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Posts Tagged ‘The Office’

The TV sitcom, The Office is about just that:  an office.  ‘Dunder-Mifflin’ is a company that sells paper for businesses.  That’s it.  What made this sitcom such a hit? What was the “com” in the “sit” (situation), i.e. comedy?  The boss, ‘Michael Scott’, was always desirous to be more than a boss of an office whose goal is simply better sales and service.   Michael wanted the office, that is, his co-workers, to be friends or even more: a family. He wanted to be their friend, counselor, cheerleader, big brother.  And so, Michael insinuated himself into the lives of the employees.  I found this sit-com to be at times very funny and at times painfully exasperating to watch Michael at “work”.  He went beyond the stated goal of the office:  selling paper and providing a friendly and efficient service.

I assume that the reason this caught on is that many who work in other offices in other companies and corporations find this as well:  the corporation/office going beyond its stated goals.  Please notice how many times the word “community” is invoked in the media, not about a town or a congregation but for corporations, people of similar likes, government, etc.  A community are people living in closer, well, communion, with each other.  Certainly, mother and son is a closer communion than employer/employee.  The sitcom “The Office” with it’s various crossovers of the limits of an office that sells paper could be humorous…but the crossovers of the God given limits of various offices can be downright tragic.

In the Book of Concord: The Lutheran Confessions (from here on, BoC), the Reformers teach the Biblical understanding of “office”.  Their first concern is the office of Pastor/priest.  In the time of the Reformation, Church and society both thought that the office of monk or nun, and with it, celibacy was a superior way to attain to heaven.   As in another sitcom when an Italian waitress’ son says he wants to be priest, she declares:  “I have a get-of-hell card!”  First, there is no office by which one simply doing it attains heaven, then Jesus Christ died for no reason.   Second:  The Reformers noticed that monk/nun is not found in Scripture but on the first pages of the Bible you read about marriage between man and woman, husband and wife and so father and mother.

Monk is a man-made office.  Parent is a God-given office.   Mother and Father are offices. This may sound funny in our ears.  When I think of “office”, I immediately think of a place…but it is more than a place.  I opine that the BoC put into our vocabulary a word as crucially important:  vocation.  Vocation is practically a synonym for office in the BoC..  Mothers, fathers, children, husbands and wives are God given vocations, offices.  In fact derived from them are teachers and governing authorities.  There are also vocations in work. God gives work as well.  All are true callings. These are offices in creation, in the created orders of this world.  In the Kingdom of God, through His Church, He established the office of pastor. These are all God pleasing vocations by which we serve God and neighbor.

In The Small Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther, he listed “The Table of Duties” for the various offices/vocations. The duties of each said office is described by the appropriate Scripture passages.   In the Catechism, the Scripture verses are printed out but for sake of space I only include the citation but each is worth reading.

For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6

What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors. 1 Cor. 9:14;Gal. 6:61 Tim. 5:17-18; Heb. 13:17

Concerning Civil Government. Rom. 13:1-4

What Subjects Owe to the Magistrates. Matt. 22:21; 1 Pet. 2:13f; 1 Tim. 2:1f; Titus 3:1;Rom. 13:1,5ff

For Husbands. Col. 3:9 1 Pet. 3:7

For Wives. 1 Pet. 3:6Eph. 5:22

For Parents. Eph. 6:4

For Children. Eph. 6:1-3

For Male and Female Servants, Hired Men, and Laborers. Eph. 6:5ff ; Col. 3:22

For Masters and Mistresses. Eph. 6:9Col. 4:1.

For Young Persons in General. 1 Pet. 5:5-6

For Widows. 1 Tim. 5:5-6

For All in Common. 1 Tim. 2:1-2

Rom. 13:8ff

Notice the following aspects of the offices/vocations above:

  1. Overlap  I am a Father, Husband, Pastor, Son, Citizen.  I hold 4 offices and called to each one.  At various times, one office will take precedence over the others.  Your 9-5 job is not your only calling nor  even the most important!
  2. Service  Each office renders a service to our neighbors:  family, friends, co-citizens of both the kingdom of God and the kingdoms, nation wherein we dwell.  Within our vocations we serve and love our neighbor. Our vocations do not save us.  Only the absolutely unique of Messiah, as He fulfilled that vocation perfectly, has saved us.  Our vocations do not save us but they help and serve our neighbors.
  3. Limitations  Each office/vocation has limitations.  Just like a physical office has walls, there are boundaries to each office/vocation with each office’s respective duties.  For instance: A  civil authority does not preach the Gospel.  This is a confusion of offices.
  4. Trespasses of Office  A trespass is just that: a crossing over of a boundary, a limitation and this causes problems that are both humorous and tragic.

Part II

It is trespasses of offices/ vocations that cause sin.  For instance, when the offices  of say, Mother and  Son are crossed, and a mother lays with her son, this is gross violation of office.  Or when a teacher has intercourse with her student.  This is an egregious example but we know it happens, but a lot of the confusion of office sounds good initially but is a  gross denial of the office.

The holder of an office is to serve the office in behalf of others, according to the principles of that office, not for the office to serve the holder of it.  In Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer on “The Fuhrer Principle”, or Leader principle prevalent in Germany at the turn of the last century and imbibed fully by Adolph Hitler. Bonhoeffer’s critique of this principle is actually quite simple: “The Leader is completely divorced from any office, he is essentially and only the ‘the Leader’”. Bonhoeffer points out that “office” restricts any leader from acting on his own accord, or charisma because the man who fills the office is accountable before “penultimate authorities” such as “Reich or state” which are all accountable to God. The purpose of any office, in politics or church  is to be of service. But once, as in the Fuhrer Principle, the great divorce between man and office the following occurs:

“If he understands his function in any other way than as it is rooted in fact, if he does not continually tell his followers quite clearly of the limited nature of his task and of their own responsibility, if he allows himself to surrender to the wishes of his followers, who would always make him their idol—then the image of the Leader will pass over into the image of the mis-leader, and he will be acting in a criminal way not only towards those he leads, but also towards himself.”

This idolatry has become endemic in a media age. So-called ‘evangelists’ have so-called ‘ministries’ with their names before the word “ministry”. I have thought “Mark Schroeder Ministries” has a great alliterative ring to it and it does. The Old Adam wants others to be attached to the personality and so control others by the dark urges of unregenerated flesh. Now at first this all appears to be “good”. The congregation wants a pastor with a winsome personality, a charismatic presence in the pulpit (or walking up and down the aisles) who is a friend to all. The pastor buys into it. And so do presidential candidates: “We are the ones we have been waiting for” (Candidate Obama). For instance, previous Presidents in televised addresses to the nation speak from  the Oval Office, but our current President did so from the East Room of White House, with it’s hallway, complete with columns as backdrop. Then with these idolatries of varying degrees, the office is disregarded and this is “criminal”, breaking the Law of God and the laws of men, in our nation, The Constitution. An important Scripture verse in regards to the purpose of the pastoral office in our day, as in was in the charismatic milieu of the Roman Empire is 2 Corinthians 4:5.

In a previous congregation, a woman who was smart legal secretary, an accountant, wife and mother took on the responsibility of church treasurer.  We were talking on the phone and she lamented that she wished she could do more for the congregation but she was swamped.  I reminded her about her offices, not mentioning the word “office” and I said that is the way you serve the Lord.  After a pause, she said, Thanks Pastor, it’s like big weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Knowing our calling and the calling and offices of others can go along way to know who we are and what God expects of us.  We will violate our offices and so Luther in The Small Catechism, in the Order of Confession, instructs clearly and rightly, which is to say Biblically, about vocations and our not keeping them and so please note: most of the Order of Confession and Absolution is about our offices/vocations:

What sins should we confess?

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the confessor we should confess those sins alone which we know and feel in our hearts.

Which are these?

Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a man-servant or maid-servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any one by words or deeds; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.

Pray, Propose to Me a Brief Form of Confession.

Answer.

You should speak to the confessor thus: Reverend and dear sir, I beseech you to hear my confession, and to pronounce forgiveness to me for God’s sake.

Proceed!

I, a poor sinner, confess myself before God guilty of all sins; especially I confess before you that I am a man-servant, a maidservant, etc. But, alas, I serve my master unfaithfully; for in this and in that I have not done what they commanded me; I have provoked them, and caused them to curse, have been negligent [in many things] and permitted damage to be done; have also been immodest in words and deeds, have quarreled with my equals, have grumbled and sworn at my mistress, etc. For all this I am sorry, and pray for grace; I want to do better.

A master or mistress may say thus:

In particular I confess before you that I have not faithfully trained my children, domestics, and wife [family] for God’s glory. I have cursed, set a bad example by rude words and deeds, have done my neighbor harm and spoken evil of him, have overcharged and given false ware and short measure.

And whatever else he has done against God’s command and his station, etc.

But if any one does not find himself burdened with such or greater sins, he should not trouble himself or search for or invent other sins, and thereby make confession a torture, but mention one or two that he knows. Thus: In particular I confess that I once cursed; again, I once used improper words, I have once neglected this or that, etc. Let this suffice.

But if you know of none at all (which, however is scarcely possible), then mention none in particular, but receive the forgiveness upon your general confession which you make before God to the confessor.

Then shall the confessor say:

God be merciful to thee and strengthen thy faith! Amen.

Furthermore:

Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

Answer.

Yes, dear sir.

Then let him say:

As thou believest, so be it done unto thee. And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive thee thy sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Depart in peace.

But those who have great burdens upon their consciences, or are distressed and tempted, the confessor will know how to comfort and to encourage to faith with more passages of Scripture. This is to be merely a general form of confession for the unlearned.

Only in Jesus Christ’s absolution, which is absolute, can we proceed.  God grant it in our dark days!

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