At Our Redeemer we are blessed to have two retired pastors who regularly worship with us. One is a former pastor of the congregation and so certainly has a deep emotional connection to both the congregation and to specific long-time members. However the other pastor did not begin attending until after he retired. Both of these men are seminary trained. Both of these men learned the original languages of the Bible. Both of these men have spent hours of personal study in the scriptures. Both of these men have read countless theological tomes written by some of the leading Christian thinkers from throughout the ages.
As these men prepare to come to worship the Lord on Sunday morning I very seriously doubt that they are expecting to learn something new in the sermon. Oh, occasionally they may get a new insight into this or that text, exegetically speaking, but certainly no new doctrine and the new exegetical insights are probably few and far between. So why do they come?
Perhaps it is the joy of hearing a sermon they have not personally labored long and hard on, but I doubt that is the main reason. In stead, I believe it is because they have a deep appreciation of the Word and Sacraments as the means by which God creates and sustains our faith. Though we hear the same truths repeated throughout our lives, those truths are what feed our very soul. You don’t have to hear something new each week. In deed, if you have been attending worship faithfully for 40, 50, or more years, and you are still hearing new doctrine each week, then the odds are you are hearing false doctrine. God’s word does not change (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 40:8).
I have heard people say that they have stopped going to this, that or the other church because they were no longer “being fed.” I often wonder if that is because they have stopped eating. The food is on the table and coming from the pulpit, but stopped-up ears and a dull palette has made the sweet word of God unappealing (Psalm 119:103; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). I’m not saying that is the case with everyone, or even most of the people, who have said this to me. It is just something I wonder.
At any rate, our two pastors are a constant witness to the other members of our congregation that the word and sacraments are vital to a strong spiritual life, even if you are not hearing something new each week.
Blessings in Christ,