Today we remember nineteenth-century German pastor Wilhelm Loehe, and we read an excerpt from one of his writings as recorded in The Pastor.
Loehe earned a place in Lutheran history by greatly supporting the growth of Lutheran churches in North America and the development of deaconess training. He was also a pastor and devotion writer. Today’s reading comes from a work Loehe wrote for pastors regarding homiletics. He reminds us that the Word of God is holy, living, and active. God speaks to us through pastors to forgive our sins and give us everlasting life.
“Your Word is the right doctrine,” the holy singer prays (Psalm 93:5 Luther). And what pastor should not rejoice, having this right teaching, and finding in it a powerful means for his office? Being happy because of this possession, we still want to go a little farther, looking at what the holy singer says here. “God’s Word is the right doctrine.” This verse from the psalm, on the one hand puts God’s Word on the same level with other teachings; but it also lifts it above all others by saying: “It is the right teaching.” Other teachings are not equal to it, not according to content (nobody denies this!), yet neither according to power, with which it turns the hearts of men. True, the Word of the Lord also appeals to the natural powers of man, to his natural ability of knowing. It also takes for granted the powers of the natural will, which tries to accomplish what reason has recognized as being right. That means it enters a person in the same way as any other human thought. And through the power of its arguments it works a human conviction in the human heart, just like any human thought. Nevertheless it is no mere human thought and it works in more than a human way. Nor is it a mere human conviction, but it brings with it a power that can put down the resistance of natural reason, or un-reason, and it can bestow on the Word an emphasis that enables it to grant a conviction capable of overcoming any resistance or doubt. It is called faith.
Just think of the power of Absolution. This is what the Church means when it says that the Spirit is given through the Word and the Gospel, that the Word is the organ and carrier of the Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture means the same thing when it speaks of an enlightening of the Holy Spirit through the Word, of tasting the Word of God and its powers, Hebrews 6:4ff.; [also] when it says about the Word that it is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow, and that it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and before it no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare before its eyes, Hebrews 4:12f. From this we learn that the Word of God and its effects are more than natural. They are supernatural and incomprehensible. We see that the Word is both human and divine: Human, because it speaks in human language to human understanding; divine, for it works with divine power a heavenly knowledge for eternal life.
Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us and forgive all of us our sins and misdeeds, wherewith we have sinned against Thee and Thy holy Word and office. But give us, all Thy servants, great power, and strengthen in us Thy life, that all of us, ready and dressed for action to promote the Gospel of peace, may walk in patience, casting our seed, and work and wait for the precious fruit of the earth! Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are from The Pastor, pages 203–4, 141 © 2015 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.