to a certain cause or issue as respectable as they may be, or even to a certain party. Our faithfulness is with all people for their salvation, for their dignity and to their support.

However, the message is not to be adapted to these other persons, too. There is a small word in the text that makes this attitude of St. Paul quite clear, though usually we tend to overlook it. He does not say, To the Jews I became a Jew. We need to read carefully, I became as a Jew; … to those outside the law I became as outside the law. St. Paul does not surrender to them. The as is left out only once, To the weak I became weak. In their case, St. Paul takes the risk to be looked upon as partisan because the weak, the hurting, the outcasts are no party, they have no power, they deserve unlimited care and solidarity.

This is the goal of being a faithful servant: that I might by all means save some. To tell the people that their lives are meaningful and of lasting value because one – Jesus Christ – sacrificed his meaningful and valued life for them. In doing so, we will experience again and again that our own lives are meaningful and of high value. As St. Paul did, we will confess, I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. The gospel is the means and the end of our faithfulness.

Finally, St. Paul's words remind me of another well-known letter of Wesley, with the following words:
I "desire to be a Christian." Therefore, "I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to; and sure I am, that his blessing attends it." (Letter to James Hervey, March 20, 1739) My sisters ordinands, this is the work which we know God has called you to, and sure we are that God's blessing attends it.

Let us all be faithful servants, bound to people, free in the Lord. Amen.






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