Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Feast of St. Titus: A Devotional Commentary

Acts 20:28-35 28 Therefore, keep watch over yourselves and over the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers! Be shepherds of the Church of God which he has purchased with the blood of his own Son. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you and they will not spare the flock. From among your own group, men will arise who will speak perverse things in order to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, keep watch! Remember that for a period of three years, I did not cease night and day to warn everyone with tears. Now, brethren, I entrust you to God, and to the word of his grace which is able to build up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver, or gold, or clothing. You yourselves know that these, my hands, served my needs and those who were with me. In all things, I have given you an example, that by this kind of hard work you should support the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, as he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive!’

Titus 1:1-9  Paul, slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, for the purpose of the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth which is for the purpose of godliness,  on the basis of the hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,  but has revealed His word at the proper time in preaching, with which I was entrusted in accordance with the command of God our Savior;  To Titus, a true child according to a common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.  For this purpose I left you behind in Crete, that you might put in order the things that still need doing and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you -- if anyone is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of debauchery or rebellious.  For the bishop must be irreproachable, since he is a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not greedy for money,  but hospitable, loving what is good, prudent, righteous, holy, self-controlled,  holding fast to the faithful preaching which is in accord with the teaching, so that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to rebuke those who speak against the sound doctrine. 

Luke 10:1-9 After these things, the Lord also appointed seventy others and sent them two by two ahead of himb into every city and place where he was about to go. Jesus said to them, “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your ways, but be aware that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Do not carry a purse, a wallet, or sandals. Do not greet anyone on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a follower of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in that house, eating and drinking what they will give you, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever town you enter and if the people welcome you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you!’

Today is the feast of St. Titus. Titus was a Gentile convert from heathenism. He was one of the companions of St. Paul to the Council of Jerusalem and a fellow-laborer on many of Paul missions. Paul gave Titus the responsibility of helping to collect money for the Jerusalem church and appointed him as bishop in Crete and died there at the age of 97.

One of Titus' repsonsibilities was to appoint elders in every city. Paul gives Titus a list of qualifications for these elders. Some of the most popular pastors of our day don't seem to live up to most of the qualifications. Some of the mega-church pastors have made it very clear that they have no interest in getting to know their flock--they could hardly be called hospitable. The mega-church model itself seems to make it impossible for a pastor to know his flock. Several of these churches have even moved to a satellite church model where the sermon is broadcast to other churches throughout the country which makes it even less likely that the pastor would know his flock. Paul does not say that the pastor must be "passionate" or "dynamic" or any of the other current buzz-words. Certain types of "passionate" pastors may not fit the catagory of "self-controlled" that Paul requires. There's nothing here about the pastor being a good CEO or business leader.

According to Paul, the pastor should be "irreproachable." The pastor should be dedicated to the well-being of his wife and children. This seems to rule out some of the self-appointed evangelists throughout history who have abandoned their family and the calling as husband and father that God has given them. The pastor shouldn't be someone who gets angry easily or a drunk. The pastor should not be seeking his own fame but should always be acting as a servant in a self-sacrificial manner.

Not only should the pastor be morally respectable, he must also be theologically knowledgeable. There is no excuse for any pastor to say "I'm no theologian." If being a theologian is a above his pay-grade then he has no business serving as a pastor. The pastor must stand firm in the Apostolic teachings handed down to him. Creativity may help a pastor present these truths to his flock but there should be nothing creative about his theology. The teaching must not change. The faithful pastor must not only be able to present the true teachings to his flock, he must also be able to refute those who speak against the true Apostolic teachings.

Moral respectability and the ability and willingness to teach the Apostolic doctrines are necessary because the pastor is "God's steward." He is not called to be an amateur comedian or self-help guru. He is not called to be a motivational speaker. He is called to bring the message given to him by God and not live a life that causes others to doubt that message. If the pastor lives an immoral life, he leads people to believe that he doesn't really believe what he preaches. The pastor stands in the place of God and so if the pastor preaches false doctrine he attributes lies to God.

The pastor must guard and watch over his flock. In order to do this he must know his flock. He must know what lures them away and what is out to get them. He must not try to get people to follow himself but to follow Christ. He must be able to heal the spiritually sick in his flock by applying the Gospel directly to them and giving them the sacraments.

The qualifications should humble any pastor. They are entrusted with the Church of God that He has purchased with the blood of His own Son. It is not the duty of the flock to be hyper-critical of their pastor but to pray for him. If your pastor brings you the Gospel and the sacraments you should praise God. Praise God for faithful ministers like Titus who faithfully brought the Gospel of Christ-crucified to their flock and gave them the medicine of immortality.

1 comment:

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