Archive for October 7th, 2018

Concordia and Koinonia

Bio:  Moving from the Old World to the New, Muhlenberg established the shape of Lutheran parishes for America during a 45-year ministry in Pennsylvania. Born at Einbeck, Germany, in 1711, he came to the American colonies in 1742. A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first American Lutheran synod, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, founded in 1748. He valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist) and was also the guiding force in preparing the first American Lutheran liturgy (also in 1748). Muhlenberg is remembered as a church leader, a journalist, a liturgist, and—above all—a pastor to the congregation in his charge. He died in 1787, leaving behind a large extended family and a lasting heritage: American Lutheranism.

During the American War of Independence, Muhlenberg’s home in Trappe was full of fugitives; he wrote in his journal: ‘The name of…

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St. Mark show us two icons, two scenes of His teaching on marriage, divorce, children and baptism:

The first scene, Jesus teaching marriage between man and woman and divorce.   The sturdy orthodox Lutheran theologians speak of marriage and family, as in this first scene of today’s Gospel, as the order of creation.  Marriage and family are foundational in the Lord’s creation.   Government at its best is to serve families, not for families to serve the illiberal immorality of the denial of marriage. Marriage and family have two commandments:  the 4th and the 6th. The messing up of marriage has now happened in cyber speed.

Then  in the house in Capernaum, and the second scene: Jesus further teaches the future apostles, the centrality and indissoluble reality of marriage. Once again children are present with their fathers and mothers asking Jesus to bless their children.  The disciples were hindering them. St. Mark reports that Jesus literally snorted with indignation at them.  This Scripture is the one used at every Baptism in the Lutheran Church.

The First Scene:  The one flesh of marriage is denied in our day, even denigrated and forgotten. Divorce, living together, same-sex marriage, and abortion are the sinful symptoms of the denial and denigration of marriage, exacerbating the cause of that destruction of marriage. The Old Adam has hardness of heart.  Even if same-sex so-called marriage is civil law, as St. John Chrysostom preached: “God will judge you at the last day not by the civil law but by His law”.  While there is life, there is repentance on account of Christ, born in a holy marriage and a devout family in Israel.

What is the cause of the destruction of marriage?  There are many reasons but one seems innocuous and even reasonable. One gay commentator wrote that marriage is, “…primarily a way in which two adults affirm their emotional commitment to one another.” This sounds good but let’s look at that statement in the light of Scripture. If marriage is a emotional commitment, then it stands to reason the two adults can be any combination of genders.  No matter how you do the jigsaw pieces, only male and female can fit with one another.  Maybe with the availability of relatively easy contraception, marriage is seen more as an emotional commitment and that’s it.  It’s all about how we feel.

“Emotional commitment” as the basis of marriage is the operative cultural definition of marriage and is not limited to one gay commentator. In sitcoms, when there is a wedding, invariably the couple writes their own “vows”.   Those are not vows at all, but statements of emotional commitment. The phrase “emotional commitment” is bland and bloodless which has caused, as the Brits would say, bloody bad things. I have an emotional commitment to you and you to me, and to each other in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we are married.  Even to say we have “emotional commitments” in the Church is likewise bloodless, that is, without the blood of Christ Who has bought us and brought us together.  “Emotional commitment” as the sum and substance of marriage is denial and even destruction of marriage.

We know what happens, “once the love has gone”. The primary divine purpose of marriage is the two become one flesh, not one soul or heart, ‘soul-mates’,  or other flights of spiritualized sentimentality and cultural rot.   Man and woman become one flesh to have children and for the continuation of life and love.  “(The Lord)  forbade men to marry their  sisters or  daughters, so that our  love  would  not be limited  to members of our families,  and withdrawn from the  rest  of the  human race”(St. John Chrysostom).    It’s not only incest that stops true marriage but all sexual relations outside of marriage and the resulting self- justifying false doctrines about marriage.

Another saying making the rounds is “love makes a family”.  Again, love is understood as only emotional commitment and warmth. Our warm feelings can quickly turn cold or burning hot.  Marriage makes the family, between male and female, as the Lord has created us.  Once “emotional commitment” becomes the sole reason for marriage then divorce becomes simply and supposedly “no fault”.   If marriage is based upon love, that is, loving feelings, those emotions  will soon fail.  Marriage is based upon God’s Word, vows, God’s and ours, so that we can learn to love even as we have first been loved.

The Second Scene:  Jesus teaches about divorce to the disciples and families present are overhearing this.  Divorce is not good for the family.  The Lord Himself protects marriage and the family.  In fact, He came to bridge the great divorce between man and his God and Lord. How?

When Jesus went back into the house, the movement is from the order of creation to the order of redemption in Jesus Christ.  Going into the house with the Lord it became the House of the Lord, Church.

In His House, fathers and mothers ask Jesus to bless their children.  The disciples were preventing them. St. Mark reports that Jesus literally snorted with indignation at them.  This Scripture of blessing the children is the one used at every Baptism in the Lutheran Church. This is the proof text that the Lord baptizes infants, a holy new family, h-o-l-y.  According the Gospel of Christ, there is no adult baptism.  All baptism is baptism of children.  Even an adult receives the Kingdom as a child.

Children and adults make a mess of so much, but in Him we are saved and receive like a child with His gifts, as a child receives from Mother and Father.  Children are by no means pure, but they trust. The Pharisees wanted to have an adult theological discussion about divorce, in order, well, to finally get their way in salvation, find out what is permitted.   They were looking for permission, Jesus speaks commandment. See how much one can get away with and then be good to go.  On our own we cannot be good to go. Jesus went all the way as He tasted death for us. He sanctified us and is our brother, and our Lord     He enfolded into His arms the children that day and blessed them. He still does and has for you. Jesus blessing the children finally and fully, met our breakage of the Law at an intersection:  His Cross.

Marriage is the Lord’s always new math: 1 + 1 equals 1.    Marriage is God’s gift to Adam and Eve.  Marriage begins the Bible and even as sin entered the world, the Lord did not abandon His gift of marriage to men and women.  The Bible is the history and story of marriage and families from the beginning to Abraham and Sarah  to Joseph and Mary and Christ and His Church and in the new creation when the heavenly Jerusalem descends as His bride. The stories of those families is checkered.  We can read for ourselves the messes the Patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob made of their marriages.  The Lord gave His promise through many of those families, by sheer grace, not because of their deeds.   The Lord came, and sought His bride and slipped the pure gold wedding ring of His saving love on our finger, in true faith.  What is Mine is thine and what is Thine is Mine, He said in His eternal vow. The hardest and best thing we can say in marriage is not primarily I love you, but I forgive you. The Lord’s forgiveness is as hard as nails.

“(In marriage) you  are sacrificing yourself for  someone  to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself  up for the one who turned her back on Him and  hated  Him” (St. John Chrysostom)

All your brokenness of sin I have taken upon Myself and I give you all that I have:  grace, mercy and peace and the fidelity of love stronger than sin and death.  You divorce Me, but I will not divorce Thee. Seek and support marriage and the family.  Pray for Christ’s peace in our homes.  Protect the womb. Pray for marriages and families in the Church.  What God has brought together, let no man cast asunder.  “How is marriage a mystery?  The two have become one.  This is not an empty symbol.   They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself.” (St.  John Chrysostom)

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