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Archive for April 27th, 2015

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and vthe two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” St. Matthew 19: 4-6, the Lord quoted Genesis 2: 24

Tomorrow the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on same-sex pseudogamy in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.  I do not know the details of this case.  If the court does not legalize pseudogamy (false marriage), eventually they  will or the unrelenting homosexual agenda will get their way another way.  I saw this in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as the agenda was pushed until the decision for pseudogamy was passed.

On the eve of the acceptance of same-sex pseudogamy, I propose the following:

1.  All pastors should stop signing state wedding licenses:  Former Lutheran pastor Richard John Neuhaus, now of blessed memory, in his excellent reflections on pastoral ministry, Freedom for Ministry, makes the Biblical case that pastors and priests should seek their authority only from the Word and Work of Jesus Christ in His Church and not from lesser authorities like diplomas, public prestige….or the government.  He wrote it is pitiful to hear a minister to declare at a wedding, “By the power vested in me by the State of _____, I now declare you husband and wife”, which means the minister is “a minor clerk in Caesar’s court.”  I am the pastor of a small mission, but other pastors have declared they will no longer sign a state’s marriage certificate.  I will no longer be a “minor clerk in Caesar’s court” and will not sign another government wedding license.  A man and a woman is joined together by God, not by me, nor the man and woman, nor by the state.  The new husband and new wife can then at another time seek the legality of the state license.

2.  We should redo the wedding rite along the lines of Eastern Orthodox Churches:  I wrote an overly lengthy article on the blog Brothers of John the Steadfast on this topicMy Radical Marriage Proposal: What God has joined together.  It is long because it is also a history of the marriage rite in the Western Church compared with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.  In the Orthodox churches, the couple does not exchange vows.   Instead, it is the couple walking around the Altar and then they are married in order to emphasize, What GOD has joined together.  Professor Vigen Guorian, University of Virginia, ethicist and member of the Armenian Orthodox Church wrote:

You and I will look in vain to find in the Byzantine (Greek) rite of holy matrimony, for example, the familiar exchange of vows.  And in all Eastern rites where this ceremony is present that is a late edition under the influence of Roman law and Latin Christianity… 

In the attack on the Church’s Biblical understanding of marriage and the assault on our first amendment rights, a wedding service without vows would be a) more Biblical and b) more clearly state it is Lord who joins the couple according to His Word, not the State. This would also speak more clearly to our first amendment right that the government shall not interfere in the free exercise of religion, as we clearly state that the wedding is not a verbal contract, as in business.

3.  The Marriage Rite should be conducted only during the Holy Communion since it is Christians who are being joined together.  Again, Professor Guorian,

The Eucharist is our home as Christians.  And it is the home of Christian marriage.  In order to honor and secure its true meaning in the minds and hearts of the faithful, we must return marriage to that home immediately, where it obtains it sacred value and distinction and is most secure.

4.  Each Christian communion should preside at wedding rites of their own members, both the man and the woman:  At my first congregation, I was the assistant pastor, and the senior pastor had literally a brisk business in “non-member weddings” with a “schedule of fees and donations”.   Using the  church building as a wedding chapel must stop as we have opened ourselves up to the notion we are simply a public service granting sanction to all sorts of marriage arrangements. Back then, as it is now, for instance, the couple is living together and deciding it is time.  Luther wrote in a different situation about “secret engagements” and marriage, yet the blessed Reformer speaks to our time:

“…all will depend on sound knowledge and understanding of what this verse, “What God has joined together,” is trying to say.  It does not say, “What has joined itself together,’ but “What God has joined together.”  The joining together is easily seen, but men refuse to see that it is to be God who does the joining.  As soon as a joining together has come about by the parties’ own efforts, they immediately want to hang God’s Name over it as a cloak to hide their shame, and say that God did it.

I reflect that a couple may consider themselves ‘really’ married when they are united by the government. If so, this is sad and we need to do a better job at education in marriage.  The whole same-sex pseudogamy will be considered the real win of the homosexual agenda, as what is sought is beyond our biological creation, and is Godless, and so the State sanctioning same-sex marriage is more important than the Lord and His Word. Again, Fr. Neuhaus commented that when the Church is driven out of the public square then the state becomes the church.  We pray, preach and serve that all come to repentance in Christ.  And as a Lutheran Christian pastor I have a simple question: Who is greater God or the government? We are encouraged by Scripture, as John on the island of Patmos, looked at the maws of the whore of Babylon and Caesar and declared,  

 Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Revelation 1; emphasis my own)

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Text: St. John 10: 14-15

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 “You know he owns you now.” It means a  person has something over you, something you really want from him and you want to get from him at all costs.  But when it is said of the Good Shepherd, you know He owns you now, there is only grace and peace, at the cost of His blood, the treasures of His grace..  He has bought you by laying down His life.  We are His own. There is nothing we can do to obtain what we want out of the Good Shepherd, and in particular, His love and salvation.  He gives it, the kingdom, the power and the glory by His sheer grace and mercy. He leadeth us.  He does not lead from behind, but in front of us,  His rod and His staff comfort us.   He forgives our debt when we confess our debt as we forgive our debtors.  He has found us.  When the disciples were hiding for the fear of their lives after the Good Shepherd’s crucifixion, after the sheep went astray everyone to his own way, running away, the Good Shepherd sought them out in their locked room to bring them again in His own fold, lambs of His own redeeming, sheep of His own flock. Is it any wonder that the Apostle Peter, who heard Jesus teach John 10, would write to the churches in his first letter:  

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.  

Here the Apostle cited and allude to two passages from Isaiah 53, by His wounds you are healed, and we all like sheep have gone astray, everyone to his own way, the wounded and crucified and now risen Good Shepherd seeks His own.  He finds us, we do not find Him. I found Jesus, if that is true it means the Good Shepherd was lost.  Just the opposite we are. AS the hymn writer got it right of the human condition, 

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above. 

If He owns us, we are His own.  This means we are not the devil’s, nor sin nor death nor any power and principality. Rome, at the time of Jesus, had more slaves than freeman. Slavery is evil. A costly Civil War was waged in our nation for the freedom of slaves.  But there is a greater slavery, over the hearts and minds of men and women.  In a sense, in Rome, there was not one actual freeman or free woman.  Tyranny over the soul is wanting more and more, and enjoying it less and less. The idols are tyrants, demonic tyrants.  Sometimes they are quite human and yet all powerful, seemingly so:  from Napolean to Hitler to the Islamist overlords. Once giving into our desires and lusts, then I  know someone owns me. You are free to live as His own, but not free to sin as we please.  Inside the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is inscribed this noble sentiment by our third President:  “…I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” I dare say that Mr. Jefferson had in mind only political tyranny, but before there is political tyranny there is spiritual tyranny.  Political tyranny is hard to be rid of as we know with ISIS.  But tyranny of sin and the devil is pernicious and no political movement or party can free the heart, soul and mind.  No ruler nor lord on earth, of nations or culture, can free us spiritually, not even God’s Law, but God’s Son, Lord of lords, who walked upon the earth, born into our life and world, crucified and risen can free us, has and keeps us free. The Good Shepherd showed them His crucified hands, His lanced side from which came water and blood.  Christ Jesus protects us from the wolves of false doctrine, heretics, even man’s immorality we lust in.  His rod and His staff they comfort me. The Good Shepherd, 

“… has under-shepherds, which consist of all faithful teachers and preachers. In keeping with Christ’s example, they are to faithfully graze the flock, direct them to the right Door, and guide the little lambs to Christ. Those who do otherwise, says Christ, are thieves and murderers, for they take away Christ’s glory; and they kill the souls of men through false doctrine, just as death devours little lambs in a poisoned pasture.” (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

The hired hands are regularly on TV, sell many books

“Sheep don’t need self-help gurus.  Sheep don’t need false praise or self-affirming flattery from hired hands who are really out to fleece the sheep.  Sheep need a shepherd, a Good Shepherd, one who loves the Sheep.  Sheep need Jesus.  You need Jesus (Pr. Tony Sikora)

He makes us lie down and feed on the green pastures of His Word, the still water of our Baptism, in right pathways for His Name’s sake. The Good Shepherd calls us by name for the glory of His Name, which the Apostles began preaching after His resurrection. 

The Divine Service is nothing less nor more than the Good Shepherd calling us at least once a week into His sheep pen so that He may protect us and feed us directly.  So many say these days that worship is all about us praising God.  

If the Divine Service is viewed primarily as our praising God, then you can do that just as well from home. In fact, once we have looked at the topic of vocation, you will see that we can serve God better in the world than in the church building. But if the service is understood as God giving us the forgiveness of sins, then you’ve got to be there. It is very possible that the low attendance at Sunday services seen in so many churches today is a reflection of how we define the service. If I am acting, then I can do it another time.  But if it is God who acting, then I better be there.” (Pr. Klemet Preus) 

He owns us, as He has bought us back and brought us back, He knows us and we know Him.  He has called us by name.  And “knowing” is not some head knowledge alone, like knowing how to ride a bike, or swimming, knitting, etc. we know how to do that not only in the head but body and soul and the Lord as well!  Body and soul, true Man and true God, His wounds by which we are healed.   He knows us as His own. 

The Good Shepherd promised there will be one flock, one shepherd, and yet we see such a fracturing of the Church, many flocks indeed!  Yet, whoever has heard the voice of the Good Shepherd which is the call of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, knowing His wounds heal us, then throughout the many folds, there is one flock, one shepherd.  As it is confessed in the Lutheran confessions:

 “…thank God, a seven-year old child knows what the Church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.  So children pray, ‘I believe in one holy Christian Church.’” 

O little flock, taste and see the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. 

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13)  

 

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