The Advent Sermon that I heard at the Lutheran Church of the Master (Carol Stream, IL), preached by the interim pastor Curt Gerald, was excellent. He preached from the two liturgical texts found in Isaiah 61:1-11 and John 1:6-9 and 1: 19-28. He explained quite well the frequent tensions that existed between the two ends of the Old Testament spectrum: the priests and the prophets. His point was that both were always needed but often they clashed and people tended to miss the importance of one or the other side of this emphasis.

I quite agree with Curt and this take on the Old Testament story. Our churches have both types of people in them. The "priests" want to make sure the church is run right and the worship remains sound. They are concerned about the operation of the ministry and in things like "decency and order," to use Paul's well-known phrase. The prophets, often less in number, want to make sure that justice and mercy are firmly stressed and that people are served and good works are actually done.They are interested in the "weightier" matters of the law.

A healthy church, and for that matter a healthy person, will always see the need for both. I have been required to fulfill the priestly side of this equation as a pastor (1972-1992) but now that I am not a pastor (ACT 3, 1992-present) I am much more inclined toward the prophetic role. This means that I can be less than patient with the priestly-type folks. This is a serious weakness in me.

It is helpful if you realize that we have rightly both kinds of people and even some of both are in us but only Jesus represented these two traditions perfectly in the same person. Jesus alone is our high priest and faithful prophet. He is also our royal king, our sovereign. The emphasis on all three "offices" (I am not all that happy with this term "office" in the modern sense) is a great strength in the Reformed world. Curt stressed that Lutherans have a happy and important place for the use of "and" more than "or" in their tradition. This is another way of seeing grace and truth in balance. I benefited from his good words and as always from the Eucharist, which once again fed my soul profoundly. I do wonder how so many live without the Holy Supper for weeks or months and then expect to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

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  1. Jack Isaacson December 14, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I do wonder how so many live without the Holy Supper for weeks or months and then expect to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
    John, There have been many a believer that has been denied access to the “Holy Supper” due to circumstances beyond their control, such as imprisonment and sickness. Do you not believe that they have grown in grace and knowledge of Jesus THE Christ?

  2. P. Andrew Sandlin December 15, 2008 at 11:54 am

    John, excellent post on the twin ecclesial personalities of prophet and priest. We might want to add the personality of king, too — cultural leaders, businessmen and -women, political leaders and others who advance the kingdom in prominent, vocal and masterful ways.
    Weekly communion, in my view, is the way to go. In too many churches what we have is weakly communion.

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