The Gospel for parents who fail.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 5:1-11 (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 2 Kings 19:1-11)
June 30, 2013
You’ve stood in a checkout line before, haven’t you, behind a mother with her kid who pesters her to buy him some candy or a toy? Mom says, “No.” The kid tries to reason with her, explaining why it is a good and sensible idea for him to get this Snickers bar, and how it would benefit her and him alike. And Mom still says no. And the kid continues and reminds his mother how often he is deprived of simple pleasures like this Snickers bar which nearly every other child in America is given every time they enter a store. If mom still says no, maybe her child begins to call into question her justice and her compassion. After all, you, Mom, quite frequently buy yourself a Snickers bar when you go to the store. So you are not being fair. You are not treating me equally. On top of this it is questionable whether you really love me as you ought to as my mother, because so often I ask you for things and you don’t give them to me. Yes, how could you love me when you never give me what I ask for, but you constantly yell at me and punish me, make me eat the terrible food you cook, make me do incredibly boring things that no one else has to do like go to church and do chores, and on top of it all you clearly love my brother more than me and give him whatever he asks for?
Sometimes Mom breaks down. Maybe she feels guilty about her failures as a parent, or maybe she thinks that love means doing what the person you love says will make them happy. Or maybe she’s just tired that day.
Of course, the child will always remember this act of kindness, right? He’ll never say that his mom doesn’t love him again. He’ll see this act of kindness and honor his mom from this point on and eat his Hamburger Helper without complaining and wishing he had a Happy Meal.
Hm. You seem skeptical about this. I’m surprised to see that you are so cynical about human nature.
But you may have a point. It does seem to be true that a lot of times when you show grace to kids they don’t respond to it by realizing how selfish they’ve been and becoming more thankful and obedient to their parents. The kids that do usually are kids who’ve learned through firm discipline that they really aren’t entitled to whatever they desire. Sorry, that’s just not the way the world is.
But adults in America have become this way too. Haven’t they? Particularly the generation born just after the war. But then again their children are even worse, for the most part. I’m talking about me here. I share the characteristics of my generation. We think the goal in life is our own personal happiness. Responsibilities and duties and laws and morals and people and traditions that get in the way of our personal fulfillment—those we feel free to ignore. And if you criticize or judge me it’s you that’s the bad person. Who are you to interfere with my happiness with your demands that I be polite and wear nice clothes to church and follow all these empty traditions?
So we have the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down the federal law restricting marriage to a man and a woman. This was a decision for fairness and equality, we’re told. If you’re above a certain age it’s likely you shake your head and change the channel whenever this kind of news comes on the tv.
If you’re younger, 60 or 50 maybe, definitely if you’re 40 or under, the likelihood increases that you feel like it was a fair ruling, or at least that it’s hard to say anything about it even if the Bible says it’s wrong. People can’t help how they feel, who they’re attracted to, right? And we no longer punish other types of sexual sin. Adulterers and people who have sex with people they’re not married to aren’t shunned or stoned.
But the same thing applies to us as to the whiny kid in the checkout line. Not everything we want is good. And treating people fairly is not the same, always, as treating them equally, because God made people different. He gave some people more gifts than others. He makes some people governors and the rest of the people the governed. He made some people male and some female.
It’s not good for kids if parents let them live on candy, fast food, and pop tarts just because that’s what they want. It’s not good if a kid is born a male but feels like a female, so his parents submit to the child’s feelings and pay for him to be mutilated and drugged to look like a woman (and this is happening now in America). And it’s not good for the government to give the name, privileges, and honor of marriage to gay unions and act as if they are the same as marriage between a man and a woman just because people want it to be that way.
After each day of creation, God saw that what He had made “was good.” And when He created man male and female, in the image of God, He blessed them this way: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1). Then after this final work of creation God saw “that it was very good,” everything He had made.
Below is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article on Jonathan Ned Katz, an “LGBT historian” who argues that “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” are categories invented in the 19th century. Prior to that, the “traditional” view was to see sex as primarily for the purpose of procreation, rather than pleasure. As a result, according Katz (or at least according to the Wikipedia article’s reading of Katz), the tendency was to see all sexual expression that was not aimed at procreation as deviant or immoral. There was no need for terms like “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” because heterosexual sex apart from marriage and the possibility of creating human life was considered perverse or immoral.
However when sex came to be seen as a means primarily of receiving pleasure (towards the end of the 19th century), “normal” and “deviant” sexuality were redefined and the terms “heterosexual” and “homosexual” arose.
Also according to this reading of Katz it is inappropriate to try to read into forms of human sexuality in earlier eras of history our contemporary categories “hetero” and “homosexual”.
The Invention of Heterosexuality
“The Invention of Heterosexuality was first published as an essay in 1990 and then expanded into a larger book. In it, Katz traces the development of heterosexual and homosexual and all the ideology, social and economic relations, gender expectations that were packed into it. He notes the radical change, in the late nineteenth century, from a sexual ethic of procreation to one based on erotic pleasure and sexual object choice. Noting the distinction that a procreation-based ethic condemns all non-procreative sex, categorizing sexual relations based primarily on this point. A gender-based sexual ethic is concerned with procreative sex on a secondary level, if at all.”
“Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, published in 1889, and then in English in 1892, marked the clear turning point from a procreation-based sexuality to a pleasure-based ethic which focused on gender to define the normal and the abnormal. Krafft-Ebing did not, however, make a clean break from the old procreative standards. In much of the discourse of the time, the heterosexual was still a deviant figure, since it signified a person unconcerned with the old sexual norms.”
“For a variety of economic and social reasons, Katz argues, during the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, this new norm became more firmly established and naturalized, marking out new gender and sexual norms, new social and family arrangements, and new deviants and perverts. One of the important consequences of this line of thought which Katz notes in “Homosexual” and “Heterosexual”: Questioning the Terms, is that we can only generalize sexual identities onto the past with a limited degree of accuracy: “So profound is the historically specific character of sexual behavior that only with the loosest accuracy can we speak of sodomy in the early colonies and ‘sodomy’ in present-day New York as ‘the same thing.’ In another example, to speak of ‘heterosexual behavior’ as occurring universally is to apply one term to a great variety of activities produced within a great variety of sexual and gender systems.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Ned_Katz (emphases mine)
If this article is right in its reading of Katz, I think it puts its finger on the problem in the gay marriage debate.
Christianity’s problem with homosexual marriage is not that it’s wrong to have sexual pleasure with someone of the same sex but okay with someone of the opposite sex. It’s that Christianity looks at sexual pleasure, the lifelong bond of marriage, and the procreation of children (when God wills) as all of a piece. At least it did up until around 1930.
If Christians accept the premise that sex is primarily about personal satisfaction and pleasure (and most do), no wonder we have such difficulty sustaining our own marriages or being credible in the public square. Of course sex is pleasurable, but if that’s it’s primary purpose it does seem a little ridiculous to say that two people of the same sex can’t engage in it. Why not? If they are able to have pleasure, and that’s the point of it, it’s unjust to refuse it to them.
Pleasure is a result of sex, but its “chief end” is children. Reason teaches us this. If sex only resulted in pleasure and not in children, both sex and sexual pleasure would cease to exist in short order. Procreation of children has to be the chief purpose of sex; without that there would be no people of any “sexual orientation” to enjoy the pleasure of whatever sexual acts appeal to them.
But since Christians have essentially agreed that the overriding concern in sex and marriage is pleasure (i.e. falling in love, finding your soul mate, finding a person with physical characteristics as close as possible to your ideal)—we lose the argument.
Christians: marriage is not primarily about finding what you like and living happily ever after. It’s a calling from God where you are united to another person as one flesh and are called to love them and serve them “for better or for worse”…a calling that God blesses with children (according to His will). “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them…” (Psalm 127)
This applies to us with regards to abortion, too, probably. It’s not that we shouldn’t have said abortion was wrong. But being anti-abortion is not yet being pro-life. If Christians had lots of kids in their marriages they could show by example that having a child when it doesn’t seem like an ideal time is possible and that God can sustain and bless us through these children we fear will be an unbearable burden.
But that’s for another day.
- Hell-Bent: Why Gay Marriage Was Inevitable. by Aaron Wolf (part 2) (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Hell-Bent: Why Gay Marriage Was Inevitable (part 1) (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- The Infertility Argument for Same-Sex Marriage (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- Three essays on marriage, the conjugal life, and homosexuality (insightscoop.typepad.com)
Today is the Book of Concord study at St. Peter where we read the Lutheran Confessions. A long time ago we started reading the Augsburg Confession and finally got through it. Earlier this year we started Luther’s Large Catechism.
I have to say that teaching the Catechism this year has become one of the most rewarding things I’ve gotten to do in teaching. The reason is that topical bible studies I’ve done are usually limited by my own areas of familiarity. This year, preaching on the Small Catechism’s section on Baptism during Lent and doing short catechetical sessions with the Ladies’ Aid and with the catechumens and parents on Wednesdays, along with working through the Large Catechism, I’ve started to see things in the catechism I never saw before, or grasp them more fully.
One of the things that strikes me about the Large Catechism is the multitude of practical suggestions Luther drops constantly. On the one hand he shows constantly how the parts of the catechism apply to daily spirituality, or “lived faith.” I’ve read the Large Catechism before—particularly in my early twenties in college. But a lot of the things Luther had to say about the life of prayer and of combat with the devil I just didn’t really grasp. He means them quite literally.
At the same time, thus far in the Catechism (we’re doing the 3rd and maybe 4th commandments today), Luther constantly makes mention of how to teach the commandments to children. Of course it should be obvious that he would do that, since a catechism is supposed to give the essentials of the faith in such a way that a parent can teach his children.
But today when the church is experiencing a crisis of losing members precisely because parents don’t know how to catechize their children, it’s kind of a slap upside the head.
People, in America anyway, like practical books on Christianity that tell you how to have a more meaningful life, or how the theology you learn helps practically in keeping your family together or in dealing with stress, anger, etc.
But the Evangelicals have generally done a better job at addressing that felt need, whereas Lutherans have struggled to teach “practical Christian living” while at the same time keeping the attention on the free forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.
But Luther doesn’t have that problem. After he talks about what a commandment means, he inevitably goes on to talking about how we should use the commandment in raising our children. In raising them, not simply “teaching them the information they need to know about God.” He doesn’t separate teaching children how to live from teaching them Christian doctrine.
Also Luther inevitably talks about the commandment’s relation to our battle with Satan—how the devil wars against the assurance of faith, and how the ten commandments point us toward very practical defense against the evil one.
Transfiguration Sunday [Life Sunday]
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 17:1-9
January 20, 2013
“The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross”
[The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross.
- 1. We are pleased with our work and think it brings life.
- 2. The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it does bring life to you.]
“I was single, living with some friends, had a good job, and was having a good time. Having a baby just wasn’t in the cards. I told the father, and he said he had no intention of marrying me. He made his intentions quite clear right from the get-go. I had no desire to marry him either. I didn’t think a child was the right reason to get married. He said he’d pay for an abortion. Adoption was, quite truthfully, not an option I ever considered…At the time I thought that I could never give a child up, but now I look back and wonder how I could have done what I did. Giving it up would have been so much better. I didn’t really think of this as being a little person. It was a purely selfish decision. All I thought was, “What am I going to do now? This is a problem, and I have to take care of it.” I went to the doctor, and he suggested a clinic. It all happened so quickly. Looking back, I didn’t agonize. I had to make a decision; something had to be done.”
Those words come from a collection of stories told by women who have had an abortion, and you can find them at the top of the bulletin. Further on the same woman explains how she has tried to deal with the regret and guilt that came to her later as she looked at the children God gave her in her marriage, wondering whether the child she aborted would have been a boy or a girl, whether the child is in heaven. “I just don’t think about things that trouble me. I push them down.”
She goes on to describe what she thinks about God’s forgiveness: “I hear the pastor saying that it doesn’t matter how great our sins are, that God forgives us. But I think, ‘But mine are really bad.’ I guess I believe that my sins are forgiven, but a lot of times I have a lot of trouble feeling that they are forgiven.”
There will be people hearing this sermon who have had an abortion or paid for a woman to have one. Others have been involved in other sins against God’s gift of life. They should hear at the outset of the sermon, now: God put away your sin on the cross of Jesus. Don’t despair. Listen to God’s beloved Son who says “Do not be afraid.”
Others know someone who has had an abortion. And there are those who do not. Tuesday is the 40th anniversary of legal abortion in the United States, but it has been done in this country for much longer than that.
Regardless, the confession of this woman is not only her confession, and not only the confession of people who have had an abortion. St. Peter could relate with it. Like her, he also followed the wisdom of his flesh, called God’s work “bad” and tried to replace it with his own work. Like her he also tried to gain life for himself in his own way, apart from God’s word. He also fell into grave sin and would have despaired if Jesus had not restored him with His absolution.
What was true of Peter is true of all of us. Apart from the Holy Spirit
- 1. We are pleased with our work and think it brings life, but
- 2. the Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it truly brings life to you.
19. Behold how very richly God honors those who are despised of men, and that very gladly. Here you see that his eyes look into the depths of humility, as is written, “He sitteth above the cherubim” and looketh into the depths. Nor could the angels find princes or valiant men to whom to communicate the good news; but only unlearned laymen, the most humble people upon earth. Could they not have addressed the high priests, who it was supposed knew so much concerning God and the angels? No, God chose poor shepherds, who, though they were of low esteem in the sight of men, were in heaven regarded as worthy of such great grace and honor.
20. See how utterly God overthrows that which is lofty! And yet we rage and rant for nothing but this empty honor, as we had no honor to seek in heaven; we continually step out of God’s sight, so that he may not see us in the depths, into which he alone looks.
Luther, Sermon on Christmas Day (Luke 2:1-14) Wartburg Church Postil (1521-1522)
Advent 2 Wednesday Matins/Vespers
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3
December 12, 2012
“The Blessing of Abraham and his Seed”—taken from Stoeckhardt
(preached at matins)
In the name of Jesus.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God set the promise of the seed of the woman, the trampler of the serpent, before the eyes of Adam and Eve immediately after the fall into sin. But not all human beings received the promise. Cain and his offspring despised the promise, despised Christ. They multiplied violence on the earth.
Also Seth’s seed rejected the promise and intermarried with the enemies of God. So God destroyed the earth with the flood. It was not because of their sins, but because of their unbelief—that they refused to believe the promise of the seed of the woman, Christ. But God preserved believing Noah in the ark. And Noah carried the promise with him into the new world—because it was true of him as well as those who died in the flood: “every thought of man’s heart is evil continually from his youth.”
Noah further clarified the promise, enlightened by the Holy Spirit. He praised “the God of Shem.” He indicated that the seed of the woman would be born from Seth’s offspring, and that this seed would be God and man.
Finally, God called Abraham and gave the promise we read.
The promise and blessing of Abraham is of great importance to Christians. You cannot read the passages of the new testament that talk about our salvation, about how we are justified before God, without mention being made of Abraham. So we need to know the promise to Abraham and His seed.
The blessing of Abraham and His seed:
- 1. What is the blessing?
- 2. Who is Abraham’s seed or offspring?