Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Feast Day of St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves" (Luke 10:1-9).

(a homily preached January 28, 2015)

Tonight we observe the feast day and remembrance of St. Titus. Titus was a pastor who served with St. Paul who our church was named after. Unlike the other disciples Titus was a gentile. He was an outsider of sorts who heard about Jesus and sought him with all his heart. He was ordained as a minister of the Gospel and was sent to a small island in the Mediterranean Sea called Crete. He was sent there because the church was in disorder. There were problems with sexual immortality and disregard for God’s Word. There were also problems with the church on the Island of Crete because they were not giving proper instruction in Christian doctrine. False teachers had risen up and were perverting the Word of God so it would agree with their own sinful desires. And maybe some of this sounds familiar.  

It is common parlance to say that if someone is a trouble maker, or unruly they might be called a “Cretan,” which is derived from the immorality of the people on the Island of Crete in the first century. So Titus was called to be a pastor of Cretans - immoral, unruly, debased, sinful Cretans.  

The Scriptures simply say that Titus is sent by Paul to “put things in order,” charging him to preach the Word, teach, and rebuke those living in unrepentant sin, and to restore them to faith in the Gospel that they would be saved.  

And this is the meaning of Jesus words to his ministers as he ascended into heaven, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Like the Cretans we have trouble too. Our casinos have more disciples than our churches. Alcohol, drug abuse, and despair cripple and debilitate us. Courting and marriage is nearly extinct and men take women into their beds, without God’s gift of marriage and the love and commitment that ought to come along with it. High Schools are building gender neutral bathrooms and we can’t even tell the difference anymore between boys and girls.  

This year 1.7 million unwanted children were put in biohazard bags, and rather than a proper burial, were buried in dumpsters. It’s a shame if we have more rage about deflated footballs and our team not getting into the superbowl. 

So therefore, pastors are called to go into the world, and like Jesus, to make nearly everyone feel uncomfortable in this world and uncomfortable in their sin. To speak the same words that Jesus spoke, when people picked up stones to kill him when he said “Repent for kingdom of God is at hand…behold the judge is at the door.”  

The world is beset by violence and brokenness and so is every Christian church, and our churches are troubled because we are troubled. Like Adam and Eve we blame God, we blame each other, we blame Satan, we blame everyone but ourselves. 

To make matters worse God appoints troubled sinners to be pastors to help other troubled sinners like themselves. Yet by the grace and mercy of God somehow it works. God’s Word does what it says it does. It kills and makes alive. It brings down to hell and lifts us to heaven. It wounds and then heals. 

When Jesus sends out the first pastors in our Gospel text tonight he says “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” But of course lambs are meant to be attacked. Lambs are meant to be eaten. And yet, strangely, it’s supposed to be this way.  

Two thousand years ago a young pastor, Titus, preached the Gospel in Crete. A people who used to worship the pagan god of minotaur, half bull and half man were saved by the Gospel of Jesus and came to a proper knowledge of the truth. They lived like animals but now due to the preaching of Christ lived upright again like men. 
In our day, we may be much worse than Cretans. The things that would have scandalized a previous generation no longer even make us blush, but there is no distinction, for all sin, and fall short of the glory of God. Christ Jesus comes into the world to save sinners.

Jesus died for Cretans, abortionists, and adulterers. He died for compulsive gamblers and alcoholics. He died for dead beat dads and moms who have fallen short. He even lays down his life and suffers on behalf of pastors like Titus, like Paul, and myself. 

Everything sinners deserve was placed on him. Behold the love of God! Jesus says “Behold I will search for my sheep and will seek them out, I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered…I will set shepherds over them who will care for them.”

Tonight let us rejoice that God does not deal with us by throwing thunder bolts and fiery smoke from Sinai but sends men with feet to bring the good news and lips to speak comforting words, diplomats of flesh and blood like you, to intercede for you, speak well of you, and place into your hands the very grace of God.

Like the Cretans we are a people of disorder - our churches, our families, and our sinful hearts bear witness to this, but there is one among you tonight who can set things right. One who can put things in the proper order that you might walk upright in these gray and latter days. One who elevates you to the right of God. One who is able to turn Cretans into Christians and sinners into saints.  He presides at the altar as your true shepherd and bishop of your souls.

Let us pray: Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.   

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