Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth. 2 Timothy 4:2-4
The old comic strip "Lil Abner" used to have a character, the community preacher who was known as "Marryin' Sam." Marryin' Sam specialized in two-dollar weddings.
Over the years I've met a few preachers who were like that character. I've also met a few who were Buryin' Sams. By that I mean they would for a price provide a eulogy service for just about anyone. The faith of the dearly departed or his family or anyone else was quite unimportant.
Most Lutheran pastors aren't that way -- at least not from my experience.
That's why I believe most will understand the story of a pastor who was trying to reach out to a dying man, a dying man who had spent a lifetime laughing at the concept of a Savior and Jesus' blood-bought salvation.
During the months before the man's departure, the minister would occasionally stop by to see him. If he couldn't stop, he would send the fellow a short note of encouragement. Always, always the minister was careful to not let the door slam shut that the Holy Spirit had opened.
Finally the time of the man's ending was near. Aware his clock would soon stop ticking, the sick man sent for the minister. He began the conversation saying, "I didn't ask you here so you could regale me with religion. I did, however, want to thank you for your kindness."
Understanding the rules of the conversation, the minister inquired, "May I ask one question?"
"Yes," said the man, "one question as long as it isn't about religion."
The minister spoke: "Okay. Here goes. I'm preaching tomorrow. Quite a few people will be there to hear me. Some, like you, may soon be facing death. Here's my question: What shall I preach about?"
There was a long silence. The reply came: "Pastor, preach Christ to them. Preach Christ."
That was, of course, the admonition St. Paul gave to young Timothy. Preach the Word, condemn the sin, proclaim the Gospel, boldly and patiently encourage God's people to a way of living that pleases Him.
Even though doing what St. Paul encouraged is not always popular, over the centuries every true preacher has taken the apostle's words seriously.
Why? Because there is no other savior who can forgive sins, no other redeemer who can save souls. Which, during the first month of the new year, leads me to share this encouragement: If you have a preacher who is faithful to the Word, please encourage and thank him.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, for all You have done I am most thankful. Through the Holy Spirit's calling of faithful preachers I have been blessed. Now may these undershepherds be empowered to reach out to those who are lost and show them their sin as well as the Savior. In Your Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries