A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on June 7, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Rejoice in Being a Jar of Clay!
II Corinthians 4:5-12

When we called Mr. Priebe 5 years ago, we had 15, K-8 students enrolled for that coming fall. How could one person teach all nine grades? That was done 100 years ago - sometimes, but it’s not practical today. So, when we called Mr. Priebe, we also asked our Synod’s assignment committee for a K-4 teacher, and the Lord graciously sent us Miss Amanda Nitz, now Mrs. Henning. However humanly speaking, things were still very scary. Our 15 students provided enough income for one teacher, and we had to trust God to send us enough students to pay for our second teacher. Also, of our 15 students, some had disabilities that required a lot of extra attention. But how were our teachers going to do that? With teaching four Grades each, our teachers had about 30 different lessons a day. How could they survive that? And why would parents, who didn’t know us, entrust their children to us, so that we could grow? But God worked miracles. That following Spring we had enough students to support two teachers, but in order to reduced the number of grades per teacher, we called a third teacher, and prayed God would continue to bless us. He did, but not without allowing even bigger challenges. Yet God was using those to show us that HE was building our school, by His strength, not ours.

Today is Mr. Priebe’s farewell. In about a week he and his family will be moving to Wisconsin to begin serving at Fox Valley Lutheran High School. How God had worked through Mr. Priebe here is like how He worked through Paul at Corinth. In our second reading you heard what Paul had called himself. He called himself a Jar of Clay. That isn’t flattering, but Paul wasn’t putting himself down. He Rejoiced in Being a Jar of Clay I. Because it’s all about Jesus. 2. Because God was using him to bring many others to Jesus.

Paul was in a tough situation. He had served in Corinth for two years. But after he left to start congregations in other places, false apostles moved in. They convinced many of the Corinthians that the way to grow the church was to give people wanted they wanted. And so, they stopped preaching that Christ rose from the dead, because “modern thinkers” at that time said when you die, you stay dead, and only your soul lives on maybe. Another thing these false apostles taught was that each person is free to do whatever he feels will make him happy. For example there was one guy who was shacked up with his stepmother, and most thought that was okay, if that’s what they wanted to do. Or, on Saturday nights many would go to the idol temples where they worshipped with wine, women, and song, and then they would deal with hangover by going to Communion on Sunday morning. The result of all this was a growing number of people were saying, “We don’t need Paul. He’s too old fashion, and the church is never going to grow if we don’t loosen up. And besides Paul’s just in the ministry for his own ego and whatever money he can get through offerings.”

How does a pastor or a teacher overcome such attitudes? Does he just write those people off and move on to greener pastures? We need to know the answer, because our society is getting more and more like Corinth. For example according to surveys, what parents wanted for their children not too many years ago was a good education so they could take care of themselves. Then what parents most wanted for their children was that they be safe. Now what many want for their children is that they be happy, and guess who decides what “happy” is? Often, it’s the child. It’s hard to grow a school in this kind of society. But here was Paul’s answer. He rejoiced in being a jar of clay, because it’s all about Jesus.

I. Paul rejoiced in being a jar of clay, because it’s all about Jesus.

We read in our text: For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. – II Corinthians 4:5 When Paul did his preaching and teaching, it wasn’t about himself. As a result, if someone rejected his message, Paul didn’t take it personally. He said in the previous verse, that this was the fault of the devil, who blinded people’s minds. However, Paul didn’t shrug that off and say, “Oh well, I tried, now it’s their problem.” No, Paul called himself their servants for Jesus’ sake. In the original Greek the word is actually “slave.” Paul slaved day and night with hard work, and prayers, and even with tears at times, trying to get through to these Corinthians. Also, he did this without pay, so no one could say he was in it for the money. Mr. Priebe, I know that you too stayed up late on many nights, and then when you did go to bed, you tossed and turned and got up extra early trying keep up with all your responsibilities teacher and Principal. And Natalie, I know it wasn’t always easy for you to see your husband working this hard and getting frustrated. But I also know why you all hung in there. You all hung in there, because like Paul, God has laid on your heart the souls and eternal welfare of people.

Here’s how God does that. We read on in our text: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. – II Corinthians 4:6 Paul was a slave to preaching and teaching the Gospel, because he hadn’t played any part at all in with his salvation. Rather, just as God created light out of the nothingness of darkness, so God caused the light of His glory to shine on Christmas morning. Then God caused that light to shine ever more brightly through the words and life of Christ. And finally the light of His glory shown the most brightly at the cross where Christ paid for every sin, and God proved this by raising Him from the dead, and seating Him at His right hand.

Paul, of course, had nothing to do with any of this and refused to believe it. In fact he even persecuted anyone who did. But then when Paul was on his way to Damascus to kill Christians God cause the light of His Gospel to shine Paul’s heart too. After this, Paul had such love, peace, and joy in him, he just had to share Christ with others, and all the more so, as he remembered his before and after. He also realized that if God could call him to faith, through the same Gospel, God could call those wayward Corinthians back to faith, and keep them in faith. And so, when people listened to him, this would be Paul’s highest high. On the other hand when people didn’t listen, that would be Pau’s lowest low, and not because this was about him, but because of what Christ had done for these people and what they were missing out on.

So, how did Paul physically, emotionally, and spiritually deal with his lowest lows? He prayed trusting that God was hearing his prayers for Jesus’ sake. Paul also prayed knowing that the Holy Spirit was interceding for him to make right anywhere that his prayers were falling short. And what exactly did Paul pray for? He prayed for the right words in order to speak God’s truth clearly and correctly. He prayed for wisdom to properly apply God’s Word to each situation. And then he prayed that God would bless the Word in each person’s heart. So, did Paul always get everything right in his ministry at Corinth? Probably not, he wrote: What I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. – Romans 7:19
This passage applies to all pastors, teachers and laypeople. We serve God in His Kingdom, not because we’re perfect. We serve, because He was perfect, and now God calls us, Jars of Clay, that we are, to bring Jesus’ blessings to others, that they too may be jars of clay.

2. Paul Rejoiced in Being a Jar of Clay because God was using him to bring others to Jesus.

We read on in our text: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – II Corinthians 4:7 Love for the Word makes us want to say everything right. Love for God’s House makes us want everything here to look right. And love for souls makes us want to not leave any stumbling blocks that might get in the way of someone learning about Jesus. All this said, no church or school grows, because from a human point of view, everyone is doing everything right. A church and school grow through the Word, when and where God pleases. And so, it’s almost like throwing pebbles into a pond. The ripples go out and you never know how many fish each ripple is going to cross. And so, again, love for God and love for souls inspires us to keep scattering the Word as best as we are able. And often when our best isn’t that great, God keeps right on blessing, which shows all the more that the all surpassing power to save souls isn’t from us. It’s from God! Still, what a joy and a faith strengthening experience that He lets us play a part in this!

If only we could always remember these things, when the going gets tough. Then we could keep going until we start seeing the blessings again. Right now we are seeing the blessings of all the hard work Mr. Priebe and our staff and our volunteers have done in the past. After the service please take a walk through our new school addition, which is ours for virtually no increase in our mortgage payments. Or consider our staff. No longer does each teacher have to teach four or five grades at once. God willing, we will have a separate Kindergarten, so the little ones can concentrate at first on just learning how to go to school. We can also pair up grades 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, and 7 and 8, which work very well together educationally. It should also be noted that in our Synod we’re having a pastor and teacher shortage. We pray this won’t last as the Lord moves more young men and women to prepare for fulltime service. Anyway while 40 other schools that asked for a teacher did not receive one, God has called two teachers to us. Blessing on top of blessing!

And now, Mr. Priebe, what’s going to happen in your new ministry at Fox Valley Lutheran High School? Blessing on top of blessing there too! You might along the way run into some rough patches like Paul did in our text. But God was with him constantly. He got him through each of those rough spots and then used those rough spots to bless Paul with a stronger faith and worked it together to bring even more people to Jesus. God will do the same for you. Rejoice and remember, then, that you are a jar of clay, carrying the precious Gospel. Rejoice and remember how God has blessed His Gospel here. Rejoice and look forward to those blessings there. Amen.

 

Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net