Sermon for the Installation of Rev. Morgan Hamilton

preached at Christ Lutheran Church in Little Rock, AR on August 1, 2021

Text: Titus 2:1-8

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

St. Paul instructs Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Doctrine. What a stuffy-sounding word. We sometimes cringe at it, in fact. We think it’s a word that belongs in theology classroom at the seminary or maybe at the Pastors’ Conference or something like that. Why do we react so negatively to it? Perhaps it’s because doctrine is divisive. We don’t want to be divisive.

Well, doctrine is divisive. It divides that which is true from that which is false. While we don’t think about it, we do it all the time. In the church we confess the creeds. The creeds very clearly state that which is true. By stating that which is true, we are also stating that anything that is not the same as what is in that creed is false. Congregations of our church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod submit to the Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions. That is, they say that all that is found there is true and all that is not found there is false. In a few moments, your new pastor, Pastor Hamilton, will make a vow that says that he promises to preach, teach, and administer the sacraments in accord with scripture and the confessions. In effect, he’s promising you that he will be divisive because that’s what pure doctrine does. It divides.

While doctrine does divide, it also unites. That’s something we tend to be much happier about. Unity is good. We like unity. Each and every pastor in this room before you has made this same promise each time they’ve been installed. We pastors promise to preach, teach, and administer the sacraments the right way. Each of the congregations that we serve is united in confession. That’s why it’s not just the saints of Christ Lutheran Church here this afternoon, but it’s pastors and laypeople all over the area gathered to celebrate this occasion with you today. We are all united in the pure doctrine of the as found in God’s Word.

Pastor Hamilton is here to teach what accords with sound doctrine to you. St. Paul describes some of what that entails to Titus. He gives instructions for how Titus should instruct the people to live. While we may look at the list of instructions that Paul gives and find them to be outdated or perhaps not terribly applicable to our lives today, consider what life was like in ancient Crete. St. Paul actually speaks of Cretans in a rather direct fashion earlier in his letter to Titus. He says that “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This is what makes Titus’ work among God’s people in Crete so important. They are sinners. They need sound doctrine.

So do you. You need sound doctrine. You need sound doctrine because sound doctrine shows you your sins. It reveals that you, like the Cretans, and just as you confess in the Divine Service, are “poor, miserable sinners.” No one is righteous. Not even one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. When you examine yourself using the mirror of God’s Law, you can’t come to any other conclusion about yourself. Doctrine shows you your sins.

Doctrine also saves you, though. I know from experience that anytime you insert a word other than Jesus before the word “saves,” you’ll get yourself in hot water. I put the words “Baptism saves” on a church sign once and soon found this out as an anonymous caller left multiple messages on the church answering machine imploring me to change the sign because I was surely leading people to hell because I was telling them that something besides Jesus was doing the saving. She wasn’t wrong, of course, about Jesus saving. There is no other name by which we are saved than that of Jesus. But doctrine does save. Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of all sins. That’s an objective reality that never changes. But now the gifts he won there have to get to you, sitting there in the pew in the year of our Lord 2021. For this, God gives you doctrine. This doctrine is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each time it’s preached to you, your sins are forgiven. Then there is the doctrine of Holy Absolution, where called and ordained servants of Jesus Christ stand in his stead and forgive your sins. And then there is the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper where you are given the same body that was nailed to the cross at Calvary and the same blood that flowed forth from Jesus’ head, hands, feet, and side to drink for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus saves. Jesus saves through doctrine. Paul left Titus at Crete that he might preach Law and Gospel to the people there. Now you have your own Titus, Pastor Morgan Hamilton, who the Holy Spirit is placing in your midst to do the same for you. He is here to exhort you to live as Christians, modeling your lives according to the descriptions that Paul gives Titus. He is also here, though, to absolve you when you fail to do just that. May you rejoice in the sound doctrine that comes to you through your pastor!

There is a word specifically here for your life and conduct, too, though, Morgan. In these last two verses, St. Paul urges Titus to model all of these good qualities to the people that he serves. He is to “practice what he preaches” you could say. As unfair as it may seem, we pastors are held to a higher standard than everyone else. It’s certainly not that we are more holy than everyone else. There are times when nothing could be further from the truth! It’s that you are called to stand in the place of Christ. You are called to speak in the stead of Christ and by his command. That means that everything you say and do reflects on Jesus and who he is. This is no small thing, of course! It can, in fact, be a very heavy burden, especially when you see that you fall short of the high standards that God sets for you. Thanks be to God, though, that the same mercy of God in Christ Jesus that you proclaim to your people is there for you as well. Christ died for all sinners, including you.

Morgan, may the sound doctrine of Christ crucified be not only always coming from your lips and into the ears of your people bringing them the assurance of sins forgiven, but also in your own ears that you may have this same assurance.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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