District President Timothy Yeadon on the
30th Anniversary of Pastor Beinke’s Ordination
"Thirty Years of a Good, Loving, and Merciful Savior"
"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy." Titus 3:4-5
Like any book of the Bible, the book of Titus is always a blessing. But it is especially relevant and speaks to our hearts when we are thinking about Pastors - and today we are thinking about our Pastor who has loved us in Jesus and whom we have loved in the name of the Lord, Pastor Bob Beinke. Titus is a letter of St. Paul written to a Pastor, and since part of Paul's encouragement is for Titus to appoint leaders and other shepherds on the island of Crete, in some ways Titus can even be considered an ancient version of what I do as a District President. But Titus as I said was a Pastor, and with the two letters St. Paul wrote to another Pastor named Timothy this book joins the letters to Timothy in a section of the New Testament called the Pastoral Epistles. As I said, it is always a blessing just like any other portion of the Bible is to us. But it is especially a word from the Lord to us today because we are thinking about Pastors this morning and what a gift they are to us and how we are God's gift to them and their families if they have one.
But in the end this is not a sermon about Pastor Beinke. I do thank the Lord for my friend, and your Pastor is that to me. He is the First Vice-President of our District and I thank you for allowing him to serve all of us in New England in that way. In that role and because of our friendship even my wife Ruth has said that Pastor Beinke is one of those rare persons who keeps my head above water. It is kind of ironic because he is always telling me to keep my head down when teeing off on the golf course. But he keeps me sane when the stresses of what I do could easily get to me and overwhelm me.
But this is a sermon about the Lord, as they all are. This passage from Titus is not about the kind of person Titus is supposed to be whether he is acting as a Pastor or whether he is supervising Pastors where he is. It is about God and about some qualities of God that are worth hearing today. The hopeful joy is that you see these qualities in your loved Pastor and my hope is that he and Lorayne see them all in you.
We start with God's goodness: "But when the goodness ... of God our Savior appeared." It is wonderful to start off by knowing that we have a good God. The alternative is unthinkable. What if God were not good? What if deep down the Creator of the Universe was evil and delighted in making you and me as miserable as possible?
For what we are really talking about is a God who not only refrains from evil but deplores it. "Badness," if I may be blunt, is contrary to His nature. If you want to use a Biblical Word here the word would be "Holy". That means that God is a perfectly right and holy God in all that He does because He is by nature perfectly right and holy. He is good.
I remember reading the stories of C.S. Lewis that we know as The Chronicles of Narnia. A few books in this series have been made into movies. The Chronicles of Narnia have four children visit this magical realm called Narnia where they meet a wonderful lion who goes by the name of Aslan. Even if you did not know that C.S. Lewis was a famous Christian author you would soon realize that this lion Aslan is very much like Jesus Christ. In fact, in all honesty He is Jesus Christ who in the land of Narnia happens to go by the name Aslan. Aslan is an all powerful being but He in these books gives His life for one of the four children who acted as a traitor. He then rises from death because once having paid for the sin of the traitor death could have no hold on him. Aslan then leads an army to free all of Narnia from the power of the White Witch who has ruled with cruelty and terror. As I said Aslan is the Jesus of Narnia. Well, at one point when it is all over and everyone is celebrating Aslan the lion goes off into the distance. One of the children asks out loud, "Is Aslan a tame lion?" The answer is, "No, not at all. He is not tame. But He is good."
We have an all powerful God is Jesus our Savior who has the strength of a lion. He cannot be controlled or tamed or dominated by you and me. He is to be feared in the right way and He is holy in such a way that we stand in awe and reverence of Him. But He is good. Of course you could say as some might be saying this week, "If God is good then explain what happened in Orlando? Or up in Boston at the Marathon a couple of years ago ...or over in Newtown? Explain to me how God is good when He allows evil to exist."
My friends in the Lord, as Pastor Beinke has told you undoubtedly in sermon after sermon and Bible Study after Bible Study, do not interpret God's patience and longsuffering with a lack of caring on His part that we suffer. The word for "Good" in the Titus passage means that yes, if He wanted to our Holy God could come right now and utterly destroy all evil. One day He will do just that. But His goodness, and specifically the word for "good" in this Titus passage is a goodness that holds off what God could do in the hopes that some might still repent and some might come to Him for forgiveness and salvation.
And God has done something about evil in the world. It is because of the second quality of God of which Titus speaks today. It is found in the words, "Loving Kindness".... "When the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared ..." Do you know the ancient word for loving kindness was the Greek word "philanthopia"? Guess what word we get from "Philanthropia"? It is "philanthropy". What that word literally means is "love of mankind." Someone who has philanthropy isn't just a person who gives a lot of money to a cause or to a project that benefits a community like a hospital or a university. It is basically a term that speaks of someone who loves humanity.
That is our God. The holy God Who is good and Who might have ended the world long ago and put an end back then to evil but who patiently avoids doing that so that some might still be saved shows the world that kindness because He loves all of us. What does the most famous verse in the entire universe say in John 3:16: "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son."
That's why He is our Savior as Titus tells us today. He is not just God. He is "God our Savior". If I can refer to the events of last week we all think of the terrorists. The do such horrible things in the name of God or at least they think in their perverted hearts that what they do they do for God. And what does this god of theirs demand? This god they follow demands that they go out and kill their fellow human beings. Then this god demands that they give up their lives after killing so many others. Is that a good and loving God to you? But you and I know a Savior. We know a God who let men kill Him. We know a God who gave up His Son for you and me. Is not that what Pastor Beinke has been sharing with you and with all the people he has served in the last three decades?
And why has God done this? It is because we have deserved this good and loving God to treat us this way? Surely there must have been something in us that made God want to do this? There must have been something in you and me that made God say to His Son, "You go die for all of them because they have earned it; they have proven their worth to me."
The answer is the one that Titus gives us today: "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy." You and I did no righteous act that made God do what he did for you and me. In fact, let me tell you something about the words "goodness and loving kindness” that I discovered this week as I got ready for this message. In the ancient world these were wonderful qualities for a leader to have. A general, for example, was supposed to show goodness and loving kindness when he conquered another army or defeated a city that he wanted to overcome. However, in the case of a city, for example that he overcame in a siege or in battle, it was only if they deserved his goodness and compassion that he was compelled to show this kind of treatment. Only if the city willingly surrendered and opened the gates to the city to welcome him in as their conqueror would the general possibly consider this act of kindness. If he felt they did not deserve it he could order his soldiers to sack the city, enslave all the people, and burn the city to the ground. They have to give him a reason to be good and kind to them.
Titus says that is it nothing that we do for God that has a quality of righteousness about it that compels God to be good and kind to us. It is something else in God that makes Him be that way to you and me. It is mercy. The ancient world searched for something in itself that deserved good treatment. But mercy is something that does not give us what we deserved. For before God we deserved rejection and His condemnation. When Jesus came into this world how did the human race treat Him? We utterly rejected Him and took the hands that healed so many and nailed them to the cross. His heart reached out to all of us in love and we spit in His face and put a cross on His back to carry. He was that king that came to us all. And we gave this king a crown of thorns. And what did He say on the cross for you? "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We showed Him hate and we despised Him. St. John says in 13:1: "Having loved His own who were in the world He loved them to the end." That is a goodness and a loving kindness that comes with a price.
That's what Jesus did for Pastor Beinke. Before Pastor Beinke could raise his hands to bless you at the end of every church service Jesus raised His hands on that cross for him. Before Pastor Beinke could give you Jesus' body and blood in Holy Communion Jesus had to break that body on Mt. Calvary and shed that blood for you and me. Before Pastor Beinke could tell you of God's love he had to know it himself and before he could welcome all those children to God in Holy Baptism he had to have his own sins washed away. Before Pastor Beinke could stand at the grave of one of you who died and tell us that death was swallowed up in victory Jesus went to that tomb for three days for him.
Today we remember a beloved Pastor and my friend who has served the Savior for thirty years. And even though He was King of kings and Lord of lords do you know that the Bible tells us that Jesus lives a life of obscurity for thirty years in a carpenter shop in a town called Nazareth? For three decades Jesus lived in the same world we live in, had the same hurts we have, said His goodbyes to loved ones just like we do, was hungry and thirsty, got tired, laughed and cried like you and me. Then for three years He showed mercy and kindness to people, healing the lepers and giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and letting the lame walk again. For three years He told us about forgiveness as the answer to hate and that there is more to life than making money and getting more and more earthly things at the cost of Godly things. For three days He lay in death for us all because He carried all of our sins and totally bore our death for us.
But then He rose again. And this God who is holy and good, loving and kind, and merciful continues to be all of those things for us all because He is risen and lives. That is what we are remembering today and celebrating as we thank God for a man who has told us about Jesus for thirty years. And I thank and praise God for a Church that has told its Pastor and his family about the goodness, love, and mercy of the Lord. For the best Pastors on earth are not the ones who make us marvel at how great they are. The best Pastors are the ones who make us marvel at how great the Lord is. The greatest churches are not the ones that tell you how to be successful in life and who show it by their huge buildings, huge numbers, and huge egos. The greatest ones are those who tell us of the One in whom life is found, even if they do it in a far more humble way than occurs in some of these other places. In the case of the Pastor and People of Norwalk, God has put the best with the best - and I say that not to puff up pride in either Pastor or People but to make us all say, "Wow, what a God we have who was so good and so kind and so merciful that after saving us He let us find each other so we can tell that same story to so many others who haven't heard it yet, and tell it to one another every Sunday.”
"For when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy." The "us" is Pastor Beinke, his wife, and his family, and all of St. Peter Lutheran Church. The Savior is Jesus Christ -- and that is what we celebrate today. That is Who we celebrate today.